The Taxman Cometh
Tax Day is not exactly a Hallmark holiday. Though we exchange 1040s in place of cards, it is no less important. This week, millions of Americans file their taxes amid a turn in our national debate about those very dues. Two different tax bills—one a cut, the other an increase—are being discussed on Capitol Hill this week. The tax cut is a House Republican bill designed to aid small businesses. The proposal to increase taxes, on the other hand, is a variant of the so-called “Buffet Rule.” The former is expected to come up for a vote in the House later this week; on Monday, the latter failed to overcome a 60-vote threshold needed to move the legislation to a vote on the merits in the Senate.
There is ample debate to be had about the tax code. Much can be made over how best to spend the money the government takes in, who should pay, and how much. For all that debate, taxes—and the government services they enable in turn (think of libraries, schools, public safety, and national security, just to start with)—are all essential to keeping society strong.
The debate taking place on Capitol Hill this week could mark the beginning of a larger conversation about reforming the tax system, not just partisan potshots in election season—if lawmakers seize the chance. As tax reform moves forward, we urge Congress to remember the values of economic justice that are steeped throughout our Jewish tradition. Indeed, we are taught in the Talmud that “the person who lends money [to a poor person] is greater than the person who gives charity; and the one who throws money into a common purse [to form a partnership with the poor person] is greater than either” (B. Shabbat 63b). Taxes provide our society the resources to lift up the vulnerable and disadvantaged and ensure that all members of society have the means not only to survive, but also to contribute to the general welfare.
Image courtesy the Los Angeles Times