Newsflash: Robin Hood Steals from Himself to Give to the Poor!

The commandment is:  “Thou shalt not steal.”

Most people believe that this commandment represents sound morality, even if they are not Christians.  Nonetheless, it seems that this moral precept is forgotten once we start talking politics.  And no wonder:  Americans have been making up ‘right and wrong’ for themselves for quite a while.   Obviously it was only a matter of time before it seeped into our national mindset.

A good example of this in action is the current attempt by the Democrats to extend the payroll tax cut, ‘paying for it’ by having the ‘rich’ pay their ‘fair share.’

That we are talking about theft becomes clearer when one considers exactly what the ‘payroll tax’ is.  We are talking about the portion of one’s income that goes directly into Social Security.  Your contributions, in turn, ensure that when you retire, you will be able to draw a steady check.

Now, the liberals tend to target the rich to fund a variety of their favorite programs, and many of those times there ostensibly is some ‘public’ benefit of them.  For example, we might put public infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, in this category.  Usually, though, the program favors smaller, special interest, populations.  The appearance of a socialistic transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor becomes more profound the more targeted the program.

But the funding of the payroll tax cut by the rich really takes the cake.  It is one of those few instances of a government service where the individual directly benefiting from the service is also the one funding it.  Heck, it might be the only example of such a thing.

To have the rich pay for the payroll tax cut is to ask them to directly fund the retirements of the rest of the population, in a direct and transparent manner.  The ‘99%’ are demanding that the ‘1%’ pay for a service that only the ‘99%’ will benefit from, without themselves contributing a dime.  There is no ‘public’ benefit; the ‘special interest’ group just turns out to be exceptionally large.

This is stealing.

Stealing is wrong.

Therefore, this is wrong.

The real kick in the pants here is that while the ‘poor’ and ‘middle class’ are getting behind the highway robbery of their ‘richer’ countrymen, they are actually robbing their future selves.  Since the amount of your contribution is correlated with how much you receive in your retirement account, by continuing to not pay the payroll tax, you are decreasing the amount you will ultimately receive. Continue reading

Do we need a theology of taxation?

Laigle’s staff writer Anthony Horvath had an article published with answering in the affirmative.

Can it really be said, though, that all taxation represents a reduction in freedom? The answer to this must be yes, even if we recognize that the effect on freedom might be slight in some cases. To illustrate, imagine a small income tax of a dollar. It might be an easy matter to get by without that dollar, but it is still one more dollar that you cannot spend according to your own priorities. Consider what the impact is if instead the tax is 25 percent of your income!

We also have to ask about those who are doing the taxing. They obviously believe they have the right to take your resources from you. They must believe that they can obtain some good that you, and perhaps few others, would have subsidized if left to your own devices. They must believe that they know how much they can fairly extract from you. They must believe that they have the right, if you protest, to incarcerate you and take your possessions by force if need be. In sum, they are almost indistinguishable from tyrants.

Christians should not support tyrants or adopt their methods and so become tyrants ourselves. If there is a cause we wish to support, we ought to do so from our own resources out of the free expression of our own hearts (2 Corinthians 8).

Read the rest of the article.

Governor Ed Rendell to PA businesses: get out!

PA has new creative ways to get rid of businesses, people

First off, let me say the area around Lancaster and York Counties in Pennsylvania is beautiful, crime is low, and you can still safely turn your back on most folks. I love the area. It is in the Bible belt. We may have invented the Bible belt. The people are conservative and honest, hard-working, and the number one cause of death is OD’ing on scrapple and shoe-fly pie. People die content and a near-record number go to heaven.

But is Pennsylvania business-friendly?

Well, imagine receiving this notice from the Department of revenues of your state about a new tax few outside of government have ever heard of:

“PA Department of Revenues records indicate your company has not reported or remitted Use Tax in the previous three years. Your company incurs a Use Tax liability when purchases are not taxed by the selling vendor…”

Sounds like you’ve been a negligent business person, right? So then why didn’t my tax accountant know, who is himself a government auditor?

Answer: no one knew. And they weren’t supposed to. It’s that old taxation without notification. The Department admits in that same notification:

“Many businesses are first made aware of Use Tax when a Department auditor reviews their financial records, and a tax assessment including penalty and interest results.”

Translation: Governor Ed Rendell’s Department of Revenue admits it failed to properly announce this Use Tax in time and most are surprised by it. So how can a government levy a tax and then, the first year it is enforced, demand payment of “back taxes”?

Technically, the DOR had said, back in 2006, at their web site, which no one was, or is, obliged to visit:

 “The DOR has now moved on to the enforcement phase of the program, while the education and outreach phase continues.  In January 2006, self-audit Use Tax Returns were mailed to PA businesses, permitting them to audit their books for 2006, as well as the previous three (3) years, to determine any use tax liabilities.”

The letter, which is part of a “voluntary compliance program” (ve have our vays), ends with a friendly reminder that failure to pay could lead to jail. Thank you and have a nice day.

Use tax? As far as anyone in PA can remember, Use Tax was devised to scrape a few tax dollars from out-of-staters who worked in PA. They were using the state to pursue gainful employment, and hence, theoretically, were putting wear and tear on the highways and using our public services, and had to pay their “fair share” – 6% of their earnings. It had nothing to do with items purchased out of state.

Maybe the notices were supposed to go out, but the fact is, many businesses did not receive word of this creative new interpretation of the Use Tax, at least not in understandable enough terms, before now. My own accountant – who had never mentioned this to me, through no fault of his own, because his own colleagues didn’t know either – just told me today that the mailings from the Department to his clients started about a month ago, which was as much a surprise to them as mine was to me when it arrived yesterday. Other PA colleagues I checked with have not yet received notice. But we will all be paying “back” taxes on a new tax no one knew they were supposed to pay 3 years ago, and many will pay hefty penalties for not paying now that credit is tight and businesses are faltering!

In fact, so stealthy was the assault on PA businesses that as soon as the terrifying notices went out, a new web site opened up to discuss the new compliance initiative and how to deal with it. Obviously, the site visitors didn’t know what had hit them either!

And guess how much time Ed Rendell’s sweethearts are giving us to make the necessary calculations from 3 years of tax returns and send in a check for the last 3 years’ tax liability? Until January 15, about a month, to get the credit needed to pay this potentially crushing amount – just in time for Christmas (let them eat scrapple, eh, Ed?) and for the credit crunch. Clearly they are hoping many will not be able to pay by then and will incur juicy late fees to help bolster big spender Governor Ed Rendell’s treasury.

But would I bother to warn you about this if Pennsylvania were otherwise a business-friendly state?

Maybe not.

But there is that other little matter of the order to reduce electrical power output, imposed on utilities in PA. That’s right. No matter how many new residents PA acquires in the next few years (the government is friendly to illegal immigrants, of course), the overall power output will decrease. It has to. Otherwise the power companies pay a hefty fine. Sure, it’s their fault you moved here. How dare they?

So how does a power company go about refusing you power? Who goes first? Are hospitals exempted? How about the elderly? Do they freeze in the winter and gasp in the summer? Does anyone care for people any more? Well, as the Dems would say: the environment was here first (interpretation: get lost, humans!).

As one blog poster commented: “forget about electric cars because they will need places to plug them in to recharge the batteries.”
The post ends with the words: “Rendell, you are an idiot! The loonies are running the asylum!”

My advice to you if you live in PA or are considering starting a business here: you may want to check around first for a more business-friendly and people-friendly venue –  say, Venezuela.

A Medicine Worse than the Sickness

Dorothy Sayers in her essay titled “Problem Picture” presents a perspective of a Christian writing in England during World War Two. I would like to draw a few statements from this essay:

“There is one vast human experience that confronts us so formidably that we cannot pretend to overlook it. There is no solution to death.” … “The spiritual and mental energy that we expend upon resenting the inevitably of death is as much wasted as that which we from time to time have expended on attempts to solve the problem of perpetual motion. Further, this irrational preoccupation curiously hampers us in dealing with such a practical question as that of the possibility of war. It encourages us to look on the evil of war as consisting, first and foremost, that it kills a great many people.” … “Because of that, we would not risk war, for right or justice, or even in the hope of preserving peace. We threw down our arms [after WW1], crying ‘No More War!’, and so delivered up Europe.”

I am also writing from the perspective of a Christian. As I survey the landscape today I believe we can see that the sort of attitude that Sayers decried back in World War 2 is still alive and well with us today. When I hear calls like “Support the Troops- Bring them Home,” I recognize that the speaker believes that the very worst thing that can happen in life is to die. We must ask ourselves how many tyrants are in power today, stifling their populace by whatever means that they have, because free men and women can’t bring themselves to assert their understanding of what is right and what is wrong for fear that war might break out.

That is the story of Rwanda in the 90s. It is today’s story in Sudan. This article is not about trying to lay out arguments for war but rather to expound on the principle at work in Sayer’s statement. That principle is: In the face of evils that will always be with us, we shouldn’t try to avoid them, stall them, or overcome them in such a way that is also evil or sets the stage for something more horrific.

I can think of other applications of this principle and when we are in a political season I think it is wise to consider the matter, especially those of us who are Christians.

Perhaps another illustration from history should be presented. Let us take the problem of poverty. Poverty has always been with us and though it may offend some to point it out, it will always remain with us in the face of all our efforts. Poverty, like war, and like death, is a thing we should be concerned about. Can we put our finger on an attempt to deal with poverty that not only was worse than the problem to be solved but also brought more poverty?

I believe we can point to the rise of Communism as a case in point. Communism surged because of the vast amount of people feeling the dull weight of exploitation upon them. The solution was to take from the ‘haves’ and give to the ‘have nots.’ This was done violently but in the end many of the ‘have nots’ still had not and hundreds of millions perished in an effort to enforce ‘equality’ on a national scale.

Communist countries became the poorest countries on the planet. Only by softening their principles, as in China and Vietnam, did they manage to stay afloat at all. With all of the efforts of the Chinese to stamp out the problem of economic disparities does anyone believe for a minute that there are no poor people in China?

Now, in America there are people who would like to take from the ‘haves’ and give to the ‘have nots.’ Is it ever right to take what belongs to someone else just to give it to another? Do we know from history what kind of outcomes might result if such a venture was carried out in its full strength? We do. Is there a way to take poverty serious while not offering ‘rob the rich’ as the solution? I think so.

There will always be problems – death, war, poverty, conflict, sickness, etc. Some people take the attitude that these problems must be fought at any cost and tend to elect people who will fight them at any cost, oblivious to the fact that in tending to one problem they are creating another. In my view, the ideal candidate will take the problems seriously but will be aware of the law of unintended consequences and try to keep government out of the way of good citizens at work on those problems at the local level.

But it might be argued that there are some problems that are so big that they can only be handled by an institution as massive as our government. I don’t believe there are as many as we might think. I am not arguing that we do nothing about the problems of society but that we do so in a way that doesn’t do even worse damage. If not the government, then, who do I propose tackle these issues?

Quite simply, I believe the Christian church itself has what it takes to handle many of these social problems. I fear, however, that many Christians have gravitated towards solving such problems with government. This, in my view, is shameful. Attending to the concerns of our fellow man is a task given to us by Christ. He didn’t give it to us so that we could delegate it off to bureaucrats, no matter how well meaning we think those people are.

I wonder how many other issues that we Christians take seriously could be largely managed if instead of trying to resolve issues legislatively we devoted our time, energy, and resources to dealing with these problems as they arise in our own local communities. A litany of examples comes to my mind. I am not saying that we don’t work legislatively. I am saying we don’t put our hope in the government and that we don’t give up duties that rightly belong to us.

In this political season, I will be looking for a candidate who trusts the people themselves to address the big issues of our time. I fear that even if we elect such a candidate, the Christian community would not capitalize on the opportunity such an approach will afford. So, no matter what happens in the next election, there is still plenty we Christians can do… and should do. We can start now.

Anthony Horvath is the author of the Birth Pangs series, the Executive Director of Athanatos Christian Ministries,  and the Chief Apologist at