The great American tax taboo has been tested in the most unlikely place.
It is an article of faith throughout the country that taxes can only go down.
Just as apples fall from trees, so the economic law of gravity dictates that taxes go only one way.
To suggest raising taxes is not only political suicide but also somehow to question the very foundations of economic belief.
Tax is becoming a bigger issue in the US ahead of the election
But this economic article of faith clashed with another article of faith in a very unlikely place: the Christian faith, and in Alabama, sometimes called the "buckle of the Bible Belt".
The state's governor, on every other issue a right wing Republican, argued for taxes to go up there as a matter of Christian belief.
Bob Riley tried and failed to persuade voters to back a change in the state's constitution with the end result that taxes would rise.
"What would Jesus tax," as the advertising campaign puts it.
Under the state's current tax regime, the poor shoulder a disproportionate burden.
Under the Alabama tax code, enshrined in the constitution in 1902, logging companies which own 70% of the state's land end up paying less than 2% of the total property tax.
Commercial forest is taxed at a very low rate, less than 20% what the rate is in neighbouring Georgia, for example.
So Alabama raises its money by taxing income and spending.
There's a relatively high rate of income tax on poor people, and spending taxes invariably hit the poor disproportionately hard.
So Governor Riley went on the stump, insisting that there was a Christian duty at stake: "According to our Christian ethics, we're supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor".
In fundamentalist Christian Alabama, this didn't go down well. One opponent calls it a "cash grab".
A Christian duty?
Broadly, the local church groups remain unpersuaded of the theology that equates Christian virtue with higher taxes.
Nor did those who might naturally rally to Mr Riley's cause do so. He alienated black voters - and that often means poor voters - by not making changes which would have increased their political clout.
In other words, the governor's views on non-tax affairs alienated the left and his views on tax alienated the right.
Despite that, Mr Riley is sick of what he perceives to be Alabama's status as invariably at the bottom or near bottom (it usually vies with neighbouring Mississippi) for any league table of poverty or educational standards or general economic third-worldness.
"All my life, we've been 47th, 48th or 49th (of the fifty states, excepting Washington DC). I have never understood why," he said.
"Is there something about us that says we can't excel at something other than football?"
Not for the moment, it seems.
There is a widespread mistrust of tax and government in Alabama. Some even cite the period after the Civil War, nearly a century and a half ago, when in defeat, taxes on land were raised and farmers went broke.
But without higher taxes, it's hard to see how Alabama now makes ends meet. It has a $675 million deficit.
Proponents of the tax rise argued that prison inmates would be turned loose if prisons couldn't be improved and schools would go from bad to even worse.
This sharp choice between worse public services or higher taxes is being played out right across America.
Every government - federal, state and city - is finding that the arithmetic doesn't add up.
Nobody, not in Alabama or the White House, quite knows how to get politically desirable low taxes without hitting spending on all those services that voters also like.