CSM editors equivocate on corporate taxes

The Christian Science Monitor editorial board spun hard the discussion of corporate tax reform Wednesday, opining under the headline: World class tax evaders need a global response. 

Tax evasion is illegal.  Are the editors implying that the folks at Apple and other firms under recent Senate scrutiny are criminal?  At minimum, The Monitor executes an Orwellian equivocation.  For them, “tax avoidance” is interchangeable with “cheating” and “legal tax evasion.”

The editors opine with unconscious irony, likening the plight of national governments to that of their taxpayers.  They’d have us believe that it’s as frustrating for governments to capture revenue from corporations as it is for taxpayers to navigate convoluted tax codes.  The world’s tiniest violin plays in response.

Waldo Jaquith / Music Photos / CC BY-SA

The Monitor quotes British Prime Minister David Cameron to no effect : “Some forms of avoidance have become so aggressive that I think it is right to say these are ethical issues.” This does nothing to elucidate the actual ethical threshold that Mr. Cameron thinks avoiders have crossed.

Moving on, the editors warn of a pernicious race to the bottom, where, absent a level playing field, corporate tax rates around the world will just be too low.  Then, quoting another British official, they deftly imply a connection between those lower rates and lack of transparency.

The solutions the editors look to are systemic, top down, and require dilligent international cooperation.  In other words, they’re impractical. More of the same nonsense that puts Libya on the UN Human Rights Council and binds Europe to a useless carbon curbing regime while the US and China continue on their merry way.

In an age of highly mobile capital and labor, competition is more a reality than ever before.  Forcing “fairness” by restricting mobility from the top down is patently illiberal.  Instead, policy makers should “reward” corporate winners as Rand Paul urged in a recent Senate hearing.  Whether countries or corporations, let competitors learn from and emulate the most successful, and global revenues–corporate and goverment– will be racing to the top.

Stigmatize gun ownership like smoking?

The Christian Science Monitor continues to astound with its idiocy.  One recent Monitor headline described the belligerence of Hamas as mere “military action.”  This when their signature mode of armed conflict–rocket attacks–consists in the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians.  So much for the idea of terrorism.

Now, the Monitor‘s editorial board suggests gun violence can be curbed by a public perception campaign akin to that which stigmatized smoking.  What would this look like? We can imagine the Ad Council cartoon propaganda now: a bratty, freckled blonde boy, sporting a sideways baseball cap, growls, “Hey bro, owning guns is not cool.”  Will subjecting upstanding, law abiding gun owners–who are generally paragons of civic responsibility–to such a silly and divisive psychological campaign really help?

There are better stigmas to promote instead. When Hollywood celebrities earnestly “demand a plan” of politicians while remaining unapologetic for their own glorification of gun violence, we ought to stigmatize their hypocrisy (and chuckle given their unintended fulfillment of this prophetic Portlandia parody). When our society allows severe mental illness to remain untreated out of fear of institutionalization and the corresponding desire for maximal autonomy, we should stigmatize indifference towards such danger.

Michael Medved is right when he declares that gun violence is a spiritual rather than a material problem. Prisoners of progressive thought are always trying to stigmatize material things.  They say SUVs kill the earth, or guns kill people.  At least the market tinkering of “cash for clunkers” had the probable effect of increasing the nation’s overall fuel efficiency.  But gun buybacks only decrease the ratio of gun ownership between law-abiding citizens and criminals.  Why is it ever good for criminals and murderers to have relatively more guns than the population at large?

The Monitor editorial also suggests an expansion of non-gun-owner rights along the lines of “non-smoker rights.”  Please, everyone, we have to think more carefully about rights!  We can’t just keep making up new ones.  Especially ones backed by stigma.  Have the editors at the Monitor forgotten that stigma–based on the materialistic concern of skin color–once supported the Jim Crow “right” for whites to not share public accommodations with blacks?

Rather than invoke stigmas based on material things, let’s stigmatize undesirable attitudes and behaviors instead.  We can start with the unfounded hysteria over gun violence.

Journalists, academics try to understand God and government

Here’s an interesting and recent headline from the Christian Science Monitor: “Does government do too much? That could depend on your view of God.”

Some folks at Baylor did a study on the intersection of small government conservatism and Christian faith.  When both the journalist and the academic undertake an investigation like this, I think there tends to be an outsider’s bias.  They are kind of scratching their heads, asking “Why on Earth would anyone think this way?”

At least the journalist MacDonald does a fair job by getting a counterpoint from Woodard, an academic with rightward sympathies.  Yet the article, sadly typical of mainstream media work, smuggles in the notion that conservatives are by nature angry.  Researcher Froese conjectures that since small government Christians tend to be poorer and less educated, they are probably anxious and depressed.  According to this line of thought, they are then given to believing in a wrathful and angry God.  But reading on about the study, one really wonders why the secular/liberal types who believe they cannot find the meaning of their lives wouldn’t be even more anxious and depressed.

To me it follows that any Christian who takes his faith seriously will have peace and hope.  I know somewhere there is a statistic that Christians actually achieve higher levels of education than the general population.  But ultimately, the article’s discourse is muddied by juggling so many overlapping identities.

Between the two opposing interpretations that Froese and Woodard offer on small government Christians, I have to commend Woodard’s view.  After all, it would take a fearful or angry liberal to have such an uncharitable view of his Christian neighbors.

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