Column: A tax rebellion is brewing in America
For many Americans, the distance between what they believe is best for the nation and what government actually does has become an infuriating chasm that was never meant to exist in a representative government designed to reflect the will of the majority.
No other single public policy so reinforces a perception of self-dealing, unfairness and incompetence as the corrupted federal tax code. 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.
Married people pay higher rates than singles living together, income is commonly doubled and tripled 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.
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 compliance 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 more than a thousand people an hour have been joining a digital tax rebellion marching on Washington at www.onlinetaxrevolt.com. FairTaxers, Flat Taxers, Reagan tax reformers and many others are being pulled together to bring another Boston Tea Party to Washington, D.C. on April 15. While people may disagree on the best solution, there is widespread understanding that the American people cannot win back control of their government until the federal tax system is either 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.
Two years ago, the under-funded Mike Huckabee caught tax reform lightning in an Iowa bottle and was catapulted to a first-place finish there. Mitt Romney and John McCain were burned by the same lightning when they repeated the same old tired and now unbelievable income tax reform promises. No, the entire election did not turn on tax reform, but Huckabee electrified voters when he made the FairTax, a national consumption tax to replace the broken income tax system, a center plank of his campaign. That decision marked Huckabee as one of the first current politicians to turn his back on what is increasingly seen as self-dealing in Washington that damages the future of the nation and the best interests of individual citizens.
The idea that, "We the People" are being routinely ignored, are despised and are seen as primarily useful in our ability to fund personal political ambitions continues to resonate at every Tea Party and in the growing tax rebellion now gathering steam. Those in the political class who ignore this healthy insistence that public policy actually benefit the public will find themselves at risk of future lightning strikes.