A few months ago I wrote this reflection on the idea that bad leadership can be seen as a punishment or consequence of sin, and how the ethical and fiscal train wreck that is Illinois state government might serve as an example of this concept.
Now we are seeing further evidence of this concept. In the waning hours of their own lame-duck session, the Illinois General Assembly early this morning passed one of the most drastic tax hikes in state history.
The measure raises the individual income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent (thereby increasing each individual’s total tax liability by 66 percent) and the corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent. Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign the tax hike into law as soon as possible.
The corporate income tax, combined with an existing 2.5 percent tax that replaced an old personal property tax, means corporations in Illinois will be taxed at a total basic rate (not accounting for any exemptions or deductions) of 9.5 percent, the fourth highest rate in the nation. Although the tax hikes are supposed to be in effect only for the next four years, most residents expect all or part of the increases to end up being permanent.
The reason for this action is the state’s cataclysmic $15 billion-and-mounting budget shortfall. The growing deficit threatened to lower Illinois’ bond rating to junk status, possibly within days. In response, lame duck legislators in the last 12 hours of their term voted to approve the tax hike. A loose spending cap was approved along with the tax hike, but no specific or significant budget cuts accompanied this legislation.
Needless to say, the impending tax hike has many residents angry and feeling betrayed yet again by their elected officials. Gov. Quinn, elected to a full term by a very narrow margin, had said prior to the election that he would not approve of raising the income tax for individuals beyond 4 percent. However, this measure goes a full percentage point higher. Many predict a significant loss of jobs and residents as a result.
But what does this have to do with the “wages of sin” spoken of by St. Paul?
One of our Catholic blogging friends from Illinois, “Regular Guy” Paul Mitchell, states in his latest post that the tax hike is a direct consequence of pro-abortion voting.
Mitchell notes that Personal PAC, a fiercely pro-abortion political action committee, claims credit for having helped to elect Quinn (by a margin of less than 1 percent) by targeting women voters in suburban Chicago with ads highlighting the allegedly “extremist” views of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady and other pro-life candidates. (I made comments on this post under one of my nom de blogs.)
“In all of these races, and many more, voters were warned that voting for a Republican meant that their daughters would be cruelly forced to bear rapists’ children, that Republicans would take away a woman’s right to kill her baby for any reason or no reason, and that parents might — heaven forfend! — actually be entitled to be consulted before their minor children sought abortions.
“You (pro-abortion voters) opposed all that. And now you have to pay the bill. And so do I. And so do we all. The bill for abortion will come in the form of far higher taxes, still more state spending, and reliably fewer jobs due to the savings that businesses will realize from moving out of Illinois into nearby states with more reasonable restrictions on abortion, but far lower burdens on small businesses.”
So is there a direct link between pro-abortion voting and the tax hike? I believe there is something much broader, and not easily attributed to a single factor, at work here.
The kind of corrupt, incompetent, or cowardly leadership that generates $15 billion budget deficits, near-junk-bond ratings, and a national reputation as the worst “deadbeat state” doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of numerous bad choices made over many years, and numerous missed or rejected opportunities to remedy the situation. It is what happens when people elect leaders who tell them only what they want to hear; who promise all sorts of benefits such as free healthcare with no explanation of how to pay for them; who accept corruption and injustice as the price of “getting things done”; who fail to respect the right to life, freedom of conscience, or the role of the family as the building block of society; and who fail to display basic honesty and integrity.
However, the problem is not limited to Illinois. All but four states are currently running budget deficits, and in the opinion of some experts, state financial crises pose the next big threat to the economy — equal to or worse than the housing crisis. In some cases, of course, the crisis is the result of chronic overspending, but it is no longer limited only to blue states with liberal (and for the most part, pro-abortion) governments. The tide of red ink is reaching even the low-tax red states, exposing structural deficits that are increasingly difficult to contain. And of course, the federal government has been doing its best to add to the national debt burden for quite some time.
Can this impending or already-here crisis be accurately categorized as a “chastisement” for our sinful ways? Maybe, but not in the sense of being imposed upon us by an angry God — rather, in the sense that the natural consequences of those sins which have torn apart our family and social fabric have led to demands upon the body politic that have grown unsustainable.
No matter where you live, electing the wrong people (regardless of party or political leanings) for selfish and shortsighted reasons, over and over again, eventually makes life harder for everyone. In that sense, the collective wages of sin may just end up coming out of your paycheck!