The Wages of Sin Is… Higher Taxes?

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.)

Mitchell writes:

“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!

9 Responses to The Wages of Sin Is… Higher Taxes?

  • Mark Noonan says:

    There is much to what you say. Our experience of this in Nevada was the re-election of Harry Reid – a corrupt and incompetent tool of gaming and real estate who played a large roll in ensuring our State’s economic catastrophe when the economic lights went out in 2008. While Sharron Angle had many flaws as a candidate I do believe she was done in by scare tactics – could hardly turn on the TV for three months without seeing an ad claiming that Angle was going to force women to bear a rapist’s child…as if one Senator, even if she wanted to, could ban abortion. But, it worked. In the end, if you talked to Independent voters you found that they voted for Reid because Angle was “too scary”…as if national and State bankruptcy courtesy of Reid wasn’t a bit alarming.

    But what, in the end, were these voters scared of? They were scared of living in a society where actions have consequences which the actor has to pay for. Boiled down, many thousands of men and women – enough to tip the election to Reid – were more afraid of having to take care of themselves than having to deal with utter collapse because of bad policy…and so they voted for Reid. And in California they voted for Brown; and in Illinois they voted for Quinn…

    On the plus side, some people showed they know the score and acted like men and women – even in some quite liberal States, voters opted for governors and Senators who told the truth and who promise pain as they work their way out of the mess. We’re not quite dead, yet, as a society…but we do have at very large minority which is so used to living in sin (as it were) that they are afraid to give it up. We mustn’t get angry about this – after all, which of us has not had to struggle mightily against our own, personal sins? – it is a hard task to resist the easy temptation and take the hard virtue. But it is, also, time for Christian men and women to stand forth – as Christians! – and attempt to convert the world to our views.

  • Bravo Elaine! For residents of the Land of Lincoln who are boiling about this now, and who voted for Quinn and for Democrats in the legislature, my reaction is quite simply, “What did you expect?” Heaven knows that the GOP has played a large role in this disaster. Who can forget JailBird Governor Ryan and his “Build (Bilk) Illinois” program which wasted billions of dollars that the state did not have. However it should have been obvious to anyone that Quinn and the Democrats would never cut spending and that they would do something immensely stupid like this: ram through a midnight largest increase in taxes in the country in the midst of the worst post-war recession the nation has experienced. Now we have the new Republican Governor of Wisconsin inviting fed up Illinois businesses to move north of the border. Rest assured that our other neighboring states, especially well-run Indiana, will benefit from this consummate folly, as Illinois businesses and talented individuals in what is rapidly becoming a failed state, flee from a sinking ship. Well Quinn and his Democrats have proven one thing: Illinois has arguably the worst political leadership, totally short-sighted and immensely foolish, in the nation.

  • From the Quincy News blog an excellent overview of just how insane this tax hike is:

    “Despite lllinois’ leading exports being its residents and businesses, the General Assembly has proposed raising the state income and corporate income taxes by 75% each. If this tax monster passes, at least two things are certain: one, Illinois businesses would pay the highest corporate income taxes in the free world; two, Illinois would see the largest mass exodus of productive people since the Israelites fled Egypt.

    The data points about Illinois’ economic death spiral have been repeated so often as to have been stripped of their shock value. Bottom line: Illinois is a bigger default risk than Bernie Madoff and has created fewer jobs in the last decade than record stores.”

    http://quincynews.org/blogs/jenkins-royko-grantland/illinois-death-by-taxes.html

  • “Now we have the new Republican Governor of Wisconsin inviting fed up Illinois businesses to move north of the border.”

    The irony is that just a few weeks ago, Quinn was actively courting a railroad equipment manufacturer that had vowed to leave Wisconsin because they had lost out on a planned state-funded high-speed rail project that was being canceled by the new WI administration. This company now faces quite a dilemma: if they move they get hit with higher taxes, if they stay, they lose out on a potentially lucrative project. It will be interesting to see what they decide.

    Yes, the GOP did indeed play a large role in this disaster (although not a single Republican in either chamber voted for this tax hike, so they can’t be directly blamed for it) and it goes to prove that the kind of bad leadership that only tells people what they want to hear isn’t limited to one party. Nor is it necessarily limited to high-tax blue states, as Mark’s comment above shows — Nevada has no personal income tax, and one would think it should be an economic mecca, but it currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

  • Art Deco says:

    (although not a single Republican in either chamber voted for this tax hike, so they can’t be directly blamed for it)

    Count me unimpressed. Does the Republican caucus (the whole caucus, not the designated Sancho Panza a-la-Paul Ryan) have a serious set of proposals for spending reductions on the table? How about structural reforms (i.e. the end of collective bargaining for public employees, conversion of public pensions to defined-contribution plans, funding of public pensions entirely out of payroll deductions, &c.) which will modify the trajectory of future spending?

  • c matt says:

    Interesting that the state from whence our Dear Leader hails is one of the bankrupt, but the state which Palin governed is one of the only four that is not facing a budget shortfall. If only actual results counted for more than paper degrees and vague words.

  • Afghani"Stan" says:

    There is a price to pay for being the most corrupt state in the union. I can only hope a political earthquake is coming.

    The public sector unions will reap what they have sown.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    I understand why people are upset about this — hey, it’s going to take a noticeable bite out of my paycheck too, and that’s AFTER factoring in the Social Security tax “holiday”. This could have been dealt with a lot differently. But, it’s not the end of the world either.

    The real problem, as referenced in one of the stories I linked to, is that Illinois had gotten so far into debt and so dependent on short term borrowing that it had no choice but to ask “How high?” when the bond markets said “Jump!” And a lot of other entities are in the same boat.

    I personally believe that no matter who was elected, some combination of tax increase and spending cuts was going to have to be done — the only difference is which would have come first. With Democrats, tax hike comes first and maybe some cuts later; with Republicans, cuts come first and a (smaller) tax hike much later.

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