Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joe Stack's Note is Fascinating, to me

First, let me state clearly: I absolutely do not condone or advocate violence and am deeply sympathetic to the family and friends of the IRS employee who was murdered today by Joe Stack. I'm equally sympathetic to the family and friends of Mr. Stack and all of the other taxpayers out there who he, seemingly, believes he died for.

With that said, I think it's worth a review of Mr. Stack's critique of the IRS, and government in general, as his writing is really quite fascinating and in many ways quite accurate, and sad.




"East Side Dave" from the "Ron & Fez Show"
Mr. Stack begins his letter by invoking the cry of "no taxation without representation" and he states "These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a 'crackpot', traitor and worse". Quite accurate. Mr. Stacks points to many flaws in the IRS code and for that critique, what has the "news" done so far today? They have painted a picture of a man who is out of his mind, somehow wrong about every single one of his opinions and beliefs, without so much as a consideration for what he has written. He's called a "terrorist" by his Congressman, but from my quick efforts with Google, his Congressman has never once called the tactics used by the IRS and it's employees "terroristic". Indeed, the IRS and it's employees actions can surely be labeled "terroristic" and will continue to be, which is the problem.

Stack then goes on to note that the CEOs and executives of major corporations have been given handouts, bailouts officially, for essentially running their corporations into the ground and then accurately points to an overly complex tax-system " too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand" and again, I must agree with him.

Remember when Timothy Geithner didn't pay that $35,000 in taxes? What about Nancy Killefer who also didn't pay her taxes? Tom Daschle? These are some of our political leaders. Surely at least one of them has read the tax code? Or have they? Have you ever tried to read all of the tax code, here I'll help get you started [irs.gov]. The truth is that Mr. Stack isn't wrong about this - the tax code is thousands of pages, forms, circular references and a bit of your your IRS agent/judge/jury happens to be that day you appear in court, if you're lucky enough to have your day in court and not just have your pay, home, cars or life taken from you by another man (and by man I mean human). Not to mention that the code/law establishing the IRS and giving it authority is more thousands of pages of law. For that matter, pages of "law" don't read like a book, they read "such as", "wherein", "hereforto" and each specific word has some specific meaning, which often requires looking up the meaning in some other law.

Stack also notes "The law 'requires' a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing". Again, clearly, Obama's friend's didn't read the code, or understand what they were signing. And I personally would love to sign my tax forms this year and attach a note "I did NOT read all of the tax code and make no representations as to the completeness or accuracy of my claim beyond what TurboTax has provided for me"... but surely I would be a 'crackpot' for doing that, and would be inviting an audit from the tax man as well. To label Stack as a "crazy" for this much is still incorrect in my opinion, unless of course you think Obama's friends knowingly lied on their tax forms?

He then goes on to discuss "exemptions", which are quite interesting to me personally and Stack once again nails so many problems in so few words. Let me start by saying this, when some man purchased the Mercedes-Benz CL55AMG I now own for $130,000, he paid about $9,100 in taxes, give or take a few dollars. He also paid some title fee, a registration fee, a luxury tax, maybe a gas guzzler tax and who knows what other taxes. A vehicle history report indicates that the man who first purchased this car purchased it as a "company car" - a corporate lease, so I'm certain he "wrote it off", whatever that really means. Now I'm certain that the tax code was not intended for this. I'd like to think the idea was that my friend who runs a construction company NEEDS a 4x4 pickup in order to do work. I can absolutely assure, a CL55 AMG serves absolutely no purpose for any business use, period. MAYBE, just MAYBE, if you were a real-estate exec who needed to take a fancy client to see a fancy multi-million dollar house, you'd want your agent to have a fancy car - but certainly not a 2 door coupe with 500hp, MAYBE you wanted an S, but not a CL. Stack doesn't note the double, triple or more taxation, BUT my CL55 was sold after 3 years to someone else, let's guess they paid $60,000 for it, so the government took another $4200ish in taxes, on a car they already collected taxes for. They also took more fees for registration, title, etc. I then purchased the car a third time and paid another $2000+ in taxes, fees, title, etc. Not to mention I'm paying those sales taxes with money I have already paid income taxes on, OR that the person I bought the car from probably has to pay income taxes for the sale/profit, but I haven't read the tax code so that part is just a guess.

The next several paragraphs of his letter offer his personal story, again mostly relate-able topics. At some points he blames others for his problems, which may or may not be so, but what he says towards the end of his letter is quite interesting as well. He says, "I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are."

Out of coincidence, a friend had sent me a link to some Ross Perot quotes just yesterday. Among those quotes I was reminded of this gem: "If you see a snake, just kill it - don't appoint a committee on snakes. " Again, Stack is more than right. The politicians (in his words "thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate") are already talking about how to regulate small planes, what new rules and regulations need to be put in place and how to deal with small aircraft over big cities. But where is the politician asking for a review of the IRS, the tax code or the methods used by the IRS to harass, scare and perform outright thuggery to get money from taxpayers, who probably don't have the money, while "exemptions" are made for corporations, politicians or if those companies don't have the money, the government gives them a handout.

And please don't take this as being anti-corporation or anti-capitalism, that could not be further from the truth. Love him or hate him, I recently heard Mike Bloomberg say something which I thought was kind of smart, he essentially said that we should be happy when Wall St guy get huge bonuses or paychecks - because the city can tax that money. If those Wall St. guys pay 50-60% or more of their income into taxes, fees, etc like me, then I've got to say, Bloomberg is right, I just can't imagine how taking 50% of *ONE* guys $50million bonus leaves the city in debt and needing to raise taxes even though the streets have huge potholes in them and the bridges and tunnels haven't be improved, expanded or added to any time soon and schools don't have money for textbooks, etc... hrm, must be more of that tax-code magic.

So do I think it was "ok" then for Mr. Stack, who I honestly believe is right in most of his assessment, to attack a Federal building and it's employees? I'm not going to answer directly but I'll pose this question instead, do you think it is "ok" for Federal employees to come knock on your door, shotguns in hand, to take your property?

Surely the killed IRS employee is someone's mom, dad, brother, sister, etc, do I want to explain to that employee's child, mom, etc that the employee is dead? Again I won't answer directly, but I ask this, surely Mr. Stack has a wife, kids, mom, etc, do you want to tell the IRS employee's mom, dad, child that their son, daughter or whatever threw some family out on the street over a few dollars in taxes? Or do you want to tell Mr. Stack's wife and kids that they'll be sleeping in the gutter tonight so that Uncle Sam can sell their house and property (for a loss) to the highest bidder? Do you also want to explain that it's not like the tax money is really needed anyhow because the government will just print some more money out of thin air or take a loan from the Chinese or Japanese if they need more money?

So I must say, what Mr. Stack wrote has certainly hit a sour note with me as a person and a taxpayer. I don't think he did the right thing by attacking a Federal building (and not just because it's MY tax money that'll get spent to repair the building now) and killing a federal employee (and not just because my tax money will go as some kind of "reward" to the killed employee's family), but I can also more than understand the anger and frustration that Mr. Stack feels towards the IRS and the tax system. I have little doubt that anything will change, except maybe some new regulations on small aircraft as he notes will happen, and I believe that the Tea Party folks will continue to be called 'crackpots' and the left will continue to be called 'traitors' and socialists. I'll continue to pay the majority of my earnings to the government as a tax, fee, licence, etc and continue to fear that one year I'll honestly and legitimately forget a tax form or incorrectly file a form and lose everything I have worked so hard to earn, including my two GM Pontiac Firebirds and the Benz. I'll also continue to fear that someone will somehow perceive me, through this blog or anything else, as "anti-government" and use that as a reason to take away my 2nd amendment rights, and maybe even my 1st amendment rights, and I doubt I could get a fair and speedy trial because my peers live in the same fear and would dare not question the law and be labeled a 'traitor' themselves.

It is a scary world we live in, but I'll always remember what my parents told me as a child when it was time for some test, "just do your best" and when it comes to obeying the law, since none of us can really know all of the laws and understand them all, that's just what I'll do, and it's just what I'll urge you to do. So don't go crashing a plane into a building,any building, I'm POSITIVE that much is illegal.



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