April 15 is about to teach another American civics lesson to every taxpayer and it’s not what we learned in school.
No other single public policy so reinforces a perception of self-dealing, unfairness and incompetence as the corrupted federal tax system. Bloated beyond decipherability at 67,500 pages of regulations, the income tax system is driven by personal power, lobby profits and, through tax inducements and penalties, a changing menu of citizen and business manipulation.
Sure, there is citizen anger and why not? This was supposed to be a government designed to serve and reflect the will of the majority—not one designed to make political insiders richer and more powerful at the expense of the citizenry. And yet, the primary beneficiaries of our federal tax system are Members of Congress handing out lucrative favors, well-heeled tax lobbyists and those who can afford such help to game the system to their advantage. Tax Day has turned into a painful annual lesson of just how broken the tax code has become.
Married people pay higher rates than singles living together, income is commonly double- and triple-taxed, pastors are told what they can and can’t say from the pulpit and foreign competitors enjoy significant cost advantages over American producers because of our tax system. Congress now counts on more than $20 billion per-year revenue produced from what they readily admit was a “mistake” in not indexing the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation.
Meanwhile, in “Gucci Gulch” outside the House Ways and Means Committee, business is very, very good. With more than a billion dollars a year spent lobbying the tax system; the recession has been a wonderful windfall for many tax lobbyists. While the nation suffers, new aristocracies in Washington, far from the little people who pay the bills, celebrate their good fortune.
So what if both the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Congressional Committee writing tax laws got their own tax returns wrong? So what if just obeying federal tax laws costs taxpayers more than $300 billion a year in paperwork costs? So what if Congress’ error in failing to index the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation now threatens to define as “wealthy” those with as little as $80,000 annual income? So what if Warren Buffet’s salary-earning secretary pays a higher tax rate than her billionaire boss?
But “so what?” and perennial—but always unfilled promises—that “something must be done” are not enough anymore. Remembering what they once learned in civics classes, Americans from across the political spectrum are taking time from their pursuits of happiness to register angry and indignant warnings to the political class that “something will be done”—or else.
This is why hundreds of thousands have already joined a digital tax rebellion marching on Washington at www.onlinetaxrevolt.com. They will joins tens of thousands more in physical protests in Washington on Tax Day. FairTaxers, Flat Taxers, Reagan tax reformers and many others are coming together to bring another Boston Tea Party to Washington, D.C. on April 15. While people may disagree on the best solution, there is a growing understanding that the American people cannot win back control of their own government until the federal tax system is either fundamentally repaired or ripped out by the roots and replaced.
Revolutionary? Yes, in the same spirit as Boston Harbor and why not? We are a people who rallied against “taxation without representation” and yet future generations of unborn Americans are being taxed to secure mind-numbing levels of federal debt today. The barely concealed contempt for average Americans who object to more and more of the fruits of their labors being transferred to those who pay no income taxes at all while former Members of Congress profit lucratively working the corruption of the tax writing committees is nearing a boiling point.
The idea that, “we the people” are seen by the political class as primarily useful in our ability to fund personal political ambitions and unrestrained government growth continues to resonate at every Tea Party and in the growing tax rebellion now gathering steam. Those insiders who ignore this healthy insistence that public policy actually benefit the public risk the growing wrath of a people who actually do remember what they learned in their civics lessons and understand that they have been betrayed.
Ken Hoagland, is author of “The FairTax Solution” and chairman of the Online Tax Revolt and the FairTax national victory campaign. More information can be found at www.onlinetaxrevolt.com and www.FairTax.org.