Back to Robin Hood

Louis Rhead [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yes folks, here it is – another post referencing a Disney classic, the illustrious Robin Hood.

Oo-de-lally! I haven’t seen this movie in years, and as a child I never paid much attention to Little John’s question at the end of the clip:

Are we good guys or bad guys? You know, I mean the ‘our robbing the rich to feed the poor.’

As a child I never really doubted that Robin Hood was the good guy, but hearing the question again, in the light of taxes and tithing, I realize that many people would argue that doing what ol’ Rob was doing is wrong.

These days, you talk about the redistribution of wealth, and suddenly you’re a dirty rotten socialist, whose thinking will lead to the end of capitalism and society as we know it, despite the American value of “equal opportunity.”

But I want to think about taxes, and why a progressive tax code, in this day and age is a necessity. Let’s turn the clock back a couple hundred years or so, to those good old days when things were fresh and new, before the cruel God science took hold. Back to a time where most Christians, and the majority of Americans, took the idea of God and eternal damnation very seriously. Those Americans, quite different from Americans today, were told that good Christians tithed. They gave to the church, and the church in turn looked after the poor and lowly.

And before anyone goes jumping down my throat, I’m not trying to say that the churches did a perfect job of it and that there were no abuses of power and no corruption in the taking of money and filling one’s own wine cellar. My point is that back in the day social structures for taking care of others existed. Not funded through the government, no, but funded by everyday people.

But then churches fell into decline. Membership, and funding, decreased, replaced by idols of science, progress, entrepreneurship, celebrity, you name it! And these replacements do not provide for the social good. Which leaves society with quite a conundrum: if the basest of society is left untended, all of society slumps. Governments came up with the answer, they’d provide the social services instead, but that funding problem remained. Answer: taxes!

Which only led to more questions – how much should we tax? Do we tax everyone a set amount? Do we tax everyone proportionately? Is a progressive tax code the way to go?

To answer these questions, I think we must look back to the old way of doing things – to tithing.

My boyfriend, in the search for moral guidance, recently spoke to a chaplain about tithing, wondering how much is enough. Is ye olde standard of 15% really enough if you make so much is doesn’t hurt to do so? The chaplains answer was no, tithing should pinch, just a bit.

Let’s look at numbers, shall we? Say the “tithe” rate is 10% across the board. Someone who makes $1000 a month must give $100 to the church, while someone who makes $10,000 a month must give $1000. Some people say, yes, that’s fair – they are giving at equal rates, so the $10,000 a month earner gives a lot more money.

But I say it isn’t fair when you look at more than just what someone gives. It isn’t fair when you look at what they’re left with. Telling everyone they have to give 10% is decidedly unfair when it means telling someone to live on just $900 a month and someone else to live on $9,000. Which is harder to do, and who is sacrificing more? Obviously, the $900 earner will have a much harder go of things…. and if one person is struggling significantly more than the other (while most likely working more hours because she doesn’t have any money saved up, working for her), how is this system fair?

I also don’t hold with the argument that the low-earners should just strive for higher-paying jobs, for the simple fact that while in order to keep rolling, society needs teachers, pastors, librarians, non-profit directors, burger-flippers, nail technicians, and the like just as much as it needs doctors and engineers; society needs them a lot more than it’s willing to monetize. If we told all the teachers to get higher-paying jobs, we’d have no teachers, and then where would we be?

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