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    The warnings of recent papal teachings on questions of social justice rarely – if ever – identify the dangers of a highly bureaucratized central government.  Apparently most of the sinful and corrosive “love for money” comes from private sector capitalists, not government public sector agencies.  Certainly corporate capitalistic greed can and does have serious economic consequences.  But is it reasonable to ignore the negative economic consequences of Big Government, its centralized control and bureaucratic demands?

    When my mother was alive, I used to prepare her tax returns. Mom’s income was $12,000 in Social Security benefits and bank interest.  She held her life savings in certificates of deposit, earning three to four percent interest.  When the certificate would expire, she would simply roll it into another one.  The interest earned was reported on her annual federal income tax return.  One day she received a harsh notice from the IRS insisting she pay $10,000 in penalties and interest for failing to report income. 

    Actually, it was my mistake. When one of her certificates of deposit expired, the IRS understood the entire proceeds, not just the interest, to be taxable income, because I failed to file the required IRS Schedule D. I fixed the problem by filing an amended return.  But how many of the elderly (often old-fashioned “law and order” types) fearful of “trouble with the law” would likely pay off the IRS’s enforcer to avoid jail time (at least in their minds’ eye)?

    Multiply this experience by thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands.

    Fortunately Mom had a son, a marginally competent accountant, to be her advocate and tax preparer.  She also had my sister, a very competent nurse, as her advocate in dealing with the increasingly complicated health care paperwork.  How many of the elderly have this advantage, and how many elderly are taken advantage of by IRS computers?  How many of the elderly are abused by the bureaucratic and often unforgiving machinery of the (now largely government-run) health care system?

    I run a small, not-for-profit apostolate.  I keep the official books and file the quarterly tax withholding reports, as well as the annual IRS tax return.   Last year I filed the tax return on time.  Within a few months, I received an IRS letter warning that the organization would be fined over $600 for failing to file the return.  I sent the IRS a duplicate copy, unable to explain how the original copy apparently was lost in the mail.  After the IRS received the duplicate, the IRS computers churned out another letter penalizing the organization $3,200 for failing to file the annual tax return on time.  I spent nearly two hours on the phone trying to resolve the situation.  Eventually I will probably obtain a waiver, but only after a significant investment of time and additional paper-pushing to satisfy government computers.

    Multiply this experience by thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands.

    A friend of mine is a proprietor of a small business.  After Obamacare became law, his monthly medical-insurance premiums doubled. He had his policies terminated three times in the last five years, because they didn’t meet the new standards. In each case, he was forced to pay more for the insurance, to cover medical services he didn’t want.  The process of finding health insurance is surreal.  There are, of course, a myriad of policy options, deductibles, and co-pays.  But to obtain individual quotes requires the laborious task of providing detailed information online, only to be placed on hold until a salesman calls.   Now he pays more than $12,000 a year for insurance premiums with at least $2,000 for deductibles – all costs before any medical benefits are actually received.

    Multiply this experience by thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, probably by millions.

    Is the Catholic Church hierarchy – so quick to condemn the abuses of capitalism – aware of the smothering effects of Big Government bureaucracy?  Are they indifferent to the injustices and excessive costs?  Pope Benedict XVI, at least, seemed to recognize the immense weight of government spending when he chastised Western governments for “living at the expense of future generations.” With regard to debt, he said, “we are living in untruth” (Light of the World, 2010).

    In his The Great Heresies (1936), Hilaire Belloc explains the appeal of Islam during the first century of its success:  “There lay upon the freemen, already tortured with debt, a heavy burden of imperial taxation; and there was the irritant of existing central government interfering with men's lives; there was the tyranny of the lawyers and their charges.  To all this Islam came as a vast relief and a solution of strain. … The slave who adopted Islam was henceforward free. The debtor who ‘accepted’ was rid of his debts. Usury was forbidden. The small farmer was relieved, not only of his debts, but of his crushing taxation. Above all, justice could be had without buying it from lawyers.”

    The tribute demanded by Sharia law was even less onerous to the “infidel” than the “freedom” of a meddlesome and overly bureaucratic central government:  “[I]t was this tribute which furnished directly, without loss from the intricacies of bureaucracy, the wealth of the central power: the revenue of the Caliph.”

    News item:  “[Dutch far-Right leader Geert Wilders] who is outside the government but whose party is the most popular in opinion polls, called the wave of refugees arriving on the EU's Mediterranean shores and traveling north ‘an Islamic invasion’.  ‘Masses of young men in their twenties with beards singing Allahu akbar across Europe. It's an invasion that threatens our prosperity, our security, our culture, and identity,’ he said.” (Reuters, Sept. 10.)

    Look at the bright side.  With Islamic law, at least we won’t have an IRS. 

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    Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky is Pastor of Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Annandale, Virginia – Diocese of Arlington.  Before his ordination, he was a businessman.