“Paying taxes in this country is ordinarily accompanied by much grumbling. Rarely does anyone point out that paying taxes is not just a legal duty but a moral opportunity – because paying taxes is one way each of us supports the common good. Taxation provides crucial elements of a good society, including a justice system, public education, an infrastructure that encourages commerce, and a safety net for the elderly and the vulnerable.” [Editorial in The Christian Century, 19 April 2011, page 7.]

A couple years ago, I went to a community gathering held by my state legislator. We were talking about the typical political issues: the state budget, education, the state budget, criminal justice, the state budget, infrastructure deterioration – oh, and the state budget. I made the comment that I thought many people in the room were thinking but no one was saying: that taxes are a moral good, that they are how we, in a complex society, pool our resources to care for the vulnerable. My comment was quoted in the newspaper, and the following day I received an angry phone call in my church office.

People just don’t want to pay taxes, and I don’t understand it. We all want to drive on well-maintained roads. We all want the children in our communities to be educated so they will be productive members of society when they grow up. We all want the fire department and police department to come when we call them. And most of us (maybe even approaching all of us) want to make sure no one is starving in our communities, that no one who is unable to care for himself or herself to goes without care, that no one has to live on the streets. Yet we refuse to pay for these thing.

Taxes are a moral good. Taxes are how we, in a complex society, pool our resources to care for the vulnerable.

Yes, our taxation system is broken. It is crazy that 72 percent of all foreign companies doing business in the U.S. and 57 percent of American companies paid no federal income taxes during at least one year between 1998 and 2005. It is crazy that in recent years, for instance, General Electric, Exxon-Mobil, the Bank of America, and Citibank paid no income taxes. It is crazy that individual households that are able to pay higher taxes are not required to do so (I assume that if a household makes over a quarter of a million dollar in a year, that household is able to pay a very high percentage of that overage without it impacting that household’s ability to put food on the table or to keep a roof over their head).

So, we need to fix our taxation system. We need to tax all income (salaries, bonuses, and unearned income) and remove loopholes that allow high earners to avoid paying taxes. And then we need to pay our taxes – without grumbling! We should be thankful that we can afford to support our government (not the government, but our government) and the programs it runs for the common good.

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