June 11, 2003 -- One Republican is finally making moral arguments to support his tax policies. Unfortunately, they’re the wrong arguments and the wrong policies. Alabama’s Governor Bob Riley has just shepherded through the state legislature the largest tax hike in the state’s history, justifying a greater tax burden on the prosperous on the religious grounds summed up in the slogan “What would Jesus do?”
Alabama’s tax code—like most other state codes—is complex and needs changes. But approaching reform from the wrong moral premises guarantees immoral results. For example, Adam Cohen in a New York Times editorial supporting the tax hike notes that “Christians are prohibited from oppressing the poor.” So it’s “oppression” if an individual creates wealth and fails to hand over enough of it to others? Of course, without the creators, for example, of logging companies in Alabama, there would be no timber industry jobs for Alabama citizens or for employees of stores and other enterprises that serve them.