Rumor has it (and rumors are often wrong) that President Obama, in light of the mid-term elections, will accept an extension of Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans. Such a move would be a basic betrayal of the platform the president campaigned on. Religious leaders and economists have called on Congress to let the tax cuts expire.
This fall a number of religious groups - including Bread for the World and the National Council of Churches - released a statement that read in part:
As people of faith, we often talk about the federal budget being a moral document because where we choose to commit our resources demonstrates our values. Our nation’s tax policy functions in much the same way. Paying taxes to enable government to provide for the needs of the common good is an appropriate expression of our stewardship in society. Every year, billions of dollars are generated in tax revenue that are then reinvested in ways that serve the public interest, like providing for our security and building our roads, bridges, and schools.
The tax system also creates financial incentives for individuals to act in ways that are thought to strengthen our social fabric, such as investing and saving for retirement, starting a business, owning a home, getting a college education--even charitable giving. Because of the way tax benefits are structured, however, too often low-wage workers do not earn enough to access those benefits. This results in a system that perpetuates inequality by rewarding behavior that generates financial security for those who already have it, while excluding those who are working hard at low-wage jobs and need help the most. An equitable, moral tax code should reward the efforts of low-income people to work and save at every level.
Extending the taxes cuts would be bad economics and, as William Jennings Bryan once said, every great economic question is in reality a great moral question.
Updated with Action Alert: President Obama: FIGHT Bush tax cuts for millionaires!