The Time Has Come

Steve Forbes is not a stupid man, of course. Still:
The current IRS scandals are now bigger than those of Watergate in the 1970s and Teapot Dome in the 1920s. The most powerful and feared government agency was turned loose on groups of citizens who the White House and congressional Democrats felt threatened their power. President Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS against opponents, as did Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon....

This should be closely followed by attacks that culminate in defunding almost all of the IRS after the midterm elections, which the Democrats will lose badly. There can be no more continuing resolutions that allow the tax-collection agency to operate business as usual, even though Congress hasn’t passed an appropriations bill. If a continuing resolution is necessary to avoid a government shutdown, then by all means pass one–but specifically do a near-zeroing-out of the IRS (the only exception would be a handful of clerks to process refunds) until these scandals are fully and credibly investigated. If the President vetoes such a budget resolution, the onus is on him, not Congress.
So the idea is that the way to address a scandal worse than the Teapot Dome is to pass a resolution that will certainly be vetoed, thus cementing the IRS's personal loyalty to the President?

The right way to address the issue is to disband the IRS entirely, replacing it with a Federal sales tax that will be collected at the point of sale like other sales taxes. Such sales taxes can be overseen by the state agencies that already oversee them, or by new agencies among the states that lack them. Then we need not worry about audits that can be used to harass political opponents, nor do we have to worry about approval of tax breaks for left-leaning organizations while right-leaning ones are delayed, delayed, delayed.

There are lots of things not to like about sales taxes, especially their regressive nature. But their real benefit lies in a relative absence of tyranny. Stripping the Federal government of the mechanism to act like tyrants is a wise domestic policy, here as elsewhere.

The Fourth of July is tomorrow. It's worth remembering that the Founders were revolutionaries. The document we celebrate on the 4th is not the Constitution but the Declaration of Independence, with its signal guidance "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Whether we alter or abolish, let the replacement be one in which the government has much less oversight over the private aspects of our lives. Let it lose the power to command us to sign away our Fifth Amendment rights when we file and sign a mandatory tax return. Let it lose at least those powers that have become concentrated in the IRS.


Texan99 said...

I reject the notion that regressiveness is anything to dislike about taxes.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather see a flat 20% income tax. After what has happened with the VAT in Europe (and other places) a point-of-sale tax will just creep farther and farther up, and will turn into a VAT. Erase the IRS and have everyone pay to their state. State sends the $$ to the US treasury. Plus there's only one check if you have state income taxes.


raven said...

Taxing a man on the fruit of his efforts is heinous. It is a claim on his life, a new slavery.
Who owns us? If we are not free to enjoy our selves, our labor, the fruits thereof, we do not own ourselves, but are owned by others, at least in part.
Our Founders would have been enraged, appalled, disgusted that such a tax might be.

Texan99 said...

If we're to have government functions, they have to be paid for somehow. But so far from wanting a progressive or even flat tax, I favor a per capita tax. keep it low enough that every single citizen can pay it, and shrink government till it fits.

Grim said...

As long as we get to the no-IRS, no-audit, no-spying-on-your-family part, I don't really care how we get there.

E Hines said...

Any tax, whether income, head, sales, tariff, or whatever, comes down to a tax on the man and a taking of a part of that which is his property: his right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

Tariffs punish production more than the man, sales taxes of any form are horribly regressive, head taxes take from the man solely because he exists and hits the man whether he has the wherewithal to pay or not. A flat tax (10%, not 20%, say I) with no exceptions, credits, deductions, subsidies or any other distortion, and regardless of the source of the income, will take the least from the man while distorting the markets the least, and so facilitate wealth generation for all, and from that the ability to satisfy our duty to the least among us--especially those so poor of means they cannot support themselves much less pay any tax.

It also has the advantage of so simplifying the tax code that, while still needing an IRS, that entity won't need more than a couple of clerks to collate the post card returns.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

The no-IRS thing is non-negotiable for me. The Feds will have to accept having the states collect the revenue. Being dependent on the states will help counterbalance the power that the Federal government has concentrated to itself.

E Hines said...

The Articles of Confederation were an utter failure.

Eric Hines

Eric Blair said...

I have to go with EH here. It is in fact doable (the way state taxes wouldn't be) and ends up being the least pain on everybody.

And good catch on the articles of confederation.

Grim said...

The Articles were before a system developed in which the Federal government centralized so much power. The states will cooperate because they need some centralized system to deal with things like air traffic control and consolidated highway planning. Or they won't, in which case we'll see a general devolution as we seem to be seeing on the fringes of Europe.

Either way, we'll be better off than with the Leviathan state.

E Hines said...

One of the reasons the Articles were such a failure was exactly that devolution. We barely won the Revolution, and we nearly lost the peace and went back to being slaves of an English king. Or whoever had the strength to beat the English to us.

Today, the threats are far stronger and much more immediate.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

No they aren't. The British empire could project power worldwide, as could the French. Right now, the whole of Europe can't project power across the Atlantic without the US Navy to help them out. The Chinese can't either. The Russians could send warships, but couldn't sustain a land invasion. The Canadians used to have a very serious military, but have largely dismantled it.

The most dangerous threat is Mexican drug gangs, and the people who've had the best success against them are local militias.

Ymar Sakar said...

If people's excuse for lack of centralization is fear of foreigners... the foreigners lack military power precisely because they are too centralized.

Bottom up hierarchies work better in military, economic, and moral affairs. There is no competition on that matter.

The only problem is when it gets too distributed and everyone starts fighting each other, but since that's inevitable in the US, might as well get that out of the way first.

Ymar Sakar said...

Most people still believe in the bigger, better, philosophical concept brought about by WWI and WWII. Since those world wars destroyed Western cultural beliefs and the Enlightenment strength in the West, that's to be expected.

They think WWII was won by one person, CHurchill or FDR, or both. In reality, it's not that simple.

Economic and military variables have been simulated for awhile now. While it's difficult to get 100% perfection in both, trends that can be reproduced have appeared.

China's been working on developing a carrier group, but since they lack the personnel to construct and man carriers, they are stuck in the training cadre cycle. They must train one complete carrier crew first, before they can build or crew more carriers. This means that even though they could fund and build them in 2008, they weren't going to get more of them anytime soon.

A lot of what makes Western civilization work is not the centralization, federalization, or command authority itself. It's the resources and manpower, developed over time via generations, knowledge, education, and training on an individual level, aggregated over time. Cutting off the Chinese head government, would still leave the carrier crews intact, to be duplicated again and again, if the original serving carrier crew is used as cadre.

When the United States loses its people, however, then it's all over, no matter what government people like to prefer. Hence the Left's war on humanity is not about ideology or politics. It's about something else.

E Hines said...

No they aren't. ...

You're misapprehending the threat. The Russians are fully capable of reducing us with their nuclear weapons--both IC and MR systems of which they're busily modernizing, the latter for stripping off a sufficiency of our allies--as are the Chinese, following which it'll be easy to occupy us, if they really want to. However, we're as valuable to them dead as we are in occupied slavery, and cheaper to deal with. Power projection is a fool's errand: with the enemy destroyed, there's no need of projection.

Terrorist organizations have no interest in occupation, only destroying us, and they've already demonstrated the ability to deliver devastating blows. Via Iran (and likely northern Korea were the terrorists willing to trust to northern Korean quality control), they'll soon have the nuclear weapons with which to set about their task.

The threats are very strong and very immediate.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

I don't find that analysis plausible. Russia lacks the demographics to conquer a new continent; China has both demographic issues and transportation issues. Both have much more to gain by trade with us, in spite of the fact that they also have a lot to gain from expanding their regional hegemony. They aren't even interested in destroying us, in other words; they want to push us out a bit, have a lot more domination of their regional surroundings, but we're not in the Cold War anymore.

Terrorists are dangerous, and if they gain nuclear weapons would be moreso. But they're also the kinds of things our defense and intelligence infrastructures have the most trouble with. They're better addressed more aggressively, but with smaller agents with more freedom of action. Just as SOF units are better suited to a counterinsurgency or counter-terrorist campaign than heavy brigade combat teams, the very size and bureaucratic ossification of our intelligence apparatus is what allows terrorists to outmaneuver them.

These are side issues, though. The issue is the IRS. I'll back any of these alternative tax plans that lead to an end of the IRS, but I'm not interested in a rump IRS.

E Hines said...

How will you manage the payment and collection of taxes, the correction of erroneous over- or under payment, the prosecution of felonious "error?" Trust to the fundamental honesty of the taxpayer? That could be made to work in a small community, but at the national level?

If Russia and China were interested in trade with us, they already would be trading with us. Instead, we have, for instance, the Chinese refusing any deal with us that doesn't involve the wholesale donation of our technology to them, and they laugh at the concept of QC on any products sent to us. We get pet food that poisons our pets, baby milk that poisons our babies, gypsum board that exhales formaldehyde, consumer computing equipment shipped with malware installed at the factory, etc. The Russians are no better. It's hard to believe such widespread, routine behavior isn't deliberate. We may think they're better off with trading with us than without, but they don't think like us. They're not from the Western Enlightenment; they've never had anything to do with Western thought or mores.

It may be that our destruction isn't their proximate goal, but if they get the chance, they'll take it without hesitation. They have nothing to gain from our existence--in their own eyes, no matter how much we might wish it were otherwise. Their demographics don't matter to that. They're not interested in conquering new continents, only in the elimination, one way or another, of a rival.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

As for all that collection and such, I was thinking that almost all states already collect sales taxes -- and thus have a fully developed oversight/enforcement mechanism in place. Tagging a Federal sales tax on an existing state/local sales tax shouldn't require any additional bureaucracy to enforce. I suppose if you felt like you needed a mechanism to make sure the states sent the Feds their fair share, you could make it a Federal crime not to -- targeted at the state officials who have the charge of the money -- and let the Secret Service investigate it as they do counterfeiting.

Chinese trade with America is a substantial part of its balance sheet, as is American investment in Chinese firms. For that matter, you're starting to see Chinese investment in American firms (and real estate), as their economy develops pools of wealth.

I lived in China for a while. I found them to be as self-focused as America is, which isn't a bad thing. You can be their enemy if you want, but they mostly care about themselves. Control of their immediate neighborhood is a matter of pride and national advantage. They aren't the enemy, though we could easily end up in a war by accident -- as for example by badly mishandling one of their attempts to push their influence in Asia.

I think the main thing Putin wants is to reinvigorate his culture enough to get it breeding again, and devoted to some purpose greater than drinking itself to death. He seems to think it needs an injection of testosterone: 'a conquest in Georgia, another in the Crimea, a few photos of their leader hunting tigers and riding horses shirtless, and maybe we can get back on track.'

E Hines said...

You seem to want 50 separate, independent IRSes, rather than one, centrally located and better controlled. Those 50 separate, independent IRSes are not immune to the political failures that presently afflict the current centrally located IRS.

I used to subscribe to the Center of Heaven, no need to expand theory, too. The Chinese attempt to invade North Viet Nam after we quit the war, and the Chinese present seizure of the East and South China Seas as their personal lakes put that aside. There's no reason to believe those are not just first steps.

Similarly, Russia's Sudetenland-like invasion and partitions of Georgia and Ukraine are just first steps. Putin wants to restore the Soviet empire--an empire whose prime directive included territorial expansion for its own sake. Russia will never feel secure until it controls--controls, not merely maintains a sphere of influence--all the dirt in Eurasia between Brest and Porto on the west and the Bering Sea on the east, and its enemies are prostrate at its feet, or outright destroyed.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Those 50 separate, independent IRSes are not immune to the political failures that presently afflict the current centrally located IRS.

Of course they are. When was the last time you heard of an individual citizen being audited by the part of the state government that makes sure businesses properly collect sales taxes? Never, of course, because they don't have that power. Their power is narrowly limited to commercial records kept by businesses.

As for expansionist powers, I repeat that they need children. Latin America, the Islamic world, Africa -- these places have children. Russia and China (One Child!) are not going to be sweeping across the world.

E Hines said...

When was the last time you heard of that part of the State government being put in charge of collecting the Federal government's taxes? Of course that power will come with certain strings and "responsibilities" attached.

As for expansionist powers, they need no children of their own; although that would be useful to them. There are a relative plenty of children in the target countries (for all their own demographic problems), whose parents already are led by compliant governments. Europe's collective decision, for instance, to do no more about Ukraine than cluck its tongue isn't only from their lack of concern for Ukraine.

For all their having wiped the valley floors with PLA behinds in that earlier todo, Vietnam has been quite reluctant to do anything but accommodate the Chinese over the latter's current claiming of waters right up to the shores (or nearly so) of Vietnam. It's the same with all the nations rimming the East and South China Seas, with the possible exception of Japan, which lacks the actual power to do more than squawk.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Wasn't your initial scenario a nuclear wiping out of populations, conquest only to follow? That doesn't go well with the idea that they'll rule over our children.

I think both Russia and China have limited goals, which are expansionist but constrained by demographic and financial realities about their ability to exercise power without provoking costs they cannot bear. You may disagree, if you like, but I can't see either of them as even serious threats to America. To American allies or ideals, certainly; I support the revolution in Ukraine, and would be glad to see us support it in more than word.

Still, I'm not at all worried about any foreign power. The chief threat to Americans, and the American way as we have known it, is entirely internal. The danger isn't abroad, it is at home: in our poisoned culture, in our Federal government, in our legal paradigms in which villainy is enshrined as quasi-Constitutional Right by judicial precedent.

E Hines said...

No, my initial scenario was a nuclear destruction of the American population in particular, not the wiping out of any population. With Obama having gutted our missile defenses and quit our research into that area, such destruction--which we still could visit on Russia and China, certainly--not only would be easy, it would allow them to occupy us with whatever they can get over here on galleys and sail boats. And conquest takes many forms, all of which include control of the conquered, but only one of which includes physical occupation. Occupying us wouldn't be necessary to controlling us in that event. Why wouldn't our reduction of them stop them completely? Because we have farther to fall, and they have less distance to climb to get back to a point of power--which is always and everywhere a relative thing, not an absolute one.

Also, don't forget that Hitler had the same financial realities as today's Russia and China, and he ran all over Europe, lacking only the ability to burn the two (for him) rivals capable of stopping him. Nor Russia nor China lack that capability.

Finally, keep in mind that destruction isn't only of the form of Carthage. We destroyed NAZI Germany and Fascist Italy and Japan every bit as totally as Rome destroyed Carthage.

No doubt the threat you see is a real and highly dangerous one; I just don't see that as the only one. We the People still can correct our internal error. Without suitable arms, we cannot resist the results of our external error.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

The last person in the world to suggest laying down arms is at your service, Mr. Hines. I just don't think the IRS is necessary for their maintenance.

E Hines said...

And I'm at your shoulder in such a conflict. As are a number of the others in the Hall. But it still takes suitable arms to make a victory as much as it does a will to use them.

And that takes (tax) money, and that needs an IRS function. With the tax plan I've proposed, or the tax plans others have proposed, there'd be no function for the IRS to serve other than to collate returns. I've no fear of audits, either; they're a necessary check that what's being reported matches what's being reported and paid. And they'd be amazingly simple, too: "You made this much money? You paid this much in tax? We're done."

The real threats here are the NSA and activist judges who think the Constitution lives through the bench and not through Article V. That's what elections and impeachments are for. That's our responsibility, and no one else's.

Eric Hines

Tom said...

I think it's good to hang a federal agency from time to time, for the encouragement of the rest.

I don't see a problem with having some federal tax agency existing, under one of the above proposed tax schemes, but the IRS needs to be ended.

Ymar Sakar said...

America's greatest enemy is Americans.

As for people wanting to ignore the IRS because China or Russia, there might come a time when federal agencies are arming terrorists and foreign nations to dominate and kill Americans. At that point, people will decide.

Are you on their side or are you on the other side? Because getting rid of the IRS will be de facto tied to getting rid of foreigners like the Chinese or Russians or Islamos then.