In the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump for not releasing his tax returns, with good reason. Releasing tax returns to the public has become a presidential tradition in consideration of financial transparency.
By not releasing his taxes, Donald Trump has refused to respect financial transparency, democratic tradition and the American people.
When Clinton suggested that he must be hiding something—that maybe it was because he didn’t want us to know that he hasn’t paid anything in taxes for many, many years, he blurted out—“That makes me smart.”
What is this attitude that if you are a billionaire, as Trump claims he is, and you pay $0 in taxes, that makes you “smart”? This is simply the attitude of selfishness and greed wrapped up in the trappings of “free market principles” and “limited government.”
Today, this attitude is the raison d’être of the Republican Party—aka, the national party of the wealthy and elite.
Alternatively, Hillary Clinton argued that she wants corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share. Specifically, she wants to close the tax loopholes that allow people like Trump to pay $0, while working people pay much, much more.
The public policy that enforces the economic “fairness” Clinton speaks of is grounded in an expectation of the dignity of work and the common good of society as a whole. It is what Catholic social teaching calls “an economy of inclusion.”
An economy of inclusion is where all—rich, middle class, and poor—are able to participate in society as fully formed and dignified human beings, and without exception.
And an economy of inclusion is what the Democratic Party, with Hillary Clinton as its head, is fighting for today.
In order to realize the expectation of the dignity of work and an economy of inclusion, we must ensure that the GOP’s public policy of selfishness and greed is displaced as the organizing principle of our society and replaced with one based in a morality of empathy, solidarity, and political communion with those whom are the most excluded—aka, the preferential option for the poor.
A democratic alternative for our economy must place the human person and his or her family at the center of our policy debate, just as Hillary Clinton’s campaign is forcefully doing today: “I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I’ve heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you’re under. So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days. Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.”
Catholic social teaching can provide the theological fundamentals that can serve as a moral guide for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party towards a more inclusionary economy, organized in an alternative ethic that places the human person at the center. Catholic social teaching urges us to collectively say “no to a financial system which rules rather than serves.”
Pope Francis, in his first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (EG), expressed “saying no” this way:
“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings (EG, pars.56 – 58).”
Hillary Clinton has proven her economic ethics “is outside the categories of the marketplace,” because she has insisted that she will make sure that as a society we will “respect and promote the poor” by making sure the rich pay their fair share. And not only that, she has promised to respect and promote hard working families and put their burdens, their suffering, and their needs at the center of our public policy debate.
The 21st Democratic Party is leading the way for financial and tax reform in American society today that demands respect for the universal dignity of us all. It is Hillary Clinton that is facing this challenge “with determination and an eye to the future,” evidenced in her specific public policies that put the least among us at the center. This and only this organizing principle is truly capable of innovating an economy of inclusion.