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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oppression of the Minority by the Majority: The Progressive Income Tax and the Selective Estate Tax

This is the letter that I wrote to my senatorial representatives concerning the Progressive Income Tax, the selective Estate Tax, the failure of Congress to take control of spending during the 1st two years of President Obama's term, and their illogical dislike of extending tax cuts to all, including the rich, which is a minority, with the same right of equality before the law as everyone else, are currently being oppressed by the majority, the middling and poor of the country.  This is exactly what Paine, Madison, and others described as the tyranny of the majority over the minority.

Dear Senator X,
I very much appreciate your reply to my email concerning the tax-cut extension legislation recently signed by President Obama, as well as your affirmative vote on the extension.  I too believe it was the best thing for the economy right now, but even more so, I saw the importance of being consistent and extending tax cuts to everyone, and not just one portion of society.  However, some of your sentiments concerning the taxing of the rich, as presented and implied in your words in your return email, are, quite frankly, unsettling to me, and I feel that I must explain my own sentiments concerning this issue in return, so that we are on an equal footing as to understanding one another.  While this email may be somewhat lengthy, I hope and would be must appreciative if you will find the time to read it in its entirety, as I feel the issues presented are of extreme importance.

My position is one in which I see the existence of an estate tax levied solely on one portion of the American people, as well as unequal tax rates in the current progressive income tax system as a haunting specter of the very thing that destroys liberty; inequality before the law and subsequent injustice.  Because the current estate tax will tax the estates of only a small percentage of the American people, a minority, while imposing no such taxes on the rest of the nation, the majority, this piece of legislation (for a tax is a piece of legislation, as we both know) will instill inequality before the law, and will result in further inequality, economic hatred and warfare, and injustice in the American governmental system and society.  It is also establishes a form of aristocracy, a portion of society that are legally set above the rest of society, legally established as superior, be a majority or minority, rich or poor. 

In my view, federal taxation and the tax rates should be uniform through out the entire union, where if a tax is to be levied, it must be paid by all, and at a uniform, or flat rate.  This would be the only way to instill true equality before the law, in terms of taxation, and would naturally result in justice and fairness, a true egalitarian society, at least as egalitarian as is possible.  This is the type of taxation that is harmonious with the principles of a free society, a liberal political and social view, and with the practices and beliefs of a country of liberty.  For in a free government, there will always be inequality of some sort, mostly natural inequalities resulting from natural situations and conditions.  Indeed, James Madison, in one of his letters to Thomas Jefferson concerning the ratification of the federal Constitution and the need of a powerful executive veto, dated Oct. 24th, 1787, wrote,

“[i]n all civilized societies, distinctions are various and unavoidable.  A distinction of property results from that very protection which a free government gives to unequal faculties of acquiring it.  There will be rich and poor; creditors and debtors; a landed interest, a monied interest, a mercantile interest, a manufacturing interest.  In addition to these natural distinctions, artificial ones will be founded, on accidental differences in political, religious or other opinions, or an attachment to the persons of leading individuals.  However erroneous or ridiculous these grounds of dissention and faction, may appear to the enlightened statesman, or the benevolent philosopher, the bulk of mankind who are neither statesmen nor philosophers, will continue to view them in a different light.  It remains then to be enquired whether a majority having any common interest, or feeling any common passion, will find sufficient motives to restrain them from oppressing the minority.”

But under the current income tax system, and with the presence of this unequal estate tax, we have unnatural, “legalized” inequalities set up by the very federal government that is supposed to keep these unnatural, state sponsored inequalities at bay.  In other words, Congress has set up an inverse aristocracy, protected by law where the minority is not.  It has established by law the majority of society as above the minority, the rich, because the rich, due to their wealth, are not worthy of paying the same tax rate as those who are less monetarily affluent.  This is exactly the same thing as legally establishing the rich as above the rest of society due to their wealth, giving them certain privileges that the rest of society are not allowed to have.  I would presume that you maintain the belief that it is unjust when the rich oppress the poor.  But, do you also find it just as unjust when the poor oppress the rich?  Would you find it just, fair, and equal to have a certain privately owned and run restaurant/business charge more for their food/commodities for the rich than for the middling class or poor?  How about the reverse situation, with the poor being charged more than the rich?  It isn’t legal or just when private owners of restaurants turn certain customers away due to the color of their skin, and it wouldn’t be legal or just if these same restaurant or business owners were to charge certain individuals more because of the color of their skin.  That is discrimination, racism.  So why should it be legal, fair, and just for the federal government or state governments to discriminate based on wealth or income level?  That seems like economic discrimination. 

As shown in the above quote by James Madison, Madison felt it was important to design the federal government as one that would protect the rights of all, not just the democratic majority, but the minority as well.  The tyranny of the majority, and the consequent oppression of the minority is exactly what is happening with the current income tax system with unequal tax rates, as well as the existence of an estate tax that applies to only certain income level earners.  Those who are labeled rich, which one could reasonably argue is done rather arbitrarily by Congress, who set the tax rates, are the minority, while the majority fall within the middle-class and lower-class.  And under the current aforementioned tax system, it is the majority, both in Congress and the nation, who is currently oppressing the rights of the minority, the rich.  The majority is violating the minority’s rights to their property, be it money, their landed property, their material property, or all of the above in the form of an estate.  But specifically, the majority is also violating the right to equality before the law and the right to pay the same equal as everyone else, in the form of an unequal income tax rate and in the form of an estate tax that is only levied on the minority, while the majority gets a free ride and is not bound by that particular piece of legislation.  With the current estate tax, it is levied only on one small portion of the American population, once again, the rich, who make up the minority, who have just as much a right to their property as the next man, and who has just as much right to equality before the law as the majority does.  Therefore, when you write that the recently passed tax-cuts legislation contained too generous an estate tax rate on estates worth so much money or more, one which you dislike, it appears, it shows me that you care not for the greater right, both politically and morally, of equality before the law, where the laws apply equally and with an equal force to everyone living in America.  Rather, it shows me that you care more for inequality before the law, as long as it has achieved what appears to be a very popular sentiment of overzealousness and breaking other laws, both of nature, morality and liberty, in order to do one good thing. 

It appears that this popular sentiment, which your words seem to indicate that you subscribe to, would use unfair and unequal means to achieve a very fleeting and feeble version of “fairness” and “equality” in material and monetary possessions, as if flinging more money toward a problem would solve it.  The only means of true equality and true freedom is equality before the law, under a free government.  Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said "[t]he Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”  You cannot provide it for them.  True happiness is inherent in acquiring something for oneself, and this best and most effectively happens in a country where all its inhabitants are on an equal footing before the law, and thus have legally equal opportunity.

Indeed, concerning the tyranny of the majority over the minority, Thomas Paine’s most recent biographer, John Keane, who was praised for his work on Paine by renowned, Pulitzer Prize winning American Revolution era historian Gordon S. Wood, said the following of Paine, on his beliefs on the Pennsylvania Bank of North America controversy in the mid 1780’s:

"Two generations before Alexis de Tocqueville's famous discourse on the same subject, Paine pointed to the practical danger of a tyranny of the majority inherent in the principle of popular sovereignty.  In the name of the people, elected representatives could exercise what Paine called, 'the despotism of numbers.'  Lusting for power, the ultimate aphrodisiac, representatives of majorities acting in the name of the people could oppress minorities.  The poor could tyrannize the rich; the propertyless could assault the propertied; or one party of citizens could rule arbitrarily over all others, just as the Radicals were now attempting to do on the question of the bank [Bank of North America, in Philadelphia, PA]."

“The poor could tyrannize the rich; the propertyless could assault the propertied; or one party of citizens could rule arbitrarily over all others…”

Is this not exactly what is happening with our current income tax and estate tax system?  The poor tyrannizing the rich?  It certainly seems that way.  And it makes me queasy to think that this is being allowed to happen in a free country that is governed by a free government, elected by a free people.  This is exactly what Madison, Paine and others feared would continue to happen in the states if a new federal government, with enhanced powers was not installed in the United States, except that now it is happening on a federal level, something I don’t think Madison or Paine could have thought possible in free country.  How can the American people and their elected representatives have forgotten so much of our founding principles, so as to condone this tyrannizing of the minority, and passively sit idly by and let it continue?

As a constituent of yours, I cannot subscribe to, nor understand your dislike of lower tax rates, income and estate, for the rich that are present in the new tax-cut legislation, where it seems that you and other Senate and House Democrats feel that the problem isn’t spending, but revenue.  There is a reason debts increase, and it is not because there isn’t enough revenue.  If revenue intake stopped, along with spending, the debt would remain the same.  Rather, it is solely because the holder of the acquired revenue continues to spend and spend, that the debt continues to increase.  And as you mentioned, the current figure for the national debt is $13 trillion.  Attaining more revenue by taxing the minority of the rich will not reduce the national debt.  Rather, cutting spending and redirecting the tax revenue that would once have gone to those spending programs, but now put towards the relief of the national debt would indeed reduce the national debt.  This is the problem with the Democratic party in Congress right now.  They see the $13 trillion national debt as primarily a revenue problem, when it is truly a spending problem.  They dislike equality and justice in taxation because it would prevent such lavish spending that they would live to implement, be it for good or bad.  Undoubtedly, more revenue would help to decrease the debt, but only if spending were curbed and cut, and the new revenue went solely to the payment of the national debt, which doesn’t seem to be happening now nor in the near future, at least with the Democratic party.  Perhaps the newly elected Republican party will be just as bad, but we have yet to be able to judge of that.  It requires a large revenue, which would mean huge tax rates and multiple pieces of tax legislation heaped upon the backs of the people, that would allow huge spending to continue, and this is not at all the solution to the problem of our large debt.  Rather, it is a cut in spending, and paying off of the debt that would help settle our debt problem, not increased revenue for increased spending. 

The past two years have not seen a reduction in spending, but rather, an increase in spending, be it in the form of the two stimulus packages, the auto and banking bailouts, the new healthcare bill, the continued wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the continued presence of our troops in countries like Japan, South Korea, and Germany (which although brings a small income, the cost of keeping them there, supplied, and trained must be quite high), etc.  We have seen absolutely no effort put forth by the past two year’s Democratic controlled Congress and executive branch to alleviate the national debt by redirecting current tax revenue from spending to debt relief.  Rather, we have seen continued borrowing, taxing, and increased spending of that tax revenue for projects, be they good or bad, some misguided, and some of merit, but not concurrent with the times, economic situations, and the sentiments of the people of the country.  And while I appreciate your vote on the extension of the tax-cuts, and that you felt it would be better for the current economy if the middle-class had lower taxes, your, and other Democrats’ insistence on, and apparent hope for, the continued oppression of the minority, the rich, in the form of unequal taxation is disappointing.  I am not rich myself, therefore I have no economic or special interest in protecting the rights of the rich, and if I were an immoral individual, I too would probably jump on the “destroy-and-take-from-the-rich-bandwagon” as well, so that I may benefit from the income redistribution too.  But, I am a moral person, and I am also a historically aware individual, and as such, I will forever cry out in as loud a voice as I can muster, for the protection of the rights of all Americans and all mankind, both the majority and the minority, both rich or poor, both debtor and creditor, land owner and land renter.  And I will forever condemn and cry out against the injustice of oppressing any individual or group of Americans and humans, and of the violation of their rights.

These are my sentiments, as a resident of, and voter in CA.  I call for equality before the law, which is a right of every American, as was the battle cry of the former slaves, the manumitted slaves during the Jim Crow years, and during the Civil Rights movement.  It was and is the battle cry of all minorities in America who were/are oppressed and denied their rights strictly because they were/are a minority, and stood against the oppression of the tyrannical majority.  And this equality before the law should come in the form of all types of legislation, including taxation, which means that if we are to have a federal income tax, in order to comply with the dictates of a free government, a society of liberty, equality before the law, and fairness and justice, the income tax must needs be levied on every individual in America, and at a flat/uniform rate.  This flat rate would still bring in more revenue from the rich, alleviating the situations of the poor, and would place everyone on an equal footing before the law.  The same goes for an estate tax.  If we are to have a federal estate tax, the equal, fair, and just thing to do would be to bind all Americans by it, and levy it on all of them, at an equal rate, which would have the same benefits as described above concerning the flat rate income tax.  Either this, or have no estate tax and income tax at all. 

As evidence of the effectiveness of a welfare system with a flat-rate revenue intake system, we need look no further than the welfare system of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose influence and population is worldwide, and in great numbers, and whose headquarters are located in Salt Lake City, UT.  The LDS church welfare system is based on a few various sorts of revenue intake systems, namely tithing (10% of one’s collected/earned income, before tax-reduction), fast offerings, missionary funds, member donations/charity, etc.  The LDS church welfare system is one of the, if not THE most effective and best in the entire world, because it is based on the best principles.  And the most remarkable fact about the LDS church welfare system is that it is ENTIRELY voluntary.  There is no coercion or force of payment like there is in government taxation upon penalty of criminal prosecution.  Information concerning the LDS church’s welfare program,a nd the principles it is based upon, can be found by consulting the following links:

I realize that having a completely voluntary welfare system here in America would be impracticable due to the lack of morality and charity in the American society, which although there is much, much more than in most other nations in the world, there is still probably not enough to support the poor entirely on a voluntary system.  Thus, coerced or forced methods of payment into the national treasury, AKA taxation, is of obvious necessity.  However, just because taxation is a requirement in a society made up of fallible human beings doesn’t mean we have to have a tax system that is unjust, unfair, unequal, and oppressive, viz a progressive income tax and an estate tax that applies to only a certain portion of the country, and not to the rest.  What gives the poor more right to their property than the rich?  What gives the poor a right to keep a larger portion of their property than the rich?  Are the rich inferior to the poor so as to merit taking more of the riches’ property than the poor’s property?  Are the poor better or more exalted by society and our Maker so as to merit them unworthy of the same rights of all mankind, and therefore of a lesser worth?  I was taught by the founders of this nation, as well as my religious preferences, that all humankind are created equal, and that ALL humankind are deserving of the rights endowed within them from their Creator, rights both civil and natural.  Not only was I taught these principles of truth, but our entire government is based on, and secures these principles as well.  Do you think otherwise?  Do you think that the rich, merely because they have more wealth, are not worthy of their rights, so as to enslave them, economically and legislatively to the poor and middling classes?  Because that is exactly what the current income tax and estate tax system does.  They are forever doomed to an inferior status before the law and in the eyes of society simply because of their wealth, which is no true measure of their hearts and worth.  That is not equality before the law, nor is it justice, nor is it fairness. 

Thus, while I am appreciative of your support in extending the tax-cuts to all Americans, I cannot agree with your and other Democrats’ and Americans’ beliefs concerning your view of what is an “appropriate,” “fair,” “just,” “effective,” and “equal” welfare system that is based on taking more from certain individuals in order to help other individuals, whether they are deserving or not.  All are deserving of their rights and of help, not just a certain portion of society.  All individuals are equal before the law and have equal claim on their rights, equality before the law being one of them.

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