Biblical Archaeology and Tax Cuts

What would the prophets say about Bush's economic plans?

What does biblical archaeology have to do with the tax cut proposal currently being debated in the U.S. Senate? More than you might think.



When archaeologists dig into the ruins of ancient Israel, they find periods when the houses were about the same size, and the unearthed artifacts of life show a relative equality among the people--no great economic distance between the top and bottom of the society. During those times, the biblical prophets were silent--they had nothing to say. No voice of an Isaiah, Amos, or Jeremiah was heard speaking to the demands of justice.



But the diggings also uncover other periods when there were huge houses and little hovels, and the objects of life reveal great disparities. Not surprisingly, it was during those times when the prophets were most outspoken, denouncing the great gaps in wealth and the neglect of the poor. The Bible doesn't condemn prosperity; it just insists it be shared.



Somehow, it has become impermissible to ask how President Bush's tax cut proposal might benefit the wealthiest Americans or neglect the poorest. Such talk gets quickly dismissed as "class warfare." Sorry--it's not. It's a legitimate topic of biblical religion. Especially since Bush has spoken so positively about "faith-based initiatives," you would think the White House might pay a little more attention to the content of that faith.



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For example, the president has proposed doubling the child credit from $500 to $1,000, a family-friendly idea that most religious groups support. But under his tax cut plan, families who are working, but making so little they don't pay income tax, will receive no help. All these families pay taxes--payroll tax, sales tax, energy tax--but get nothing from the tax cut.



Many religious groups are supporting efforts to make the proposed child tax credit refundable, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which also benefits low-income families. A fully refundable credit would benefit 16 million children currently left out and lift 2 million of them out of poverty. Every family in America would then benefit from the Bush tax proposal. There is a proposal being considered by the Congress that would allow some low-income families to claim a partial credit.



Many Republicans, however, are objecting even to this and say they will try to remove it.



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