Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tax time

Over at the Woodstock Theologocial Center, they have published a report entitled Who Pays? Taxation and the Common Good. Perfect reading on tax day (even if some of you are waiting a few extra days to pay your taxes). It is based on a forum held at the Center. One of the speakers at the forum, Dan R. Ebener, the Social Action Director for the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, said:
The problem of taxation goes much deeper than the fairness of the latest tax cuts. It cuts to the very essence of our religion in its role in economic life. My motivation for suggesting to the Iowa bishops in May 2002 that we should endeavor into writing a statement on taxes came out of the frustration of seeing one tax cut after another passed by the Iowa legislature without having enough tax revenues to do a decent job of providing for the general welfare of the people of Iowa. I suggested that we as communities were faced with a two-sided question: 1) What kind of communities do we want to live in? 2) How will we pay for that? The first side of this question raises the issue of what rights do people deserve in our society. Rights are assumed in Catholic social teaching as derived by the dignity of the human person. Because we are created in the image and likeness of God, we are endowed with certain human rights. Catholic social teaching identifies some of these as the right to food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, and work. This is the distributive justice side of this question. How will we distribute our goods and services in order to ensure that needs are met and rights are protected?

Tax Justice as Contributive Justice. The other side of this question, which isn’t looked at nearly as often, is the issue of contributive justice. How will we pay for these services that we agree as a society are basic to our needs? If the first side of the question raises the Catholic social teaching principle of rights, I would suggest that the contributive justice side raises the issue of responsibilities. Because after all, we’re taught in Catholic social teaching that with every right comes a responsibility. We have a right to vote; we have a responsibility to vote. We have a right to private property; we have a responsibility to use private property toward the common good.

You can read more here.