Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Ed Young Sr. recently devoted a sermon to problems he sees with the current American tax system, although he made several inaccurate claims.
Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston, served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1992-94.
In his Jan. 17 sermon titled “A Broken Washington,” Young criticized President Barack Obama and congressional leaders as he advocated the adoption of several conservative tax proposals. The sermon is part of a series on “Healing a Broken America,” which also includes sermons criticizing public schools and the U.S. court system.
Young began his sermon by reading statistics about the high number of crimes committed by members of Congress, which was taken from an old popular e-mail. However, the e-mail has been debunked by FactCheck.org because it includes obviously inaccurate and improvable claims.
Young claimed he looked it up on Snopes.com and found that although the numbers were outdated it was correct. However, the Web site that investigates urban legends actually criticized the e-mail for being “long on vague innuendo and woefully short of hard facts” and for including some claims that “border on the silly.”
“Some of our Congressional representatives certainly have less-than-stellar personal records, but many of them are in fact dedicated, honest, hard-working public servants,” the Snopes.com piece concluded. “Tarring them all with the brush of anonymous, vague accusation does no one any good.”
Young repeatedly argued that “Washington is not listening to the people.” He also suggested that the nation’s leaders do not believe in God. Young claimed during his sermon that he was “a-political,” even though he spent most of the sermon talking about politics and denouncing specific politicians like Obama, Harry Reid (whom he called “Harry Rude”), Nancy Pelosi and others from both parties.
Young then spent much of the sermon outlining what he would have advised Obama to do if Young had been invited to the recent “jobs summit” to consider economic proposals.
“Number one, eliminate the capital gains tax,” Young declared. “Every time the capital gains tax has been lowered tax revenues have gone up.”
His second proposal was to “eliminate the death tax,” which is the name Republican consultant Frank Luntz urged conservatives to use to describe the “estate tax.” The Wall Street Journal’s Style & Substance editor recently argued that news articles should not use the term “death tax” because it “has become too politicized.”
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Another proposal by Young was to “dramatically lower corporate taxes” because “America has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world of civilized, of first-world countries.”
Although Young’s claim is technically accurate, what corporations actually pay is not that high. Once other tax benefits for corporations are accounted for, the taxes paid by U.S. corporations in comparison to the nation’s gross domestic product are actually the fourth lowest among the same group of 30 nations.
Young also suggested the implementation of a flat tax or a fair tax at the rate of 17 percent. He cited as justification the fact that Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in the world, paid less in taxes than Buffett’s secretary.
Buffett has also criticized the tax system where he pays less than his secretary, arguing that the rich should not adopt the position of, “I’m making $80 million a year – God must have intended me to have a lower tax rate.” Buffet argued that the rich should actually pay a larger percentage than others. He also expressed support for the estate tax to promote the “[e]quality of opportunity” and “curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy.”
Young also claimed in his sermon that the tax situation in America is too heavy and is killing the economy.
“I do not believe anybody can make money in America today,” Young argued. “Let me tell you why. Number one, personal income tax is going up. Anybody want to debate it? Corporate tax is going up. Anybody want to debate it? Capital gains tax is going up.”
Personal income tax rates are currently well below rates from the 1940s through the 1970s. Capital gains tax rates are also lower than past rates, and the corporate tax rates are misleading when they don’t account for tax breaks and benefits.
In the past, Young made headlines for vouching for disgraced Enron CEO Ken Lay and for supporting scandal-plagued former Congressman Tom DeLay. Young was also mentioned in an e-mail from Ralph Reed to Jack Abramoff that emerged in the investigation into the latter’s illegal efforts as a lobbyist.
Young’s son, Ed Young Jr., recently came under fire for his lavish lifestyle and for keeping financial records from church members. Young Jr. is the pastor of Fellowship Church, a megachurch in Grapevine, Texas.
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com.