Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Taxes and the Archbishop

Continuing the discussion about anti-poverty programs and Catholic thought:  Last week St. Paul Archbishop Harry Flynn gave an interview to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in which he criticized our governor, Tim Pawlenty, for proposing cuts in state health-care programs in order to avoiding raising taxes.  (Free registration required to view.)

Now conservative pundit Katherine Kersten, a Catholic and a new regular columnist for the Star-Trib, takes Abp. Flynn to task on the ground that "[c]ommon sense tells us that, beyond a certain limit, high taxes actually harm people: working families and the poor, most of all."  The familiar arguments are that (1) excessive tax rates discourage job creation and (2) welfare programs encourage dependence among the poor and discourage empowerment.  Kersten quotes my St. Thomas colleague and Institute co-director Bob Kennedy:

According to Kennedy, the late Pope John Paul II had serious reservations about the welfare state. "He believed that it wasn't fully respectful of human dignity," Kennedy explains. "In his eyes, respecting human dignity requires helping people to become economically independent."

I don't want to blog right now about the general issue of welfare programs, taxes, empowerment, and human dignity (partly because I agree with my friend Bob's quote as far as it goes, and partly because it's a complicated cluster of questions involving the kind of program and the level and kind of taxation).  For now I only want to distinguish that general issue from the more specific question of funding faith-based and other intermediate institutions in anti-poverty efforts.  Many of those programs are the exact opposite of simple handouts; they emphasize the very educational, moral, and behavioral transformations in people that commentators like Kersten presumably want to encourage.  Yet we hear, as recent posts have noted, that the "faith-based initiative" has been hampered not only by Democratic secularism and statism, but also by Republican indifference -- and we hear this from conservatives, not just from liberals.  I hope that David Brooks is right about about possible liberal/evangelical (and Catholic?!) alliances; I hope that if they form, they can overcome the "keep God out of it" cadre of Democrats and the "keep my money in my pocket" cadre of Republicans.

Tom B.


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» Taxes Come to the Archbishop from The Seventh Age
Newly-minted StarTribune (daily cat-box liner) columnist Katherine Kersten kicked off her new column in style by taking Archbishop Harry Flynn to task for consistently advocating higher taxes. Kersten makes the altogether convincing argument that many ... [Read More]

Tracked on May 27, 2005 5:30:33 PM