Budgeting as a Moral Practice and Why I Support Proposition 30

How do we translate our common moral commitments into action?

For argument’s sake let us agree that we all believe in the dignity of every human being.  That is, we believe that a person’s dignity is an inalienable part of their being, to borrow a phrase from the founders. In religious terms one would say that every person was created in the image of God. This is perhaps the most forceful way of saying that each and every person’s value as a person is not contingent upon anything external to that person, and that no one has a right to act in such a way as to harm that dignity, that image of God, that tzelem elohim. It is as if when one damages another’s dignity one does harm to God.

Okay, let us assume that we all agree with this. How do we translate this into practice? How do we move the rhetorical statement to action—moral and legislative at once—which incorporates this understanding into the fabric of our polities, city, state and country?

The only way to get from here to there is to get into the high grass of public policy—and the highest grass of public policy is budgeting. I am not arguing, nor would I, that the budget should direct our moral choices, that the economic bottom line should be the deciding factor in whether or not a policy is good or bad. The exact opposite is what I would argue. The choices we make in our budgeting process must reflect the values which we hold most high.

Since here in California we have over the years decided that our elected representatives should have us do their work for them in the ballot process; and since in that process important questions of budget and taxation are decided, we are forced every election to weigh our votes on budget propositions on the basis of whether or not they reflect our most important values.

The bottom line is that a budget must be an ethical document. The choices of what to fund and what to cut cannot be just a matter of arithmetic, but must first of all be a matter of moral choice.

So how do we create a budget which reflects the respect of every person’s being created in the Divine image?

I would suggest that we start by articulating the interlocking web of necessities which a person needs in order to be able to live with dignity in our cities. A non-exhaustive list would include, for example, a job with a living wage, decent education, housing, and health care. These needs are interlocking in that if one is missing, the whole web can fall apart. If one does not have a decent job with a living wage, then one cannot get decent housing or healthcare which impacts one’s ability to get an education. If one does not have access to education, one cannot get a decent job which impacts one’s ability to get access to housing or health care. And so on. (The more robust argument, for another time, would include the claim that all of these necessities enable a person not only to survive, but to flourish as a person, which is to actualize the Divine image.)

When the budget that is created does not allow for people to live in dignity, let alone flourish we have failed as a society.

It is then incumbent upon us as a society, through our government—which is the mechanism by which we handle our ability to live together—to redirect our resources such that everybody can live in dignity. To that end I would argue, we must support a robust school system and a system of higher education. We must ensure that everybody has access to health care. We must provide shelter and housing to the homeless.

In this election, one action which can bring us one step further along this path is voting for Proposition 30: The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act. The temporary (seven year) increase in income taxes for those who earn more than $250,000 a year, and 1/4 cent increase in sales tax for four years would garner the resources necessary for to continue funding our education system. The dire cuts that would ensue if Prop 30 fails—5.4 billion dollars from the Los Angeles school system and community college system; 250 million dollars from the UC and Cal State systems; 50 million dollars from mental health services and more—would cripple us morally, doom many to lives of poverty and pain, and almost certainly guarantee that California will not thrive economically in the future.

For these reasons I urge every California voter to support Proposition 30.

3 thoughts on “Budgeting as a Moral Practice and Why I Support Proposition 30

  1. Recently there has been a lot of uncertainty over what to do about “Free Education” for every American.

    Well. Guess what? There is no such thing as a free education. In fact public schools are far more expensive than any private school in these united States of America.

    You know, I’d rather dump the property tax and instead of corrupt government coming in and stealing my land for not paying for public schools through a means called “Property Tax”, pass it on to my own gene pool. Moses referred to this very thing as “Land Inheritance” and not “Public Schools” and “Property Tax” which is illegal anyway because it violates the law of god.

    In fact, why should I care if someone else has kids who are uneducated. Why in the world should I care and why should I pay for your children’s education at $29,000.00 per year per head?
    Src: http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/census-bureau-confirms-dc-spends-29409-pupil/

    Since I’m the one footing the bill by you gambling I’ll lose my land I’d like to propose that you hire the state to come in and steal my land inheritance to pay for your kids to have a baby sitter. Wouldn’t you like for someone else to hire a baby sitter for your kids after they start popping out? But instead of sending them to public schools let the damn thing go and declare bankruptcy. Take my money and my wealth and please hire a baby sitter for your nine children. There are private schools out there and private tutors who will teach them how to add and how to subtract and how to read and how to write. And they’ll do it for a lot less money. Private Schools will charge you about $6000.00 per child per year and your children will be a lot smarter academically and they won’t wake up homeless because you didn’t want to give $29,000.00 dollars to help support someones crack habit. $29,000.00 – $6000.00 leaves $23,000.00 to feed some anonymous strangers crack habit.

    How about this? Don’t hire a private school or a tutor to baby sit for you. Just pocket the money and use it for drugs, gold jewelry, a new car, or why don’t you please just burn my paper money for heat in the winter time. I don’t care if your kids have an education or not. If you let the public schools burn to the ground then you could teach your kids how to read and write all by yourself and then why you too could be the one pocketing $29,000.00 dollars a year off the sweat of my back and at the displacement of my children’s land inheritance when I become sick or by chance get into a car crash and lose one of my legs. Please steal my money and my land so that you don’t have to pay for your kids.

    Lets take a step back and do the math for a second. For $29,000.00 per kid per year you could probably afford to buy some writing paper, a few pencils, and some lunches. The materials you’d need to educate one kid for 9 months come out to somewhere around $200.00 plus lunch for 195 days out of the school year at $5.00 each comes to just under $1200.00. Lets see. $29,000.00 – $1200.00 leaves me with $27,800.00 that I could use to smoke crack cocaine and invest in a new car with until they’re age 18 or until I am snaggly toothed, blind, crippled and crazy. Where do I sign up? Any knit wit in America would tell you to hell with public schools – send me the money!! I have 19 chilrens! 19 x $29,000.00 comes out to $551,000.00 dollars – a year! There’s not one thing the government can’t do half as good for twice as much and public schools are proof of it. May they come to ashes and be scattered to the four winds! May they ascend into the skies and be dispersed into the vast vast darkness of outer space never to return – No. Not even as a far distant memory.

    Let the public schools crumble and fade into dust. Those poor teachers will have no problem finding a new job out there as a private school teacher or a private tutor or a how to turn on your computer tutor.

    Its called the free market and by god it works better than anything else out there. So, shut up about “free education” in “public schools”. $29,000.00 for a free public education compared to $6000.00 for a private education is a theft and stealing is a crime because it violates the law of god.

  2. Thanks for you comment Samuel.
    Unfortunately it seems that the Cato Institute’s methodology, and therefore also their numbers, are misleading. See this article from Education in the Public Interest http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/TTR-CatoSpendWhat-Altemas.pdf which reviews the Cato Institute study.
    To your main point, cities are based on mutual obligations. You did not pave the roads that you drive on. You did not build the hospitals where you can get medical care. We all did. We all also have an obligation of care and respect to each other.
    The basic notion of respecting each person’s human dignity is not something that is negotiated in the free market. It is something that is an inalienable part of being a person.
    Considering what the free market did to our economy (even to the point that Alan Greenspan, the Ayn Randian guru of rabid capitalism, acknowledged that he had overstated the beneficial intents and effects of the free market) it is surprising that people still cling to the idolatrous notion that the free market is a force for good.

  3. Its nice to have community members around us for mutual respect and appreciation. Part of that mutual regard would be self accountability and self inventory. What do I have to offer those around me in an exchange? Money is always good if you have some.

    But if the sales clerk at Wal Mart comes up to me and says, “we have a sale on Delco car batteries today would you like to buy one or more Delco’s?” I might reply to him, “I already own four Delco car batteries and they all work”. “But they’re on sale”, he’d argue.

    In the above example, we’re equals and where we’re equal we don’t have an exchange because neither of us has something the other person wants.

    Now lets say I take my dairy cow to market and open the auction at 10 ounces of gold for the cow. After returning home that evening with my cow I might begin to contemplate lowering my asking price next week at the auction to something that someone might be willing to pay.

    How about this. I am silent partner with GM auto maker in Detroit. Sales reports aren’t pretty and my big ad campaign just went belly up. “Oh my. Look at all these poor employees who are about to lose their jobs at my partners company. Are you government just going to sit back and do nothing to help thousands of helpless victims who are about to lose their jobs and be forced to wander aimlessly throughout the remainder of their wretched lives?” In practicing strict liability instead of limited liability, god said not to take part in limited liability schemes for our own good, my answer to you partner would be, “No”.

    Lets think about the “free market” for a minute here. Now that GM is out of business there will be higher demand over at Chrysler corporation for automobiles. “We’re in trouble” Chrysler will say, “we cannot meet the demand for new automobiles”. But you know the janitor might come along and say to someone at Chrysler that he has a brother who knows how to build cars and just happens to be looking for an exchange helping to build cars in trade for some form of financial compensation such as gold or silver coins, oil, honey, grains or signed vouchers redeemable for good and valuable items from Joe’s Hardware store.

    “You mean I could hire your brother to come to work for Chrysler? And he would help us build more cars?”. You know Moses never became famous for just sitting there like a slow moldy growth on a decaying log.

    And I think its about time people wake up and smell the coffee and take a look at the Common Law given through Moses as the penal code for the contract given to us from an eternal being at Mount Sinai instead of the Roman Law which we’ve used to destroy entirely in just 50 years what it took the sovereign people who kept contract with god 150 years to build here in these united States of America.

    If its not coming from statutes and ordinances written in the books of Moses then it is not coming from god and why gods people are probably not as blessed as they were 100 years ago here on the new home front.

    Let’s try another example:

    Now, lets say I own 10,000 acres of land and in order for you to get to Tom’s Market you have to travel around my land or you have to travel through my land. So, you come to me and you say, “I’d like to pass through your land”. I would then ask you, “For what purpose would you like to make use of my land?”. “Well, I just to use it to travel on so that I might shorten my journey to Tom’s Market”. I would ask you to return the favor someday or maybe I would charge a toll for showing you how to pass through my land without running over my wheat crops.

    But what if you said to me that you were planning on selling GMO (genetically modified organism) corn to Tom’s Market up there? Well, I’d probably ask you if your corn was labeled as GMO. And I might ponder a bit further about whether or not someone at Tom’s Market is peeling off your GMO labels since I’ve not seen any labels at Tom’s Market before. You know I might tell you to pass through my land only after I know that you are using open air pollinated heirloom corn seeds and so, why don’t you try asking me to use my land to travel on next year.

    I didn’t ask you to come to my inheritance Fred. You took it upon yourself to come to my land and ask me. And that’s fine. Just because you didn’t want to comply with my terms you went to the federal government and claimed you are a victim and came back with the right of force to have the federal government pave a highway through my wheat fields so you could sell your GMO corn without labels to Tom’s Market where I used to buy corn but now I grow my own corn along side your highway with “No Tresspassing” signs because I don’t want your GMO corn falling off your wagon and into my non-hybrid corn fields so you cannot turn around and cry, “See! He’s stealing my counterfeit GMO corn growing it on his land!”. Had the federal government regard for the eternals’ law they’d have heard my code plea from Leviticus 19:19, “You shall not sow your fields with mingled seed”, and put you out of the GMO business.

    There is a law maker and then there are counter law makers. There is a bi-metal currency and then there are official counterfeit currencies. There is an eternal that has capacity to make promises and then there are counterfeit gods. There is a land a status for those who keep the law; citizens of the kingom of god and then there are counterfeit citizenship’s such as United States citizen, Australian citizen, etc.. Maybe its time we give the original blueprint a try in our present age instead of following all these counterfeit beliefs that don’t work.

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