“No earthly consideration could induce my consent to contract such a debt as England has…to reduce our citizens by taxes to such wretchedness, as that laboring sixteen of the twenty-four hours, they are still unable to afford themselves bread, or barely to earn as much oatmeal or potatoes as will keep soul and body together.”
~Thomas Jefferson (1816)
According to the latest polls, the American people are not yet aware of the full extent of the creeping tyranny that has been eroding their freedoms for over a century. President Obama still enjoys an approval rating of 61% after four months of unceasing efforts designed to diminish liberty by transferring more control over individual choices to the federal government.
Granted a large segment of the population does not pay attention to politics on a daily basis and are not up to speed on the day-to-day happenings in Washington. The truth is though, that most Americans like taxes and tyranny — as long as they are directed toward someone else.
They applaud when that arrogant neighbor across the street is cited by the Home Owner’s Association for displaying an oversized American Flag, because they themselves are not interested in displaying Old Glory. Ditto the elderly gentleman down the street who doesn’t cut his lawn as often as they think he should or clear the snow from his sidewalk as soon as he should. They approve of laws banning or taxing foods they consider unhealthy. The teetotaler approves when the tax is raised on liquor. The non-smoker cheers when smoking bans are instituted or additional taxes are placed on tobacco.
They do not see the connection between taxes imposed on someone else or the tyranny oppressing others, and their own liberty and freedom. Most of us do not protest when a tax is added to soda, cigarettes, alcohol, etc., and we do not object when those who live an “unhealthy” lifestyle are taxed on the components of that lifestyle, or charged more for healthcare. The absurdity of our reasoning does not seem to occur to us.
Following this logic, the person who frequents health clubs, abstains from unhealthy foods, drinking, smoking and gets his or her proper allotment of exercise and sleep, should live to be at least two hundred years old. Of course, that does not happen. Everyone dies, and everyone requires a certain amount of healthcare before they die. The longer they live, the more healthcare they consume. Restricting the freedom of others on the mistaken notion that it somehow reduces the cost of healthcare or saves on taxes for ourselves is absurd.
Taxes and tyranny are inseparably linked. Tyranny is measured by the amount of life spent in servitude to the government and the number of personal decisions prescribed by law. At the present time, the average American spends over forty percent of his or her time working to support the ravenous appetites of governments. Only after government has been satiated can we then start using the fruits of our labor for ourselves and our families. No person can call themselves free when a major part of their labor is confiscated by government for its own purposes, or when the enjoyment of the luxuries they have earned are limited or prohibited by that same government.
Even in the matter of taxation, we see the same unthinking public dynamic at work. Low income people are content when taxes are increased on those who earn more, but as people rise on the ladder of success, so does their support for a more regressive taxing system, such as the “[un]fair-tax” and similar tax schemes they mistakenly believe will tax the “underground” economy. Tax avoidance is as American as apple pie. From the colonial era smugglers and the patriots participating in the Boston Tea Party to the neighborhood pusher or minimally paid person who works “off the books”, Americans will always avoid paying taxes that are too burdensome or that they perceive as unfair.
Some lawmakers and members of the Administration are beginning to talk about the most regressive tax of all, a value-added tax. A value-added tax or VAT would add an additional cost of about twenty-five percent onto everything we buy, in addition to the sales taxes, excise taxes and all the “hidden” taxes paid by consumers. Moreover, it would be in addition to taxes on incomes and capital gains.
Those cheering President Obama’s prodigious spending plans “for the people” and “for the children” will probably change their tune when they realize they have mortgaged the fruits of their labor and their children’s labor for more than $540,000 per household. Unfortunately, by then it will be too late to do anything about it except pay up.
The current federal debt of $63.8 trillion plus the amount added every day will be paid, either by taxes or by inflation, and remember, both taxes and inflation are born eventually by the consumer. A VAT tax would push the amount of labor demanded from the average citizen for use by the government to well over 70%. As the tax burden rises, liberty declines. Liberty is not self-perpetuating. It must be diligently defended by every generation. If we are to protect the liberties left to us, we have to show the same enthusiasm in defending those of our neighbors as we expect in defense of our own. Today they tax my cigarettes; tomorrow they will tax your latte.