FEDERAL TRIANGLE: Arcane and Byzantine
If I was stupid enough to say anything less than the full and direct truth, my mother called it "weasel wording." When it comes to arcane and byzantine tax laws that 68,937 U.S. government entities are authorized to define and impose on U.S. citizens, they are less than forthcoming with truth and clarity; they weasel word. Look at some facts about the federal tax system:
- Tax revenues have grown 250% to $2.03 trillion between 1970 and 2000 while spending has reached $1.79 trillion, a 915% nominal increase during this time.
- Word count in tax laws grew 51% to a total 1.395 million from 1985 to 2000.
- Words in tax regulations grew 58% in the same period and equal 8 million words.
- The number of IRS tax forms grew 23% from 1990 to 2000.
- IRS telephone queries grew 98% in the past nine years; 3 out of 4 answers were wrong.
- Paid tax consultants are used by 58% of Americans, up 19% in ten years.
- Time to complete schedules A, B, and D of Form 1040 increased 47% in ten years.
- The number of pages in Form 1040 instructions is up 39% over the past five years.
But where are the weasel words? U.S. law prohibits organizations that receive government grants from lobbying for more public money with federal funds (See Office of Management and Budget Circular A-122 and Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 banning organizations that enjoy 501(c)(4) status from receiving federal funds if they lobby.) Nonetheless, organizations such as People for the American Way and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (noted for promoting big government) united to oppose tax cuts and lobbied to prohibit them. These are members of the "Fair Taxes for All Coalition," whose largest 56 of over 170 members received $617,669,413 in federal funds to lobby against tax cuts during the past four years. It is especially egregious that the National Council for Senior Citizens, succeeded by the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), when the former was caught in a web of criminal and partisan political work, has received $332,482,287 since 1996 to lobby against tax cuts, the former and successor entities being organized labor's major arm to mobilize retired unionists. Their direct source of funds was the U.S. government, most specifically the Department of Labor. Over the past 40 years, this organization has received over $1 billion in direct federal money, plus an added $1.6 million in union member dues. Uncle Sam paid 99.94% of the bill for organized labor to work against a tax cut. This is not opinion; see the Federal Assistance Award Data System database at Bureau of Census. And let me understate the obvious: public subsidy distorts democracy.
Government should reflect, not determine, the outcome of political debate. ARA will say that it does not receive federal money, but in fact the AFL-CIO, which funds it, receives the money-a clear case of weasel wording. Money is fungible so people obscure facts to hide funding sources and applications. In a study by scholars John Sample, Christopher Yablonski and Ivan Osirio, they wrote, "American democratic processes should be Constitutional, responsive, and neutral. Judged by these standards, public subsidies for anti-tax cut advocacy distorts democratic processes... federal government should take steps to get the politics out of nonprofits. Americans need better disclosure of public subsidies for political advocacy, and Congress should seek effective ways to prevent public money from being used to support political causes of any kind."
The most important way to assure neutrality is in the method by which taxes are raised. According to Stephen Entin of the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation, America suffers from a "scandalous lack of proper education, ethics, and civics of policymakers, the press, and the general public" that leads to meddlesome government tapping the wrong tax base. He (correctly) views government as distainful of economic consequences wrought by policies, distorting the tax system to reward favored activities and intent on redistributing income from class enemies to class friends. The proper way is to simplify taxation, so payments are visable to taxpayers and do the least damage to the national economy. Visability, fairness and simplicity are crucial elements for tax revenues. A national consumption tax, not an income tax, is the answer.