A reader sent me an article about a group of 38 charity and religious leaders fasting to bring God into politics. More specifically to “seek God’s help in fighting proposed budget cuts they believe are ‘immoral.’” (source)
Now, I don’t believe in fasting. I think that we should treat our bodies as well as possible and that includes eating regularly. I also don’t believe that God calls us to hurt ourselves.
But a line in the original piece sent to me caught my eye:
. . . deficit reduction isn’t as important as keeping people from starving: ‘We shouldn’t be reducing our meager efforts for poor people in order to reduce the deficit. They didn’t get us into this, and starving them isn’t going to get us out of it. (source)
While I very much believe in spending money wisely and in balancing our budget, I believe that those with the most should be targeted. I think that when a person owns a car that is the equivalent of more than twice what the average person makes, that person should be taxed and taxed hard.
Why? Because CEOs and investment bankers do not work harder than the janitors that clean their offices. I’m not saying that we should all be paid the same because I don’t believe that is fair or helpful. I am fine with some families having more than other families. But I am not okay with government regulations and budgets that purposely give corporations and those that run them even more money while taking away service from those who need help.
It’s the tax breaks for wealthy families and the General Electrics’, who don’t pay taxes at all (source), which are redistributing the wealth in this country. Wealth has become more concentrated. When the top 400 wealthiest people (.0000035%) have more money than the bottom 50-60% of our country (source), it is not the public services to our veterans, our disabled, our youngest and our oldest citizens that is causing our financial problems. It is a culture, government and tax code that are set up to reward those who do not contribute and often don’t care.
Why aren’t the wealthy called freeloaders? Their contribution to our country is nowhere near their contribution to themselves. They live off the backs of the workers and our government in their gated communities and feeling good about themselves because they donated $500 to charity when that is .0001% of their wealth. It’s another winter coat not hanging in the closet to them. It’s three pairs of shoes.
Two years ago, my husband and I got up to donating 3-4% of our income to charity. It was tough and uncomfortable, and we weren’t even at our goal of 10%. But the worst part of it? When we submitted our taxes to the company, who works with many much wealthier clients than us, I inquired whether I should itemize the receipts for our charitable donations. Our tax accountant responded: Oh, it probably wont affect your refund that much.
Later that week, she emailed a summary of our taxes and wrote: I never see anyone give as much as to charity as you.
How sad. Because we are nowhere near the wealthiest client at that firm and yet she was shocked at how much we gave — barely 4% of our net salary.
In fact, poll after poll shows that the wealthy Americans, are the stingiest.
I saw similar numbers in 2001 as well so it’s not related to our economic woes. In fact, people earning less then $25,000 gave .1% more in 2007 while those over $75,000 gave .3% less. (source)
Wealthy people keep their money. And buy big houses. Maybe two or three. And poor people have their subsidized homes torn down for apartments catering to yuppies. The wealthy do not give away their money. They are NOT helping the poor. Not enough at least.
I don’t think that it’s asking a lot for a wealthy person to give more money back to the government. I don’t feel bad for the family whose fourth car has to be a Toyota instead of a Mercedes. I just don’t care. I’d rather see a different family feed their children. And taxes are the only way to get these people to contribute.
We have government agencies because people are greedy and charities can’t do it all with what they are given.
We expect the poor to take care of themselves or disappear. We expect the same for the unhealthy, the veterans and the elderly. They aren’t convenient. They have nothing we want. I pray that every person who suggests that we cut government agencies and who doesn’t donate at least 4-10% of their income to the charity never has unexpected illness or death. That they never grow old. Or make a mistake. I pray that they never lose their way or their job or their savings.
We need to stop attacking the government agencies, who are attempting to fill gap left by underfunded charities, and look at ourselves. Or are we too busy coveting everything the wealthy have and can do?
Is that what it means to be successful in this country. More stuff? We don’t want to take away that beach house. We want our own.
Sadly, it is exactly what Scott and I did last year. We held on to every penny save a few hundred dollars and two massive clothing donations. All I felt at tax time was how much more I wanted. Because I love big vacations. And play sets in the backyard. But not giving as much as we should meant that I kept seeing what we didn’t have, instead of remembering that we have so much.
We will be going back to our goal of giving away more. We will have to make changes and grow again in our faith. As material wealth comes along, I want to remember that it is as much luck as brains and giving back is the best way to be grateful for our fortunate life.
If God wants to change some hearts this week in Washington and around the country, I’m all for it. I’ll still be eating, but I’ll also be praying. Because every religion calls us to take care of the poor and downtrodden. Every moral compass points that way. But perhaps our character can best be seen in our bank accounts.