Taxation and the American Spirit

OPINION|

The opinions expressed in this article are that of the writer, and may not necessarily reflect those of Tatum Report LLC

The United States is often regarded as a young country compared to other peoples’ historical depths and cultures. It is, after all, a child of the New World, yet this country’s government is one of the oldest governmental bodies in the world. Conceived at a time when Americans were wary of a strong national government and its authority and relationship with the people, the US Government has been a consistent part of American life for nearly 240 years, for better or worse. Since then, it has grown from a nascent political entity struggling for prominence into a bureaucratic Goliath that demands substantial financial sustenance from its constituents.

In Federalist paper No. 30, Alexander Hamilton called money “…the vital principle of the body politic; as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most essential functions.” Thus, to strengthen what was a weak government, the Constitution endowed Congress with the right to levy taxes, and a social contract formed, where the people agreed to pay taxes in exchange for services and protection from the state.

In early US history, the tax relationship between constituents and government followed a general trend: wars required funding. Additional taxes were levied to finance them, then often repealed afterward due to public outcry. While the trend continued in essence for the last 170 years, a marked change occurred from the Civil War to the present day: government size and involvement in American life expanded significantly.

New taxes accompanied not only wars but state intervention into the economy and public life. Federal income tax was added as the 16th Amendment in 1913, modern estate tax enacted in 1916, gift tax in 1924, sales taxes gradually over the next few decades, etc. However, all were levied never repealed but instead expanded on to create modern taxes and spending that pervade every aspect of life as Americans know it.

“Taxation without representation” has become synonymous with the spirit of the American Revolution. The federal government pushes for an infrastructure plan costing $2 trillion on top of the nearly $5 trillion already spent in the past year in purported COVID relief bills, as inevitable tax increases near to compensate for this spending. The country’s debt mounts to well above its GDP. Questions arise of how this reflects on that Revolutionary spirit and the place of the American people.

There is a proportionate relationship between government size and the power and liberty of its people. The larger the former grows, the weaker the latter becomes, and the current US government dwarfs the King George the Founding Fathers contended with. Where a king was seen as God’s representative on earth, the modern government has superimposed itself into our lives as its own false god and declared that of everything we work for and own, we owe them a portion. God says that all we own on this earth is borrowed, and in our tithes, we pay back a tenth of what He provides. The hierarchy is clear: we are human, beautiful yet flawed, sinful yet redeemable, and beholden to an Almighty power more significant than we can comprehend. With republican government, people entrust officials with power and capital, but the people should always have the capacity to be of equal footing, never subservient lest they become gradually enslaved.

Yet, Americans have been made into monetary livestock. When a person dedicates time of their lives, the labors of their hands in exchange for pay, the government forbids them from collecting until they are given their due. Whatever amount that person takes home must then go to bills, which are taxed. The clothes we wear, the beds we sleep in, and the food we eat all require the government to purchase. The roads we drive upon to go to work or pay bills or procure goods, the roads our taxes pay for, cannot be forced upon without paying yearly taxes and registration fees. The insurance required by law is taxed, the gasoline to drive is taxed. Land and homes that we dedicate our labor to attain never truly belong to us, even if it is paid for in full, for the government says if property taxes are not paid regularly, and on time, then it can be seized.

The people own nothing anymore. As the government harvests citizens of their financial gains, it caters to radical ideologies and compels universal agendas. It neglects its duty to protect rights and property. It seeks to alter the Constitution fundamentally. Meant to restrain it, it lavishes the lives of those within it. When mobs rioted through cities and caused billions of dollars in damage, local and state governments did little. When governments were forcibly shutting down businesses and arresting people who did not abide by mandates, officials were having lavish dinner parties and taking vacations beyond city and state lines. People lost incomes, livelihoods, and dreams; many lives were destroyed by government intervention, and yet still government will demand its due.

As of 2009, the average starting federal congressional salary was $174,000, with each member also allocated allowances for travel and staff. For senators, the average allowance was $3.5 million, while for members of Congress, it was $900,000. Per year, Americans pay approximately $90-100 million in congressional salary and nearly $740 million in congressional allowances for a Congress that worked 160 days in 2020—as of March 2021, had an approval/disapproval rating of 36% and 61%, respectively. This is just for Congress and does not include what Americans pay for judges, executive cabinet members, and department leaders and staff that very well may use Americans’ money against them.

There is no public outcry over this, not enough to push Congress to repeal taxes as it once did in the 19th century. The outcry is reserved for social justice and equity, for social and political divisions that have become almost irreconcilable amongst the populace. Despite its words, the government has no genuine intention of attempting true unity. An emotional, divided public is optimal for the government. While one side airs its grievances, the other will dismiss whatever merits they may have to the point of stigmatizing them as conspiratorial or baseless.

People have become conditioned in such a Pavlovian manner that when the bell rings and an incident occurs, they salivate to condemnation before learning all information, focus on whatever grievance politicians and mass media declare is a national crisis, and surrender to emotional impulse. Emotional extremists are helpful. They can be used to bludgeon agendas and silence opposition. It is a classic Kansas City Shuffle: as social and racial tensions are enflamed and crises sensationalized, all eyes watch them burn. At the same time, out of sight, the government embeds itself deeper into American life and spends more and more money that its taxpayers and generations of the foreseeable future will have to fund.

The government knows if Americans could agree on the fundamental principle that citizens of this country ought to be free to live their lives as they see fit in the pursuit of happiness. It does not violate Constitutional rights, that the people could rally together. The people could demand their rights back and tell the government that they want the laborers of their hearts and hands to be theirs. The people could hold the government accountable to them.

Until then, the people will continue to be cattle for a veritable Gordian knot of bureaucracy that will crush any who oppose it. For the sake of posterity and the soul of a nation built in pursuit of liberty, the people should reclaim their rights and ownership. Start small. Form communities with those who value rights and reason and agree on the fundamental principle; an individual is easy to dispose of. Become involved in local government, hold them accountable for their actions. Monitor and participate in state affairs. Make state representatives to Congress stalwarts for your rights, ensure they have the integrity to tell mobs and the federal government, no.

In the book “City of God” by Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustine asks, “Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.”

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