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Cossacks at the Door

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Tax day is fast approaching, and as I prepare my paperwork I’m put in mind of simpler times when tax collecting was more honest and more direct without the bureaucratic middle men, but with basically the same result.

A hundred years ago in many nations, and much more recently in some third world countries, tax collection basically consisted of heavily armed men – perhaps from the army – coming by your house periodically and seizing any assets you hadn’t hidden well enough. They might beat you to find your hidden treasure or to get you to inform on neighbors, or perhaps rape your wife and daughters to get you to talk. The classic image this calls to mind is the fearsome Cossack of the last century in Russia, empowered by the government to go around in bands to rural areas and make sure that every peasant and serf was giving their all for the Empire. The bearded, heavily armed and stoic Cossacks were the perfect tax collectors for Russia, because not only were they fearsome with a reputation for barbarity, but they were highly mobile horsemen who could travel anywhere quickly. Plus they were non-Russians who enjoyed a priveleged status and reveled in lording it over the Russians who had conquered their country yet whose government had embraced them as shock troops and brutish instruments of authority. Where Russian troops might not have pillaged their own population, the proud and barbaric Cossacks would do so with joy, laughing through their dark beards as they impoverished the peasantry and enriched the government.

But for all the barbarity, violence and outrages against decency, the Cossacks and how they were used was profoundly honest. They operated on the principle that whatever the peasant didn’t have absolute and immediate need of essentially belonged to the government and would be taken by force at the government’s pleasure. No idealistic fiction of property rights stood in their way. What the government wanted they took, and woe to anyone who got in their way. Very efficient and brutally honest.

Today that same rapacious mentality is cloaked in the piled papers and suited bureaucrats of the Internal Revenue Service. They may not be Cossacks in form, but they are Cossacks in essence, using the enormous might of the imperial federal government to squeeze every little bit they can from the peasants of modern America. It’s all about feeding the monstrous appetite of a government which has gone amok, which rules over its people rather than governing for the people.

When the founding fathers started this country and authored the Constitution they were reacting against the Cossack-equivalents of red-coated British soldiers breaking down doors and holding forced inventories on behalf of the customs examiners. They wrote into the Constitution an absolute prohibition on taxation of income or individuals as a means by which the federal government could raise revenue. Article I, Section 9, Clause 4 reads “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” This means that the Congress can tax the states based on their population and the states can then raise that money by whatever means they want to, but that the federal government can never go directly to the people and take their money away.

Ironically, at about the time the Russians were getting rid of the Cossacks and trying to reform their government our states made the terrible mistake of ratifying the 16th Amendment to the Constitution which essentially overrode the prohibition on an income tax, effectively inviting the Cossacks into the federal government, and they’ve been there ever since, feeding off the public and growing fat and complacent.

And make no mistake, the gray-suited bureaucrats of the IRS are indeed the modern equivalent of Cossacks. Their ceaseless demands for more and more money to feed the beast are backed up by just as much imperial force as the Cossacks ever wielded. They may not hold a gun to your head, but they have plenty of power to destroy lives. They will seize your property, terrorize your family, drive you into bankruptcy – the modern equivalent of debtors prison, and hound you beyond the grave if necessary to get their fat fingers on the last copper kopek in your purse. They’re Cossacks in cheap suits and comfortable shoes.

The latest news is that like the commissars of old Mother Russia, the leaders of the IRS are sure that we’re hiding some chickens under our barn floors and burying coins in the farmyard. They are convinced that there is a $300 billion gap between what they believe is owed and what is actually being paid, and they are going to step up enforcement – send more Cossacks to your door more often with bigger swords – to make sure they get it all. That means more audits, closer examination of returns, and every other effort to squeeze us until we bleed.

Think for a minute about what it says about modern America that I can even make this comparison to the Cossacks of Imperial Russia and not really be too far off the mark. Sure, interest, withholding, penalties and liens all sound nicer and more legalistic, but they still come down to taking your property and your earnings by force. There may not be a literal Cossack at your door, but there’s one sitting at a computer wielding a red pen instead of a sword and he means you just as much harm.

This certainly isn’t the kind of revenue raising our Founding Fathers had in mind, and it feeds a government which they would hardly recognize as well. They envisioned small, efficient and inexpensive government that provided the bare necessities and left most of the work to the states and plenty of freedom to the individual citizens. They had no love or Cossacks, Redcoats or the penny-grabbing bureaucrats who now run our nation. They would scoff at us for being willing to put up with this sort of oppression when they were willing to fight and die to escape it and even the illiterate Russian peasants eventually rose up in revolt.

So on April 15th, when you sign that tax return and look at how much you’re paying to keep the Cossacks from your door, remember that there was a time only a few generations ago when Americans would have laughed at the idea that our citizens would be taxed the way that peasants were in Imperial Russia or in despotic third world nations.

Dave

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About Dave Nalle

  • gonzo marx

    wow..a nice read…

    i guess the whole “render unto Caeser” bit wouldn’t fly…lol

    if Memory serves..the Federal income rax was enacted to pay for World War 1 and was supposed to be “temporary”…HAH!..yeah..that could happen..a temporary tax..

    and blue monkeys could fly outta my butt and head for Oz..

    but i digress…

    like it or not..tax time is here ta stay..

    my whole bit would be for it all to work!!

    now, we got Actuarians that can tell you how many folks are gonna die in a week , and from what causes..outta a field of 1000 with about a 95% success rate…that’s hwo the insurance companies stay in business..

    so it would be safe to say that they should have a decent Idea of how much cash is coming in..yes?

    then how come the pencil necked whores can’t balance the fewking budget?

    i mean..if you or i did our accounting the way these crooks do..we would all be in jail with the IRS guy laughing like Vincent Price on a nitrous oxide binge..

    but i digress…

    i’ll file the papers, and take what i can get…and be pissed off that the Rules are set up so that those that need the $$ the most pay the smallest percentage of their gross income..hey..that’s what shelters and accountants are for, right?

    hurm..Boston ain’t that far from me..anybody up for some Tea and a lil Kazak *lynching* ??

    i can Dream, can’t i?

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>wow..a nice read…< <

    Nice to have my extended metaphor appreciated.

    >>if Memory serves..the Federal income rax was enacted to pay for World War 1 and was supposed to be “temporary”…HAH!..yeah..that could happen..a temporary tax..< <

    Actually, it was enacted several years before WW1 broke out, primarily because of whining from the states over how apportioned taxes were being handled by the feds. And nothing started with a Constitutional Amendment (with one exception) is likely to be temporary.

    >>then how come the pencil necked whores can’t balance the fewking budget?< <

    Well, they're now claiming that it's because basically everyone in the US is cheating on their taxes.

    >>i’ll file the papers, and take what i can get…and be pissed off that the Rules are set up so that those that need the $$ the most pay the smallest percentage of their gross income..hey..that’s what shelters and accountants are for, right?<<

    Actually, those below the floating cut-off where deductions and exemptions cancel out actual taxable income pay the lowest percentage, since they pay nothing at all. Those close to the cut off pay tiny percentages of tax. And even better, those who qualify for the Earned Income Credit actually get paid money.

    Plus, the wealthy do pay a higher percentage under our current graduated system. They may have ways to shelter some money, but those shelters also mean that that money isn’t available to them, or has been spent alltogether to qualify as a deduction and will never be seen again.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    Dave…while i agree that that is how the system is SUPPOSED to “work” and in some cases does come close to just that..

    the vast majority of americans fit into the “middle” catagory…and suffer tremendously by coughing up a huge chunk of their gross income as compared to those that theoretically pay in the higher bracket

    this is even more true with the “tax cuts” passed by the current Administration and the way that the “relief” has been distributed..

    but i didn’t really wanna sit and argue this point…just agreeing that something should be done about it..

    howabout tossing some nice tax on any goods or services that are not created in the U.S. but american workers?

    so a company like..oh..say..Toyota..that has opened up some plants here and has americans working for them, they get to stay as they are…but folks that have “offshored” and then re-import get to cough up a little extra for the kitty, providing some relief for the american tax payer…add in some whopping fines for polluting , bigger ones for hiring illegal aliens and we might get closer to the Ideal…

    i know , i know..never happened..and i am certain Dave will cork off with all kinds of things like those import taxes woudl hurt cuz the prices would go up as they passed along the cost …

    good..that should help promote more home grown business to fill the void…thus giving more citizens jobs…thus a bigger tax base!!!

    whooo hoo! there…solved over a cup of tea and a Tool album…

    next!

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>the vast majority of americans fit into the “middle” catagory…and suffer tremendously by coughing up a huge chunk of their gross income as compared to those that theoretically pay in the higher bracket< <

    I fit into that category for a long time, and I can tell you that I suffered far more under Clinton's higher rates than I would under the current system. Take for example those tax rebate checks - they were flat amounts which were small enough to be meaningless to the wealthy, but truly significant to the working poor and middle income groups. Enough for three car payments or a month's rent. Not a bad thing to get.

    >>this is even more true with the “tax cuts” passed by the current Administration and the way that the “relief” has been distributed..< <

    The actual relief has been HEAVILY skewed towards the lower and middle income groups. The substantial increase in the value of exemptions in particular has benefitted these groups.

    >>but i didn’t really wanna sit and argue this point…just agreeing that something should be done about it..< <

    There we can agree.

    >>howabout tossing some nice tax on any goods or services that are not created in the U.S. but american workers?< <

    That's what we call a Tariff in the tax business, and it's absolutely legit and what we had before they passed the 16th Amendment. It was always a major political football between the industrial states, which loved it and the consumer states which hated it. That division has broken down, so a comprehensive tariff is worth looking at again. The catch is that free-traders and foreign countries hate it, because when we tariff their goods they get pissed off and retaliate with tariffs on ours.

    >>so a company like..oh..say..Toyota..that has opened up some plants here and has americans working for them, they get to stay as they are…but folks that have “offshored” and then re-import get to cough up a little extra for the kitty, providing some relief for the american tax payer…add in some whopping fines for polluting , bigger ones for hiring illegal aliens and we might get closer to the Ideal…< <

    Running a bit behind, are we. Why do you think the opened those plants here in the US. We already have a substantial tariff on cars built entirely outside of the US. Something on the order of 10% of retail value as I recall. But if they assemble them here in the US - which actually turns out to save them money on shipping - they avoid the tariff. Great example of a protective tariff doing exactly what you want it to do.

    >>i know , i know..never happened..and i am certain Dave will cork off with all kinds of things like those import taxes woudl hurt cuz the prices would go up as they passed along the cost …< <

    Nope, no complaints here. Traditional Republicans love the big old import tariff. Democrats hate it, btw. When Tariffs were big, they were the ones opposing them on the basis of consumer inflation.

    >>whooo hoo! there…solved over a cup of tea and a Tool album…<<

    Yep, Gonzo. You brilliantly rediscovered the 19th century method of raising revenue and controlling trade all at once. Are you channelling William McKinley?

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    BTW, Gonzo – ever read any F. Paul Wilson? If you like Heinlein you need to read Wilson. He’s RAH’s spiritual successor.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    lol..McKinley?..ummm..nope..

    and i know that it was done before..my feeble attempt at tzar-chasm…heh

    as for protective tariffs…i’m all for it..as i have stated previously..i ain’t a demlican nor a repubocrat…i just about hate em both equally

    there ARE good Folks on both sides of the aisle..unfortuneately the greedhead swine shout them down for the most part so they can line their pockets and play up to the Interests that bankroll them…

    but i digress…

    ain’t tried F. Paul Wilson…but them is strong words yer using pardner..i’ll give him a read

    try Neal Stephenson…best “new” author i have found in a while…everything he has written has been tasty..multi-genre too…but i am betting you would hate “Zodiac”…heh

    oh yeah..and i am well aware of why the Toyota kairatsu does what it does…cuz there IS intelligent life in Japan…observe their trade policies and the fact they hold well over 25% of our National Debt (they and china go back and forth as to who has the most each week)…now look at what it takes to get an imported product into their countries…yowza…

    if only the Nipponese banks hadn’t been so greedy, they wouldn’t be in half the mess they are now..

    but thas a whole ‘nother kettle of sushi

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I ought to clarify the tariffs were one of the reasons why we ended up with an income tax. The Republican tariffs of the 1880s were extraordinarily high. As I recall the McKinley Tariff of 1888 averaged 48.4% on all imported goods, which is kind of insane even for back then when we imported a lot less than we do now. High Tariffs cost the Republicans a lot of support in the 1890s and gave Democrats an issue besides preserving segregation and Christian values to run on.

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I’ve been meaning to check out Stephenson as soon as I run out of Bentley Little horror novels to read, which is what I’m on now. You should read “The Store” – it’s a horror novel about WalMart.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    heh..true enough

    oh how the tides have turned as the dixicrats of yesteryear become the bible belt republicans of today…

    it all stems from who got paid off..

    if we could find a list of all the hydroenchepeletic greedmongers that lined their pockets from “negotiating” these so called trad eagreements over the years we could have some fun tossing them feet first into the woodchipper and then declaring the “agreements” null and void!!

    now that would be something i could get excited about..

    Excelsior!

  • gonzo marx

    oh..noticed yer last…bah..ain’t been into horror novels since Lovecraft in the 70’s..

    after parts of my Life..ain’t nothing in that kind of Story that is going ta “scare” me…

    now Fox news, or Rush Limbaugh…that’s scary…

    and read the Stephenson…all of it is good, depending on the flavor ya like..

    Quicksilver and Confusion are parts of his new “Baroque Cycle”…damn fine historical novels..setting up the Age of Reason and showing where a lot of our Stuff comes from…

    Snowcrash and Diamond Age for cyberpunk goodness..

    and more….

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    To add something to this topic, check out the IRS Abuse Report website. It catalogs over 600 cases of pretty outrageous behavior by the IRS literally destroying lives. Thes cases are being gathered as part of a class action suit against the IRS.

    The most common instances of abuse seem to be associated with divorces where the IRS goes after the divorced spouse of someone who didn’t meet their tax obligations despite court orders specifically absolving the innocent divorced person of any obligation for their former spouse’s tax debt.

    But my favorite story is the one where the guy files for a tax extension because his house burned down destroying all his records, and as a result he’s fast tracked for an audit because they know he’ll have no record of any of his expenses.

    I sympathise, because as a small business owner I’m personally highly aware of the pain in the ass of record keeping. My solution is to make every single one of my business purchases with my American Express card so that I have a permanent electronic record of every transaction which I can access indefinitely if my personal records are lost, destroyed or incomplete. Not taking any chances with the cossacks.

    Dave

  • JR

    Dave Nalle: Think for a minute about what it says about modern America that I can even make this comparison to the Cossacks of Imperial Russia and not really be too far off the mark.

    Hate America much?

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    There are things to love and things to hate, JR. Hating the IRS doesn’t necessarily mean hating America as a whole, but I know you prefer more simplistic, black and white answers.

    Dave

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    If you can hate the IRS without hating America, perhaps the far right will someday admit a person can also disagree with other federal policies (like, say, for example: prisoner abuse, or propping up military dictatorships in other countries) and still not hate America.

    Clearly that was the point JR made, albeit with more subtle wording.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I don’t know about the far right, but I can certainly disagree with some of those practices (prisoner abuse anyway) and not hate Liberals for their provincial view of our foreign policy.

    What bothers me is those who leap from disagreeing with a few issues like the ones you mention directly to the conclusion of hating America, or those who just hate Bush irrationally and can’t articulately come up with any valid reasons to hate him.

    Far too many people leap to an extreme position on almost pure emotion, and I find it offensive and disturbing.

    Dave

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    Far too many people leap to an extreme position on almost pure emotion, and I find it offensive and disturbing.

    To be fair in this analysis though, you need to consider the fact that you readily dismiss the facts and logic that people present in their politics. That leaves you to see nothing left as a driving force but emotion.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Steve, I don’t dismiss verifiable facts. A lot of people mistake disagreeing with the conclusions drawn from facts for rejecting the facts themselves. As I often say, facts are facts – what you choose to do with them is something else entirely.

    Dave

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “there is a $300 billion gap between what they believe is owed and what is actually being paid”

    If there is really 300 billion dollars worth of tax-cheating going on, I support the IRS in finding it and getting it.

    Our government is very expensive. Should it be more limited? Sure. But until it is, these tax monies are NEEDED.

    Don’t canonize tax-cheats. Instead, let’s focus on shrinking the government, so it doesn’t need as much of our money…

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    “the Federal income rax was enacted to pay for World War 1 and was supposed to be “temporary”…HAH!..yeah..that could happen..a temporary tax..

    “and blue monkeys could fly outta my butt and head for Oz..”

    Lincoln inititated the first national income tax. And it was indeed just temporary…

  • gonzo marx

    heh..but i clearly stated “Federal income rax”

    now i have no fewking clue what a “rax” is…

    ok..i will gladly admit a factual error and stand corrected…hey..i AM mensch enuff ta fess up when i make a boo boo

    mea culpa

    and as for Lincoln..yeah it was “temporary”..then..as Dave pointed out…it came back..so i guess the hiatus was just as temporary..

    my point being that with rare exceptions…once ANY government gets it’s grubbly lil fingers on a revenue stream…it doesn’t let go..no matter the initial reason or protestations of how “temporary” it is supposed to be

    an example would be the toll booths in New Jersey and Maine…both were set up “temporarily” to pay for the construction of the roads they guard…

    those roads are long since paid for..but the states involved like the shiny coins

    all those booths are still there…as the tolls rise at regular intervals..

    there…that better?

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    I generally agree that once the gov’t has found a new source of revenue, even if it claims it is just temporary, it usually isn’t.

    But I just had to point out the whole income-tax myth for every else’s benefit… ;-)

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Lincoln’s income tax was also restricted to people with quite high incomes and it was also ruled unconstitutional by the courts, which is the main reason why it was temporary. Lincoln did a lot of things with the excuse of the war that wouldn’t have been considered legal under other circumstances, such as freeing the slaves by executive order.

    There’s no question that an income tax was not legal until the 16th Amendment was passed.

    Dave

  • William Hannay

    A bit like blame it on the Kellys,let us run down the Cossacks,nice story,but no real basis of truth,the Cossacks first escaped the tax collector,then robbed the tax collector,and then when the Jews were the tax collectors for the Poles,they killed them.
    The last people the state would trust to collect taxes would be the Cossacks.
    Though they were trusted to escort Tokay wine!