I saw a news blurb this week that Chuck Norris wants to be president of Texas. He thinks the state will secede from the union and he would like to be their butt-kicker in chief. I thought he might be joking at first, but he’s serious. Apparently, Norris has cultivated a second career as a political activist (conservative, that is). I knew he’d done some stumping for Mike Huckabee, but this goes beyond that. (And, by the way, I wonder how Huckabee would do in the 2012 election if the big ol’ red state of Texas is no longer a voting member of the union.) Norris has penned a book — an alleged bestseller — entitled “Black Belt Patriotism” advocating his conservative brand of activism. Look for the TV movie “Walker, Texas Protestor.”
Norris is an active member of the Mad Hatter Movement — an anti-tax advocate extraordinaire. His website (www.chucknorris.com) hosts his numerous blogs on the matter. Most recently, he’s been pushing the “fair tax” which is a tax on consumer goods. Norris and his cohorts want to do away with the income tax, estate tax, and all other taxes except import duties and taxes on purchases. This, he claims, was all the Founding Fathers believed in taxing. The Great White Fathers did not advocate any other form of taxation and specifically prohibited the income tax in the Constitution. Because they did not approve of the other kinds, we shouldn’t have them now. Only the founders knew what was right for us. We are too stupid to think for ourselves and must never deviate from the founder’s tax plan. Additionally, the plus of the fair tax is that, while not punishing you for your success and hard work (completely ignoring the racial, sex, and class issues associated with economic achievement in the U.S.), you can control how much you are taxed. If you don’t want to pay a lot of taxes, simply buy less. It’s like one of those psychological experiments where you control how often you give yourself electro shocks. Yea!
While Norris’s blogs are long on passion, they lack historical accuracy, unfortunately. First of all, the founders did not prohibit the income tax. Article I Section 9 of the Constitution does not bar Congress from assessing direct taxes (including the income tax). It merely requires them to be assessed in proportion to population figures. The purpose of this is to assure that there is equal representation in taxation — as in voting. Remember, this is the same document that sets representation in Congress by the number of citizens in a state plus a percentage of the slaves. In any case, the Sixteenth Amendment was passed in 1913, eliminating the proportionality requirement. Now, if you have a wealthy number of citizens in your state, they can be assessed taxes based on their income regardless of whether or not other states have the same number of citizens paying such taxes. This is fair. If there are more poor people in Mississippi, cumulatively, they shouldn’t pay as much in taxes as the citizens of a wealthier state like Connecticut. Duh. Anyway, these anti-tax advocates also claim that the Supreme Court ruled the income tax unconstitutional. They are referring to Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan & Trust Company (157 U.S. 429), which the Supreme Court ruled on in 1895. The Court struck down the income tax in that case because it was not based on the proportionality principle. After the Constitution was amended, the Supreme Court noted in subsequent cases that Congress had always had the power to levy a direct tax — it just had to be done in a certain manner, which was later repealed. Clearly, the anti-tax advocates are either ignorant of the legal developments here or they are manipulating the history to suit their cause. Further, they ignore the fact that originally the federal government only taxed imports because other taxes were left to the states. The founders, then, were not opposed to income taxes, property taxes, or the like. They just expected the states to do this (as they still do), rather than the federal government. Of course, back then, the federal government didn’t provide all the services it does now, and it could pay its tab relying solely on import duties. Now, it has to provide social security benefits, pay for fighter jets, and furnish Secret Service protection to W until he croaks. The kitty requires a bigger ante.
I’m not even going to touch the issues with Norris, et al’s reasoning that if the founders didn’t want it, we should oppose it. That suggests that in the eighteenth century humanity reached the apex of its reasoning capacity — which, actually, the anti-tax logic tends to support. Anyway, I won’t bother to go there because the logic is so ridiculous as to qualify as illogic. I think the average Joe/Josie gets that the founders didn’t have to deal with a lot of economic issues that we have to today (like, say, CAPITALISM) and that their lack of foresight should not limit our options. I do, however, want to note that the perk that Norris promotes about sales taxes (or consumption tax or whatever you want to call it) is actually very unfair, despite the moniker assigned. Sales taxes are regressive, punishing the poorest of us — from whom any tax takes more than from the richest of us, unless the tax is progressively adjusted like the income tax structure we have today. It is significantly harder for someone making $20K a year to pay a $5 tax bill than it is for someone making $150K. The unfair tax that Norris promotes does not adjust for income. It is therefore regressive — and ironically redistributes wealth from the poorest to those better off.
So, fair warning to the residents of Texas, secede and this is what your candidate has to offer. It’s probably too late to do a return with Mexico, right?