Saturday, January 21, 2012

They can protest all they want as long as they pay their taxes

I am always trying to think of ways to make the idea of Vermont independence palatable to the uninitiated person. By uninitiated I mean someone who hasn't spent a few years in the uncomfortable headspace that rejects the assumption that Vermont, or any state, is required to remain in a posture of political and financial subservience to the presumptive higher wisdom of a federal government; an entity that is chronically and systemically unresponsive to the needs of the people, having chosen to assign the well-being of the rich and their corporations as flimsy proxy for the well being of the citizenry. In Vermont we rally against our geriatric nuclear plant's hopes of perpetual NRC coronation in hopes of avoiding any more irradiation and we show the fuck up to protest the NDAA and PIPA, Bradley Manning and Tim DeChristopher's incarceration and the plunder of our collective wealth represented by the waste and fraud of programs like the F-35. We call for our National Guard troops to come me from Iraq and Afghanistan and we vote to impeach sitting presidents. We lobby for our small farmers like it was going out of style and we hold our town meetings like they matter. We are filled with the spirit, there is no doubt.

I come to believe more and more, however, that the only protest that will matter is the one where people stop paying their federal taxes. Indulge me for a moment and imagine if a large group of individuals were to set up a joint holding account for these retained funds. Initially one could reasonably frame this as a simple tax protest and quite a legitimate one at that given that most Americans (not just Vermonters) want to curtail our militarism, decrease the influence of corporations and require the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. The federal government has not only been unresponsive to these sentiments, it has moved in exactly the opposite direction with the invasion of Libya, Citizens United and it's failure to impose any additional burden on the rich during this terrible recession despite the fact that their tax rates are historically low. Imagine how thought provoking and potentially paradigm expanding it would be for state legislators and other citizens to see all that money in one place and ponder the possibilities.

How would Vermonters feel about the social security and healthcare debates going on at the federal level if we could suddenly fund all our entitlement liabilities ourselves and structure them how we pleased i.e. without having to find a happy medium with South Carolina? How would the balance of power change if the federal government had to ask us for contributions to the wars for global hegemony each year? If instead of having to simply re-up with the thoroughly corrupted federal legislature by expending minimal effort throwing around phrases like "unpatriotic apologist" and "our boys deserve the best", they had to sell the idea to 50 individual states ever single year? What if the federal government had to explicitly ask for money to support corporations that are outsourcing jobs while giving huge salaries and bonus' to CEOs who hoard profits overseas to avoid taxes while smugly awaiting the next profit repatriation holiday? How many Vermonters would agree to funding oil and ethanol subsidies if they could say no? Could Vermont do a better job repairing its crumbling infrastructure if it didn't have to go begging and submit a forest worth of paperwork to the government to get a bit of its own money back? If it didn't have to keep a Leahy on staff to pander and pimp and drag some money back out of the Sarlac Pit of the Military Industrial Complex to bring jobs to the people? (We could make it fun, have an annual ceremony where we'd give his (former) salary to a small business person and blow out a riff on a trumpet or some such.) Imagine if the cynicism and fatalism of paying your taxes were replaced with purposefulness and empowerment?

I can hear you out there worrying about what Mississippi will do to itself if what some perceive to be the federal choke chain of simple decency and "reasonableness" is removed. Let me carefully suggest that said federal choke chain allowed the despoiling of the Gulf of Mexico by an oil industry responsible for creating, on our own soil, one of the greatest examples of The Resource Curse. Allow me to curb your enthusiasm by mentioning that the drug war, so unequally waged against black people, also occurs under its beneficent auspices. And let's not forget that the attempts by those in the lower latitudes to assert themselves against the power of corporations intent on either fracking or mountaintop removing large sections of this country into inhabitability are just as readily squelched by the power of these United States.

In short, you don't have to reject the entire notion of a United States in order to embrace the notion of federal accountability through greater state level financial leverage. Anyone can see that it is hopeless to try and affect change while sustaining the status quo with every paycheck.

1 comment:

  1. Years ago I published my TAX FORWARDER proposal to create one in the Vermont Tax Department, to collect all federal taxes and tax returns, pay
    Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military and civil service pensions, Treasury interest, etc. The left-over, if any, would be subject to a referendum of the 10 biggest federal budget items by televoting, and those approved by a majority would be paid to the IRS. I guess the bloated military budget may not be approved.

    Question: would IRS and the other 49 notice or care?


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