Class Warfare

I did a right-wing talk show the other night on Fox News. Whenever you mention poverty in a venue like that, they scream that you're engaging in class warfare and promptly declare war on you.

I've decided that the right wing is correct on this: There is a class war, but they and their political allies are the ones who have declared it. As Episcopal Bishop John Chane said at a recent Sojourners/Call to Renewal chapel service: "We've gone from a war on poverty to a war on the poor."

Last year, Susan Pace Hamill, a University of Alabama tax law professor, took a sabbatical to earn a Master of Theological Studies degree. She wrote her thesis on "An Argument for Tax Reform Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics." In it she applied "the moral principles of Judeo-Christian ethics" to Alabama's tax system, seeing reform as "a critically important step toward ensuring that Alabama's children, especially children from low-income families, enjoy an opportunity to build a positive future."

Those "moral principles" came into sharp focus in three news stories this summer. The first related directly to Alabama and its Republican governor's proposal to reform the state tax system. The other two showed the same principles on the national scale. One was about the exclusion of 7 million low-income working families—and their 12 million children—from the child tax credit that other families are receiving. The other was the latest IRS annual report, showing huge increases in the wealth of America's 400 richest taxpayers.

In all three, the moral contradictions are too great to ignore. The deepening injustice of America's growing wealth chasm is increasingly impossible to justify. It's becoming a moral, and even a religious, issue.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
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