L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 199, November 18, 2002
YOU'LL GO BLIND!
Mass. Taxpayers Send a Message Their Masters Can't Understand
Exclusive to TLE
Massachusetts voters narrowly defeated Question 1, an initiative petition to abolish the income tax, by a margin of 45.4% YES to 54.6% NO. With 1,942,263 total votes, the biggest tax revolt since the Boston Tea Party might have succeeded had a mere 89,345 NO voters been able to see the benefits of smaller government and personal freedom.
The results have stunned government and media powers-that-be, as they waged a coordinated attack (can citizens bring RICO cases against government/media conspiracies?) against the initiative, first via a complete news blackout, then, in the final weeks of the campaign, by a steady, completely one-sided flood of editorials, "news reports," and fear-mongering press releases predicting calamity should citizens ask their government to downsize by 30%.
These same poobahs are now busily with public analyses of the "anti- tax sentiment" and "voter anger" that led to such a close call for their overpaid, underproductive jobs. As usual, they don't get it.
It's not about hatred of taxes.
It's about the size of government.
Government in general, and Massachusetts government in particular, has grown too fast, for too long. It no longer respects either voter mandates (such as the rollback of income tax rates to 5%) or the plain language of the state constitution. The Massachusetts legislature violated the law and their solemn oaths multiple times in the past year alone, by failing to hold constitutionally-required hearings on Question 1 and other initiative petitions.
A YES vote on Question 1 is a vote that Massachusetts government needs to be downsized. Many businesses have been forced through this admittedly painful process. State spending continues to grow at a 7% annual rate while real personal income barely grows at 1%.
We've been electing liars like Mitt Romney (governor-elect, BOYN party) for 30 years who promise to reduce the size of government. Even their promises have grown pathetic; he offers a $1 billion cut in a $30 billion budget, barely 3%. (Yes, $30 billion. The $23 billion figure used by the media/government cabal conveniently ignores the innumerable quasi-governmental agencies that the legislature has created over the past 50 years, but they are certainly government and they are very good at spending taxpayer dollars, whether that money is confiscated in the name of "user fees" or surcharges on telephone and electric bills or automobile "safety" inspection fees.)
A budget cut of 30% ($9 billion from $30 billion) is perfectly reasonable and prudent. Many businesses and countless households deal with such cuts in income. The actual effect of removing the tax would almost certainly be less than $9 billion, as opponents conveniently neglect the fact that with an average of $3,000 more to spend, most taxpayers are very likely to spend more, and sales tax, excise tax, gasoline tax, airport tax, tolls, and innumerable other tax receipts are likely to increase, perhaps substantially.
Finally, there is a strong moral argument against the very concept of an income tax. Income taxes require government invasions of privacy, demanding to know where and how citizens earn their living. Income taxes invite and propagate class warfare and wealth redistribution, as socialists call for (and get) higher tax rates on higher incomes. Worse, income taxes put citizens who do not support government policies in a grossly immoral dilemma: They must either reduce their incomes in order to reduce the support for government programs that they find offensive, immoral, and perhaps illegal, or they must become criminals and evade the income tax. The income tax puts the quest for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness into direct conflict with the demands of government. A nation founded on the ideal of strictly limited government powers that are to be used only to secure the blessings of freed! om cannot torture its citizens in this manner.
This final argument is not hypothetical. I own a small business and employ 10 people. The income tax forces me to act as an unpaid accountant and tax collector for my employees. I find the majority of Massachusetts and federal government programs deeply offensive, clearly immoral, and quite often rather obviously illegal, in violation of basic constitutional law. Yet my efforts in my business put over $600,000 in the hands of government criminals every year. I have deliberately kept my business small, avoiding creating new jobs and new wealth for me and my employees, because I can not accept any more responsibility for funding a criminal enterprise. I will earn enough to keep my family alive and in reasonable comfort, but no more. So the income tax is directly responsible for 1, 10, 100, perhaps even 1,000 jobs not being created by me alone. Multiply that by the tens of t! housands, perhaps millions of other people who take personal responsibility for their actions, and you may begin to understand the dimensions of this catastrophe.
In summary, it's not about hatred of taxes, or even hatred of government. It's simply an honest, long-overdue attempt to reduce the size of government, done in a manner that will greatly reduce the harm and inherent immorality of the income tax.
Go to http://www.smallgovernmentact.org for more details on Question 1.