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I’ve written before about the Law of Unintended Consequences, and I never have to go far to find another example of it in action. With a scenario that is right out of Atlas Shrugged, Oregon lawmakers are scratching their heads wondering where all of the state’s millionaires are disappearing to after they targeted the rich with one of the highest income taxes in North America. The state treasury has admitted that despite the higher rates, revenues are down because some 10,000 rich residents have voted with their feet and waved goodbye to Oregon in their rear-view mirrors. The story goes on to say:
All of this is an instant replay of what happened in Maryland in 2008 when the legislature in Annapolis instituted a millionaire tax. There roughly one-third of the state’s millionaire households vanished from the tax rolls after rates went up.
I would ask if anyone is really surprised by this news, but clearly some are, or at least they like to pretend they are. Oregon Democrat Phil Barnhart, one of the architects of the tax increase, said that this was only temporary and instead blamed the decline on the state’s economy. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he’s aware of the real cause, but just can’t bring himself to admit it. Or maybe he really is that dumb.
I did not read much Dr. Seuss as a child, so it has only been since I’ve had children of my own that I’ve really been exposed to his stories. I am both pleased and surprised to see that, concealed within the fanciful illustrations and anapestic tetrameter, he covers some pretty heady subject matter. Beyond the playful mischief of The Cat in the Hat, Seuss delves into topics such as equality, racism, and the environment. And I appreciate that these are powerful tools for teaching these concepts to children.
But for me, Yertle the Turtle carries the most powerful message of them all — that sometimes those in positions of authority go too far, and the importance of the individual in overthrowing a government. Some may disagree and say that I’m reading too much into the story of a megalomaniacal King Yertle who forces his subjects to use their own bodies to elevate his throne and the lowly turtle named Mack at the bottom of the stack who has the courage to question the king’s authority to do so. Whether Yertle’s action are supposed to symbolize absolute despotism, or simply the evils of taxation, the result is the same: his government is oppressive and unjust. Whether Mack’s actions are supposed to symbolize civil disobedience, or inciting a full-blown revolution, the outcome is the same: his government is toppled and his fellow turtles are set free to live their lives as they see fit. The moral of this story is clear to the kid reading it (or having it read to them): Yertle bad, Mack good.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to raise my children to be Macks instead of Yertles.
I just read Robert Parry’s essay regarding an anticipated showdown with the Tea Party over the Constitution. I share his suspicions about what motivates the Tea Party, and I applaud his contention that “reason and consistency have little place in the U.S. political/media system.” However, I have to take issue with a couple of points he makes.
First, I would like to lay to rest, once and for all, this notion that the general welfare clause in the Constitution is still subject to interpretation. Any debate over what this clause meant ended with James Madison’s explanation in Federalist 41:
For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars.
Mr. Parry tries to imply that there is a tension between the clause and Article I, Section 8, but it is clear from Madison’s words that the eighteen enumerated powers in Section 8 are comprehensive, and the general welfare clause cannot be construed otherwise.
Second, I don’t agree with Mr. Parry framing the proposed 28th Amendment as reckless and a precursor to another civil war (although if it causes such to happen, maybe it was necessary). Let us not ignore the fact that the Constitution granted the States a veto power originally, with each state having the final say in all acts of Congress by choosing not to pay their apportioned share of the bill. This provision was completely subverted by the implementation of the 13th Amendment and the personal income tax, allowing Congress to spend The People’s money directly without the approval of their state, and the 28th Amendment would simply restore this valuable power. I believe that our history records that the truly reckless approach is refusing to recognize and/or affirm states’ rights.
In the end, I agree with Mr. Parry’s assessment that “the country is in for a new round of crazy,” but I will leave identifying the sources of the crazy as an exercise for the reader.
Thought to be a curse of ancient Chinese origin, the title of this essay is appropriate for life in America today. A new report by the Pew Research Center is in the news today — just the latest data showing that most believe our government is broken, echoing results from a similar CNN poll conducted in February. But you don’t need poll numbers to notice the downward spiral we find ourselves in — simply watch the news. I’m not sure that the frequency of these incidents is increasing (although it seems like it to me), but they are certainly becoming better documented (thanks to the internet) and more widely known.
A decade ago, one could point to a handful of hard-core anti-government episodes (Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City bombing) that were so conspicuous, each had become iconic in its own right. Now they seem to happen so often, that no single incident has enough time to etch itself in our collective consciousness before the next media frenzy begins:
- Feb 18, 2010 – Andrew Joseph Stack flies his Piper Dakota airplane into an Austin, Texas office building housing the Internal Revenue Service, killing himself and one IRS worker inside. Stack left behind a manifesto expressing his anger towards the IRS and the government in general.
- Mar 4, 2010 – Two police officers were shot and wounded inside the Pentagon subway station in Washington, DC by John Patrick Bedell. Bedell had a history of mental health problems, but also a healthy dislike of government.
- Mar 27, 2010 – Members of a self-described “christian warrior” group called Hutaree were arrested in Michigan for plotting to kill police officers. The group has been known to advocate anti-government doctrines.
- Apr 2, 2010 – More than 30 state governors received letters from a group called Guardians of the Free Republics demanding that they resign from office, or be removed. The Guardians are devoted to dismantling goverment.
- Apr 6-7, 2010 – Within a day of each other, two men, Charles Wilson and Gregory Giusti, were arrested for issuing threats against their respective members of Congress.
- Apr 15, 2010 – And of course the most vocal and omnipresent anti-government group is the burgeoning Tea Party movement, which concluded a coast-to-coast bus tour last week on Tax Day with a rally in Washington, DC to protest government oppression, in general, and taxation in particular.
Now these are just the stories that made national headlines. The assumption is that there are many, many more similar stories at the local level that go unnoticed. On February 7, 2008, for example, the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood was rocked by a shooting spree during a city council meeting. The gunman, Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton, finally had enough of what he considered harrassment by local government officals and killed several of them. There is also the tale of Jerry Andres, who recently invoked the memory of the Kirkwood shooting when he made his own angry visit to another St. Louis area city hall. Author and columnist Vin Suprynowicz devoted an entire book, called The Ballad of Carl Drega, to documenting a number of these same kinds of local stories across the country.
It is easy to dismiss all of the actors in these stories as “wingnuts” with mental disorders. But that simply isn’t the case. Every person has a breaking point, and the tragedy is that the rest of us cannot relate to these stories because we have never been pushed to our own breaking points — but these individuals have. Now whether the oppression or harrassment is real or imagined is left for history to record, but it brings to mind the quote by a former Secretary of State:
The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it.
— John Hay, 1872
What all of these people have in common is their desire and their willingness to resist what they perceive as tyranny. Their courage to take a stand should be respected, even if they are misguided, or their methods are despicable. So does the increase in the frequency of these stories mean that more and more people are saying “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” or is it simply a trend that the mainstream media is temporarily willing to indulge? Needless to say, my hope is that it is the former.
July 31, 2007 20:21 | Comments (1) | big brother, taxes |
If you’re like most Americans, you haven’t been following the story of Ed and Elaine Brown, because it has enjoyed very little coverage by the major news media. But the story has been unfolding for six months now, and unless you’re from New Hampshire (where local newspapers seem to be the only outlets covering this story at all), you’ve probably not even heard of the Browns.
What started out as your typical garden-variety tax protest, that had great potential for change in this country, has degenerated into some kind of anti-establishment, hippie carnival. And if this report is true, it’s actually something just shy of a Klan meeting.
I supported the Browns at first. Their position was clear and well-articulated. They didn’t believe they were obligated to pay the income tax. They didn’t recognize the authority of a federal court to prosecute them for the crime. As a result of their position and the court’s refusal to admit some of their evidence, they boycotted their trial and returned to the relative safety of their home. A home which has invariably been referred to by the media as a “compound.” In fact, CNN showed total disregard for its obligation to remain unbiased when it ran a story on June 21 with the headline “Tax dodgers taunt police from hilltop compound.” A story that has subsequently been removed from their site, but is still in Google’s cache.
As I have continued following the story, almost exclusively through the blogosphere, it has become increasingly difficult for me to continue supporting them in their protest. Their arguments in interviews have evolved from succinct and well-reasoned to something that can only be described as kooky, while their 110-acre estate has become a veritable Lollapalooza for the tinfoil-hat crowd. Various reports describe the Brown’s driveway as a gauntlet of freaks in lawn chairs spewing hatred of everything from the government and taxes to the Freemasons and the Illuminati. What is this, a Dan Brown novel?
We all know this is going to end badly for the Browns. They will most likely be killed in a Waco-style raid (that the government will ultimately cover-up to the point that none of us will ever know the truth), or they will simply be taken into custody, and never heard from again as they waste away in prison for the “crime” of simply wanting to hold on to what rightfully belongs to them. But it is a shame that the Brown’s are either too overwhelmed by their situation, or too crazy, to see how they have mismanaged things.
Their press conference back in June featuring Randy Weaver was a stroke of PR genius. It set the tone for the entire standoff, and put the government on notice that We The People were watching and we had not forgotten the jack-booted thuggery of Ruby Ridge and Waco. There was great potential there to keep expanding public awareness and focusing pressure on the government. Then the whole thing turned into Woodstock.
Alas, things are too far gone now to get back on message. It is too late to use this situation to bring the fundamental problems with the federal income tax to the attention of the American people. It saddens me that the Browns are forgetting the principles that brought them here and instead seem willing to martyr themselves for the sake of a bunch of retarded conspiracy theorists. Rather than standing up to injustice and taking their place in history, they will become nothing more than a punchline.
July 4, 2007 10:05 | Comments (1) | liberty, taxes |
While watching the customary fireworks this year, my mother-in-law said someone on the radio had asked why we all call it the Fourth of July instead of Independence Day. It occurred to me that the powers that be might prefer that nomenclature because it prevents We The People from pondering the true meaning of independence. And the fact that we no longer have any. So I am officially renaming this holiday for what it truly is. From now on I will celebrate Dependence Day.
I suspect our Founding Fathers viewed the fireworks on July 4, 1777 with great joy because they truly had something to celebrate. But now, over two hundred and thirty years hence, it is clear that the cause for celebration is gone. For all we’ve managed to do is trade one tyrannical and oppressive government for another. The fact that it is a government of our own design is of little consequence. Moreover, we, as a people, are far more dependent on this new government than we ever were on King George.
In our nation’s earliest history, a man was truly independent. If he wanted to work his land and sell his crops or livestock, he could do so without first seeking permission from the FDA, the EPA, or the Department of Agriculture. If he wanted to start his own business and become wealthy, he could do so without interference from the Department of Labor, or having his income confiscated by the IRS. If he fell on hard times he did not rely on government to support him, but rather on the generosity and charity of his neighbors who were not concerned with how they were going to pay their own taxes or other government-imposed fees.
This culture of dependence will not be easy to excise for it has been growing for many decades and is now well established. So well established, in fact, that most who read this will wonder what I am talking about. The notion of living free, without the government involved in every aspect of one’s life, is completely foreign to many. And frightening to many more. I’m sure there were those who were frightened as well by the talk of revolution by our Founding Fathers. But none of us today look back and fault them for their actions. To the contrary, we celebrate their courage and dedication to the principles of freedom. They were called to revolt by little more than a king who refused to redress their grievances and taxes that amounted to something less than three percent. This was enough to spark revolution.
Today we suffer under a tax burden above thirty percent (for most of us) and a government that has completely forgotten its First Amendment obligation to answer the petitions of its people. Is this not enough to spark yet another revolution? It certainly would be, if We The People were not so dependent on the government we created, that no longer has any moral right to exist.
So Happy Dependence Day! I would encourage you to spend this day thinking about all the ways that you and perhaps your friends and neighbors are dependent upon our government. And then, rather than celebrating that fact, start thinking of ways to change it.
April 19, 2002 11:30 | Comments (1) | liberty, taxes |
I am probably not the first person in history to voice this sentiment. The reasons why the IRS sucks are, in fact, numerous. But I would like to focus on one particular reason, give you some facts and then let you form your own opinion, if you have not already done so.
I hope that history will record that legislation such as the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, and the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, were just the first public manifestations of a growing movement within this country calling for not only fair taxation, but the elimination of the IRS and its unConstitutional practices.
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley spent some of your tax dollars and the better part of two days holding hearings on Capitol Hill in an effort to convince the American people that any group that would have the gall to question the motivation and the tactics of our beloved IRS is simply selling snake oil. His attempt to paint those who are merely asking to be shown the law requiring Americans to pay income tax as con artists borders on slanderous.
On April 5, 2001, the Committee held a hearing entitled “Taxpayer Beware: Schemes, Scams and Cons.” Ostensibly, this was to be a public service hearing to address the growing number of hucksters that are using the Internet to bilk people out of their hard earned money by promising sure-fire schemes for avoiding paying personal income taxes. I won’t deny that these people exist, but one of the organizations included in this rogue’s gallery was the We The People Foundation.
I won’t delve into the contributions of this organization to the Tax Honesty Movement — please visit their web site and read it for yourself — but I have been following their exploits for a couple of years now and they offer several compelling arguments. And while it is true that they do sell merchandise on their web site, none of it is literature describing tax avoidance schemes. They are far from what I would describe as “scammers” but that didn’t stop Senator Grassley from lumping them in with a whole host of tax cheats and other reprobates. In fact, the Committee went so far as to have a full-page advertisement that the Foundation ran in USA Today enlarged to poster size and exhibited throughout the hearing. When Bob Schultz, We The People’s founder, requested an invitation to speak at the hearing, in defense of his organization, he was refused.
Then, just last week, on April 11, 2002, in some sort of surreal homage to Star Wars, the Committee held a sequel hearing called < a href="http://finance.senate.gov/press/pr041102b.pdf" target="_blank">“Schemes, Scams and Cons, Part II: The IRS Strikes Back,” the title of which would be laughable if it were not so true. The Empire is striking back. You see, the purpose of these hearings is not to seek the truth, but merely to provide a forum for Charles Rossotti, Commissioner of the IRS, to whine about how the Internet is making it more and more difficult for him to disseminate his propaganda and practice his jack-booted thuggery.
If Commissioner Rossotti wants us all to believe in his “kinder and gentler” IRS, then he needs to start by sitting down at the table with the delegation from the We The People Foundation (as he promised to do) and providing honest answers to their 460 questions. How ’bout it, Chuck?