In 2001 I met one of the new students at Beeson Divinity School. At the time I was unsure what to think of this blonde dynamo, but over the next fee weeks I came to respect her intelligence and thoughfulness (traits in short supply even at the Grad Level). Susan was (is) a law professor at the University of Alabama who became interested in seeing what the Bible and our Christian traditions might say about taxation. This time spent at Beeson resulted in her book, The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of Christians.
This book influenced not only her classmates and students but attracted the attention of the sitting governor of the our state. He actually was inspired by Susan’s book to draft a sweeping reform to the Alabama tax code. Had that reform passed the tax level for the working poor would have dropped by 25%, and the tax level for the middle class (under $75,000) would have dropped by 15%. In fact the taxes of something like 90% of state residents would have dropped. Unfortunately the same Baptists who established and run our university came out against Susan’s reform, and their fearmongering (they claimed that the bill would raise taxes, which it would have for 10% of the population) led to the bill’s defeat in a statewide referendum.
Flash-forward almost a decade and the county surrounding our little university is bankrupt with a massive debt due to a poorly managed sewer update, and the Supreme Court’s ban on the largest tax fund (one that billed the working poor and middle class while exempting most white-collar jobs such as lawyer or doctor). Meanwhile our new governor has run off our working poor (losing untold millions of sales tax revenue), announced harsh cuts to education and health care, and is currently talking about cutting taxes for the top earners. All of this while he pontificates that Christians are his brothers and sisters, and no one else matters.