On May 14, 2013 JRLC participated in a rally convened by Invest in Minnesota, a coalition of...
This post is adapted from a sermon by JRLC Intern and United Theological Seminary student...
Good organizing is all about building relationships so that you have a network of supporters who...
Tax day is right around the corner, and if you're like me, you haven't done them yet. Each year,...
On March 19th, I attended a hearing of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee....
Hey, Legislature: Raise My Taxes!
Loaves and Fishes and Collective Responsibility
Introduction to Community Organizing: Social Media and Online Tools
Taxes as a Spiritual Practice
Gun Safety and Jesus's Nonviolence
Changing Our World: Government Shutdown
Guest post by Dr. Bernard Evans, professor at St John's University and member of JRLC's Executive Board. Cross-posted courtesy of the St Cloud Visitor. You can find the original post here.
Why is Minnesota facing a government shutdown? Part of the answer may be found in the unyielding, no compromise positions taken by key actors in the legislative debates.
GOP legislators deplore the DFL governor’s refusal to accept their budget proposal capped at $34 billion with no new taxes. For his part Governor Dayton sees the GOP controlled legislature asking for too many cuts in critical programs. This could be avoided, he argues, if the legislators would consider raising taxes.
Catholic social teaching offers no specific solution to this budget impasse, but it does provide helpful reflections on some aspects of this stand-off. Governor Dayton is calling for an income tax increase on the richest two per cent of Minnesotans, a position that would seem to be in accord with Church teaching on progressive taxation -- that taxes should be based on ability to pay. Back in the 1960’s Pope John XXIII had much to say on topics related to this debate in Minnesota. In Christianity and Social Progress he wrote that those who have been blessed with great material or personal gifts should use them not only for themselves but for the benefit of others as well (119). Does this support the Governor’s proposal to raise income taxes on the most affluent earners? Possibly.
But this teaching also states that all of us have a role to play in meeting the needs of our society. In Peace on Earth Pope John XXIII wrote that individual citizens are obliged to make their own specific contributions to the common welfare, and to bring their personal interests into harmony with the needs of the community (53). Surely one way for us to do this is to accept the responsibility of paying taxes and perhaps more than we now pay.
The Republican led legislature insists on no new taxes. Some of them argue that our state needs to practice better stewardship with the financial resources already in hand. Government, others assert, is too big (though it is not clear what standard of measurement grounds that claim). Certainly there are points here that make for legitimate discussion and debate. Catholic social teaching does encourage wise use of limited resources and its principle of subsidiarity argues that a larger, more distant entity should not do for a smaller, more local one what the latter can do for itself.
This same teaching, however, is equally clear that the function of government is to promote the common good – to help create those conditions in society that allow everyone to have a reasonably decent life. That is the whole reason for the existence of civil authority (Peace on Earth, 54). The Holy Father later writes that such public authority must be provided the means necessary to do its job.
One of our roles as citizens is to empower the government to do that job -- to work for the well-being of everyone, especially the less fortunate and the most vulnerable within society. This is no abstraction. It is about promoting conditions that make it possible for everyone to have such basic necessities as food, clothing, shelter, a job, adequate income and health care. For this to happen all citizens must be willing to contribute what is needed for the task, not just the super rich, but all of us. We should not settle for a state budget that is balanced through such means as further delays in school repayments, cutting assistance to families on income support, eliminating General Assistance for disabled and vulnerable adults, or decreasing funding for child protection and child care assistance programs.
Why are we facing a government shutdown? Partly because we citizens make it difficult for any politician to challenge us to do more, to give more. Partly because some of our legislative leaders are stuck in partisan, ideological boxes with more interest in their next election than in promoting the common good. We all need to change.