Will tax reform reflect liberty or tyranny in America?


“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names—liberty and tyranny.” — President Abraham Lincoln, address at sanitary fair, Baltimore, Maryland, April 18, 1864.

The aforementioned quote is probably the most definitive and astute clarification on the difference from being free and being oppressed. It is so simple that there is no possibility of debate or dissension. As we stand on the precipice of advancing tax reform legislation in America, there is only one question: shall that tax reform reflect liberty or tyranny…as Lincoln defined.

The last time we had major tax reform in America was 1986 under then-President Ronald Reagan. There can be no argument that his tax reform, advanced with a Democrat House of Representatives controlling the House Ways and Means Committee, under Speaker Tip O’Neill, was revolutionary. How different things are today as there is a new debate on what tax reform in American should be? President Reagan clearly understood that liberty meant an American citizen being able to do as they pleased with themselves, and the product of their labor. And even those Democrats then understood that fundamental American principle: individual sovereignty and the free market/free enterprise economic system.

Instead today, we have a prevailing progressive socialist mentality that aligns itself with Lincoln’s latter explanation of how some see liberty. Sadly, it’s about what others decide to do with American citizens and the product of their labor…tyranny. That mentality was clearly reflective in the utter disrespectful and belligerent statement of then-President Barack Obama when he stated, “if you own a business, you didn’t build that.”

What Obama was conveying is a philosophy of governance that does not regard the individual, their investment, innovation, and ingenuity as opposed to the preeminence and tyranny of the institution of government, which in Obama’s small mind reigns supreme over the citizen. As we approach the landing zone on tax reform, we must grapple with the concept of whether America is still a land of the free that elevates the individual over the institution — thereby economic, fiscal, and tax policies are indicative of such an ideal.

First of all, let’s understand that America has a “progressive” tax system. What that means is the greater your income, the higher you are taxed. We’re now at a point in America where the top 20 percent of wage earners in America pay nearly 80 percent of federal tax revenues. Incredibly so, we have almost 50 percent of wage earners in America who pay zero, nada, nothing, when it comes to federal income taxes.

What has happened in America, via our tax code, is we are taxing productivity and subsidizing inactivity. Now, there are those who would say that’s not fair, that the rich need to pay their “fair share” or that we only need a middle-class tax cut and the “rich” are not a priority. My question is, who is making the determinations on fairness, fair share, and what the “rich” should be paying? That line of thought is tyrannical, based on Lincoln’s quote, and a dangerous avenue on which to tread. It takes the US tax code and turns it into a weapon, and we clearly hear politicians use it as such to demonize and create an environment of class warfare. And consider, we thought we had an unalienable right endowed from our Creator of the “pursuit of happiness” — originally termed by British political philosopher, John Locke, as “property,” under the revolutionary theory of natural rights.

And where did this idea of a “progressive” tax system in America come from? Simple, it was first introduced in a book written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called the Communist Manifesto, here are the ten planks:

  • Abolition of Property in Land and Application of all Rents of Land to Public Purpose.
  • A Heavy Progressive or Graduated Income Tax.
  • Abolition of All Rights of Inheritance.
  • Confiscation of the Property of All Emigrants and Rebels.
  • Centralization of Credit in the Hands of the State, by Means of a National Bank with State Capital and an Exclusive Monopoly.
  • Centralization of the Means of Communication and Transport in the Hands of the State.
  • Extension of Factories and Instruments of Production Owned by the State, the Bringing Into Cultivation of Waste Lands, and the Improvement of the Soil Generally in Accordance with a Common Plan.
  • Equal Liability of All to Labor.
  • Establishment of Industrial Armies, Especially for Agriculture.
  • Combination of Agriculture with Manufacturing Industries; Gradual Abolition of the Distinction Between Town and Country by a More Equable Distribution of the Population over the Country.
  • Free Education for All Children in Public Schools. Abolition of Children’s Factory Labor in it’s Present Form. Combination of Education with Industrial Production.

How is it that the United States of America adopted a tax system proposed by Karl Marx? Well, it goes back to the Woodrow Wilson presidency, also known as the first progressive presidency in America –the last one being that of Barry Soetoro. It was then in 1913 that the federal income tax was introduced, and it was not based on consumption, but rather production…and it was progressive, meaning the higher your production, the greater the taxation. Ask yourself, is that reflective of liberty, or tyranny, as Lincoln delineated?

Furthermore, as we’ve decided to grow the federal government, the necessity for greater taxation has increased, but for what purpose? As Scottish political philosopher, Alexander Fraser Tytler stated,

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence, back into bondage.

This is the trap in which our country, our Constitutional Republic is falling. The expansive growth of the federal government has been centered on providing more benefits and entitlements to the citizenry but this is being done on the backs of the productive. And the adept politician in America uses this leverage to demonize in order to secure the electoral support of those who have become so addicted to the largesse provided…such as the right to own a home, free healthcare, free college education, universal income. Through this philosophy, we have less liberty, more tyranny, and eventually we will have less productivity, and more inactivity, as encouraged by government, and by politicians who want more economic dependence, and not economic empowerment.

So, what would a liberty focused personal income tax reform system look like?

It would be one that has three tax brackets at 10, 15 and 22 percent. Everyone who earns must be part of the system so we are all paying a share, but the taxation should not be so onerous as to preclude anyone from enjoying the product of their own labor. It would be a tax code that allows small business owners, sub-chapter S-Corporations, LLCs, pass-throughs to utilize the 15 percent tax rate. It would have only two deductions: mortgage interest and charitable contributions. It would eliminate the death (estate) tax, which is item number three on Karl Marx’s little ten point hit parade. And it would either take the capital gains and dividends taxes back to the Reagan era, create a special 17 percent tax bracket, or completely eliminate them. That it’s it: then watch our economy grow and liberty thrive. However, we already know this won’t happen because we have a cacophony of progressives in Washington DC — and that has nothing to do with an R or D after your name.

Therefore, it is imperative that we also have government spending and budget reform. I am sick and tired of hearing about any tax relief having to be “revenue neutral” — that is DC bovine excrement. We need to force the federal government to look at itself. Why not go back to a Department of HEW (Health, Education, and Welfare), it was President Jimmy Carter who split them out into three different government agencies. Why do we still need a Department of Agriculture? America is hardly an agrarian based economy – as a matter of fact, 80 percent of the department is spent on food programs. Why can’t we have a Department of Economic Activity that combines Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and the Small Business Administration, and streamline it?

We created a new government agency called Homeland Security, why did we just not look at expanded tasks to go under our Department of Defense? And consider this, if we simplified our tax code, we could reduce the size and scope of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the enforcer of the government tyranny of taxation. I’m quite certain Washington DC can be the bill-payer for a liberty-focused tax reform system…but they will not.

America was created over the issue of tyrannical rule by way of excessive and onerous taxation. We revolted over the issue…shall we have another form of revolt, via the ballot box next year? I believe we MUST if we have a tax reform system based on the ideal of tyranny, and not liberty. Our elected representatives either stand for one or the other, and they must know we will no longer accept a tax code whose principles are based on the ideals of freaking Karl Marx.

Editor’s Note: This column previously appeared at AllenBWest.com. Used with the permission of the author.

Lt. Col. Allen B. West is the third of four generations of military servicemen in his family. During his 22 year career in the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel West served in several combat zones and received many honors including a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, one with Valor device, and a Valorous Unit Award. In 1993 he was named the US Army ROTC Instructor of the Year.

Lt. Col. West is the former U.S. Congressman representing Florida’s 22nd District, a Fox News Contributor, a contributing columnist for Townhall.com, the former Executive Director of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas Texas, and the author of Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom.

Lt. Col. West believes it will be principled constitutional conservative policies, not politics, which secures a sound economic future for Americans – with growth, opportunity and returning the promise of the American dream for this generation and those to come.