My friend asked, “Why do Republicans hate taxes and the Department of Education?” This is an interesting question that deserves a thoughtful answer.
Republicans explain that education should be in the private sector, and parents should have “educational choice.” This means that corporations and private foundations can make money from schools as parents pay for the education of their children. Wealthy people’s children will have better education than poor people’s children, but that is as it should be. I am reminded of when I taught ninth grade English at Edgewood High in San Antonio, Texas, in the late 1960’s, using fifteen-year-old textbooks sent to the inner-city school district from affluent schools north of the city. These books reminded me — then and now — of the “crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16:19-31) The Remote Area Medical Clinics here in Virginia make me think of that parable, and of food ministries giving backpack meals to hungry children. Reducing the quality and availability of public education establishes a de facto underclass limited to low-wage jobs and permanently mired in poverty.
Taxes maintain infrastructure and essential public services that should not be left to the ups and downs of market influences. Interestingly, most of the things we define as infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, seaports, electric and sewer lines — support the market itself. Trucks could not bring inventory shipments to market without these supporting structures. So the market rests upon infrastructure built largely by tax money. Individuals use the same roads and bridges, driving their cars to work and to the store. But wealthy business owners who move tons of freight and count on the roads and bridges to bring both inventory and customers benefit enormously from tax-supported infrastructure.
It appears fair to me that these giant beneficiaries of public infrastructure should pay a larger share of taxes. But Republicans say that taxes are redistribution of wealth, taking the wealthy person’s hard-earned money and returning it to deadbeats who would themselves be wealthy if they had worked as hard as millionaires have worked. Reason and experience tells you that most poor and middle-income people work harder than millionaires, but Republicans do not operate from reason or consider experience. They have an “idea” that guides their thinking, which is why we say their approach is “ideological.”
The idea that drives much of the radical right-wing agenda is a Christian doctrine called “dominionism” that seeks to make the Bible the foundation of law in the United States. Their doctrine, or ideology, teaches that God is the only legitimate ruler. God rules through powerful people that he has put in place. You can tell that these people are chosen by God by the mere fact that they are wealthy and powerful. Working people should be content with their place, work hard, and if God decides they are worthy, they may become wealthy. But if they do not, they are still supposed to work hard and be content, and enough money will trickle down through charities and jobs given to them by wealthy people.
Dominionism also includes the social agenda — opposing LGBT rights and women’s right to choose, and assuring that traditional power structures remain in place. The social agenda is the preservation of ideological control, setting up a society in which rules from the Bible become laws.
The dominionist belief that God gives governments the right to rule runs counter to the ideas of democratic government, which come not from the Bible but from secular thought prevalent during the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Thinking about liberty and equality encouraged people to refuse to believe that God had given their kings the right to rule, and instead people began to believe that governments draw their just powers from the consent of the governed. Democratic forms of government with citizens casting votes for their legislators and heads of state originated from this set of ideas, not from the Bible.
If it seems that the GOP is trying to “roll back” progress and “rewrite history,” it is because they are trying to do exactly that. In order to do it, they have to break public education in science, math, history, social science, and the arts. They also have to convince people that God made them either rich or poor, and they must be content with their station in life. The poor receive charity from the rich, and the rich are appreciated and respected because God gave them riches and put them in charge.
That is why the GOP hates taxes and the Department of Education.
Thank you, Sarah. This is an excellent explanation of a topic that most political and religious writers won’t touch. Has Sally Quinn approached this subject in her Washington Post “On Faith” section? I haven’t seen it. I would like to see you push this issue with her.
Thanks for the comment, Jill. Eventually we will have to talk about this problem. Nobody wants to say it, the mainstream churches are in denial about it, and it is driving the conservative political agenda.