THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 169, April 15, 2002
Whip Me. Beat Me. Tax Me. Enslave Me: Shall We Pay Reparations to Taxpayers?
by Douglas F. Newman
Special to TLE
I recently received a rather hefty tax refund check from Uncle Sam, and another one I from the State of Colorado about which I cannot complain. For most people who receive such checks, this is cause for rejoicing. After all, nobody ever shot Santa Claus.
Very few people ever stop to consider what this means. The larger the refunds you get from the powers that be, the larger the interest-free loan you have given them. Of course, then, almost no one ever gives our current tax code any real thought at all.
Although they certainly talk a good game, the American people act as if they love the current tax code. In every election, 99 percent of them vote for it. Suggest that they vote for a party or a candidate who is committed to ending this madness, and they say they would rather vote for someone who is going to win. Oh well: if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. If the same nudeniks who have been winning for all these years continue winning, nothing will change. But, the American people, supposedly the freest in the world, keep re- electing them as if they had no choice.
I call this the Johnny Mulligan Syndrome. When you were a child, did you ever do something wrong just because one of your friends did it? Did your mom rebuke you by saying something like, "I suppose that if Johnny Mulligan jumped off the Empire State Building, then you would jump off the Empire State Building, too." Did you persist in this behavior through high school, doing what everyone else thought was cool, no matter how ridiculous you thought it was? Well, you are not six years old anymore. Nor are you in high school. Think for yourself! Vote for what you believe in!
Slavery, antebellum south style, may be long gone, but two new, more subtle, forms of slavery are alive and well in America today. One, the mindset that simply will not go outside the box, is described above. The second is our current tax burden, which forces us to work almost half the year to pay our taxes.
But isn't the top marginal income tax rate 39 percent? Well, yes, but that only includes federal income taxes. It does not include Social Security taxes, state income taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, mass transit taxes, stadium taxes, etc. By the time you add it up, it comes to about half of the income of the average American. A slave is any person who labors involuntarily for someone else's benefit. The serfs of the middle ages turned over about one-third of what they produced to their landlords. If the American tax burden dropped to this level, it would be a stupendous step in the right direction.
How pathetic is this? In the "land of the free", we pay taxes at rates similar to those of the countries in Europe we deride as socialist. In the "home of the brave", we are too mentally benumbed to consider voting for an alternative. Slavery is still very much with us.
But didn't George W. Bush just give us a $1.3 trillion tax cut? Well, yes he did, but let's consider the fine print. To begin with, and I hate to sound like Carl Sagan, $1.3 trillion is less than one percent of the $152 trillion in projected Gross Domestic Product over the next ten years. Second, it will be phased in over ten years, so it is not as if anyone will feel any benefit from it. Third, there is a sunset clause that requires congress to vote again on this bill come the year 2011 and, if passed, requires the president to either bless it or veto it come the year 2011. In the interim, there will be two presidential elections and four congressional elections.
(I do not worship at the alter of Ronald Reagan, but I must give credit where it is due. The 1981 tax cuts, that cut marginal income tax rates substantially, were phased in over three years, i.e. during his first term. And there was none of this jive about a sunset clause.)
We further relent in the face of this oppression with such nonsense as "Well, I am willing to pay my fair share to support my government." People who say this never specify what they mean by "fair share". And then there are the folks who tell us we must "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's". They act as if this means, "pay your taxes and shut up". The fact that "the things which are Caesar's" are spelled out in the 18 clauses and 431 words of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution is lost on them. We could support such a government on a very small fraction of the taxes we pay now. And we could collect these taxes in the form of tariffs, just as we did before the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913.
"But if we did not pay all these taxes and have all these programs," you ask, "how would we SAH-HAH-HAH-HAHLVE our PRAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-BLUMS?" When was the last time the government solved any problem? We have more federal intrusion than ever in the name of solving the crime problem, the racism problem, the poverty problem, the drug problem, the family breakdown problem, our economic insecurity problems, our health care problems, our education problems, etc., and these problems persist anyway. Many are even intensified as a result of this intrusion.
What if we only paid three percent of our income in taxes? (This is all that King George III shook us down for.) How much easier would it be to take care of our own needs? How much easier would it be to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, house ourselves, provide for ourselves, educate ourselves, insure ourselves, plan for our retirements, put aside some money in case of an emergency, etc. How many fewer foreclosures and bankruptcies would there be? How many divorces would be prevented if both dad and mom weren't compelled to work by the financial pressures of the tax code? How many fewer problems would we have with children if more of them grew up in intact families?
But what about compassion? The IRS can get upside your head with a .357 and threaten to bust caps if you don't fork over everything they tell you to, but they cannot make you feel compassion for the less fortunate members of society. If taxes were only at pre-1800 levels, tithing at church would be a far less stressful decision than it is for most people. If someone had a medical or a financial emergency, it would be far easier to pass the hat to help this person. In fact, if the producers among us were not being raped by taxes, and the non- producers did not constantly have their hand out for their "entitlements", I would wager that there would be far more true compassion for those who are truly suffering and unable to help themselves.
The current tax system harms churches and families than anything else I can think of. And yet the same preachers, who invoke hellfire and brimstone against MTV, Harry Potter, Penthouse, etc., will not say word one about the evils imposed by taxation. The government is not above judgment on matters relating to the Eighth Commandment. And if you are running to your government for a handout, you too are not exempt from judgment on matters relating to the Tenth Commandment. You can change the channel on sinful broadcasting, but you cannot change the channel on the IRS.
Forgive me if I sound to cynical, but many ministers in America seem quite willing to compromise God's Word in order to hang on to their 501(c)(3) tax exemption. In order to qualify for this "benefit", you have to be careful what you say in the pulpit. In a free society, we would pay next to nothing in taxes and we would not be in a constant scramble for this deduction here and that credit there. Is your church built on a rock so that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, or is it just one big elaborate tax shelter? I will let that question be rhetorical.
The tax code, as we know it is not there to bring about some optimal state of social fairness, equality, and harmony. It is there to keep us on our knees before Caesar. In this sense, it is one government program that has been highly successful.
There is a movement afoot to extract reparations from such entities as insurance giant Aetna and banking giant Fleet Boston, who supposedly profited from the slave trade. This is absurd, as there are no living slaves and no living slavery profiteers. By the same token, I could advocate reparations for the most oppressed, disenfranchised and downtrodden class in America today: the taxpayers. And I could advocate that the federal and state governments, as well as anyone in the private sector who has profited off the tax compliance industry, pay these reparations. But this would be outrageously messy, and the litigation would go on forever. Rather, I will just ask that they end this tax insanity, get us back to constitutional government and leave us all alone.
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