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Poverty Reduction

Tax Justice & Poverty Reduction

Tax Justice and the Vision of Equal Human Dignity
Our religious traditions contain the conviction that all persons are created in God’s image and part of God’s plan, and thus are entitled to an equal measure of respect, dignity and concern.

No society can be fully just that does not provide a reasonable opportunity for all persons to pursue their calling, develop their talents and abilities, and have a reasonable opportunity to live out a full and meaningful life. Moreover, no society can be fully just that does not act to care for the poor, the ill, the elderly and the most vulnerable. We believe these foundational principles have implications for what kind of tax system can be considered just and fair.

More on Tax Justice
The issue of tax justice takes place in the context of a long-term social trend that has seen growing poverty and inequality in American society, fostered in part by the decline of taxation on the wealthy and on corporations. The federal tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 reduced the top bracket income tax rates on high-income taxpayers, reduced the estate tax on accumulated wealth, and reduced capital gains taxes on income from investments — another tax cut that primarily favors the wealthy. Over the past two decades the tax burden has shifted from wealthier individuals and large businesses to working people and small businesses.

Oregon’s unbalanced tax system causes government revenue, and thus government services, to be unreliable due to over-dependence on the income tax and limitations on the property tax, coupled with the absence of any sales tax. 

This system could hardly be more detrimental to those who are poor, elderly or disabled, and who are especially dependent on the government to provide a safety net during hard times, since it is during periods of economic recession that the failings of Oregon’s revenue system are most apparent. Right at the time when the demand for government assistance is increasing, the ability of government to provide assistance is undermined by declining income tax receipts, which hits the poor and vulnerable with a double-dose of economic bad news.  

We need to reform the tax system so that it is fair to working Oregonians and small businesses, and it reliably funds important public services.

Tax Justice Resources
Read EMO's article on Tax Reform in Oregon. Download EMO's Tax Reform Bulletin Insert or Tax Reform Study Guide.

Federal Resources:
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Citizens for Tax Justice
Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP)
The Tax Policy Center
United for a Fair Economy
• Gates, William H. Sr. and Chuck Collins. Wealth and Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes. Beacon Press, 2002.
• Brunori, David, editor. The Future of State Taxation. Urban Institute Press, 1998.
• Slemrod, Joel and Jon Bakija. Taxing Ourselves: A Citizen’s Guide to the Great Debate over Tax Reform. MIT Press, 2000.

Oregon Resources:
Oregon Center for Public Policy — Produces studies, reports and analysis on the economic factors and policies that affect low-income Oregonians.

Hamill, Susan Pace. The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of Christians. (Sweetwater Press: 2003). Contains Law Professor Susan Pace Hamill’s master's thesis in theological studies at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School. The thesis, entitled “An Argument for Tax Reform Based Judeo-Christian Ethics,” inspired Alabama Governor Bob Riley to propose restructuring the tax structure to help the poor. Despite being a Bible Belt state, Alabama voters resoundingly defeated the proposal in the Fall of 2003.

Fighting Hunger in Oregon
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is committed to relieving hunger in Oregon through advocacy, ministry and collaboration. As a founding member of the Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunge, EMO will continue to advocate for policy changes that address the root causes of hunger. Partnering with other religious organizations and service agencies, the roundtable is a resource for developing best practices in ministry, community food security and public policy advocacy. The roundtable is open to any religious organization committed to fighting hunger in Oregon.

National Hunger Statistics
Religious Texts on Hunger: Statements on and about Poverty, Hunger, Helping and Charity from The Tanakh

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