There have been plenty of articles written on this topic. I don’t care. Nonetheless, they ask the same question: if Jesus was alive today, politically, would he be a Democrat or a Republican? Ironically, more of these articles come from the “Godless Left,” claiming that Jesus would be a liberal or progressive. But as we all know, the Right tries to monopolize religion, Jesus, and traditional values. For the purposes of this writing, I don’t want to enter the culture wars. I want to focus on issues that cut to the core of justice and fairness. That the economy is sagging and people are struggling to stay afloat or get ahead, the distribution of resources, and fiscal policy, is what truly matters to everyone right now, not abortion, gay marriage, or the censorship of adult entertainment—despite what right-wing pundits would have you believe. Can we agree on that? No doubt a poll question asking people what’s more of a concern to them, gay people getting married or their ability to find a job (assuming they’re unemployed or severely underemployed), would elicit far more selections for the latter. That is why I’ll focus on the pillar of fiscal policy, not social policy.
So what kind of fiscal policy would Jesus favor? In the US there are two distinct groups, explained by differing views on the role of government and what separates winners and losers (See my article “I can, You Can”). Proponents on the right favor a Trickle-down economic theory—low taxes and minimal regulations on high-income earners and businesses, with the belief that this will spur innovation, create jobs, and provide more opportunity for the less fortunate. “A rising tide lifts all boats” is often the quote of choice to describe the perceived result of this policy direction. Over on the left, progressive tax policies are favored: higher taxes on the rich, with the extra revenue used for redistribution to the less fortunate in the way of entitlement programs, the welfare safety net, and inexpensive or free education and healthcare. The goal here is more equity and fairness. My argument is that Jesus would doubtless choose the left side of the spectrum in fiscal policy.
We gain most of our understanding about Jesus and his teachings from the New Testament in the Bible. What is the crux of the argument in that document? To dramatically simplify it, heaven is there for the poor and downtrodden. To whom much is given, much is required. It’s harder for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. Treat sickly, poor, and unsightly people as if they are Jesus. And so on. I know people counter-argue these messages by stating that there is a separation of church and state, that the requirement is for individuals and charity, not the government, and that the Old Testament says to give ten percent of your income (but Old Testament, though, like before Jesus). I’m not arguing the merits of these arguments. I’m simply saying that if Jesus was down here on Earth, at this moment, and he had to choose a side (based solely on fiscal policy), he would choose the Left.
My argument for that is simple. Listen to the rhetoric coming from each camp. I honestly can’t see how Jesus would side with the Right on this one. Things you hear from the Right: if you’re poor, it’s your own fault; pull yourself up by your bootstraps; poor people are lazy and didn’t try hard enough; don’t take my hard-earned money and give it to some poor person; all welfare and unemployment do is make people lazy and dependent; and I’m doing just fine in this recession, what’s your problem? Do these statements sound like something that would come out of Jesus’ mouth? Really?! No way! Or with Trickle-down theory you hear the argument that (duh!) low taxes on rich people leads to increased spending on private jets, mansions, vacations, and expensive restaurants. This, in turn, creates jobs for people who get to build these items or work in service for these industries. Does that sound like an economy that would be setup with only an understanding of Jesus’ teachings? Allow unfettered income acquisition by an elite plutocracy, where the goal is for them to spend rampant amounts of money so that the rest of society gets the pleasure to serve them. I hardly think so.
Let’s look at common rhetoric from the Left: life is not fair; some people have difficult life situations by not fault of their own; welfare and entitlement programs help people get back up on their feet or stay afloat; everybody should pay their fair share; we’re all in this together; and housing, healthcare, and education are rights, not privileges. Sound a lot more congruent with the New Testament? How could you argue otherwise? Jesus was unarguably a proponent of focusing resources, time, and energy on the poor and suffering. I doubt he’d be concerned with griping from the top one percent about seeing their income taxes increase from 35% to 39%.
Before you call me ignorant, I know Jesus was not laying out a blueprint for the best political-economic system we could use for our society. Our politics are not based on the Bible. My point is that, given a choice in the current setup of our government, fiscally, Jesus would favor left-leaning policies. Even given an astute, knowledgeable Jesus on the inefficiencies of modern government spending, I cannot see how he could favor the policies of the Right, which blatantly favor the rich and place more of a burden on the poor, based on principle alone.