As you prepare to work on your taxes this year, you may want to
spend some time reflecting on the plight of the colonists under British
rule … a condition they considered servitude. Naturally, most
Americans sympathize with the trials the colonists faced, though in many
ways, they were better off than we are. The Sugar, Stamp, and Tea Acts
inflicted by the British, placed taxes on molasses, certain stamps,
playing cards, legal documents and tea imported into the colonies.
These taxes were enough to spark rebellion, though they were inherently
far fairer than the tax system we are burdened with.
Unlike us, the colonists had some power. Power to avoid payment
of taxes they deemed unfair, by boycotting those products Parliament
chose to tax. Such boycotts often proved effective — forcing Britain in
several instances to reduce taxes or repeal them, as they did with the
Stamp Act in 1766. We, on the other hand, are powerless to escape what
might as well be called the tyrannical rule of our legislators. If there
is any doubt at all that our government wields more power than Great
Britain did over the colonists, consider this: In 1773 if John Q. Public
disagreed in principle with the tax on tea, what penalty did he incur by
refusing to pay? Nothing. He could simply refuse to purchase it,
immediately freeing himself from the obligation of paying a tax he
deemed unfair. That’s called liberty.
Now fast forward to 1999. If John Q. Public were to make a similar
decision and conclude that his tax burden was unfair, what would happen
if he refused to pay? He would go to jail. That, my friends, is
According to Americans for Tax Reform, the average family now pays
almost 40 percent of their income in federal, state, and local taxes –
than they pay for food, clothing and shelter combined. Even if the
colonists chose to pay each and every tax levied by King George, it’s
doubtful they paid anywhere near the amount that we do.
One issue we do have in common with the colonists, however, is our
subjection to taxation without real representation. While some may take
exception to such an assertion, it’s about time we acknowledged the
truth: Our representation in Congress is nothing more than a sham.
Here’s why. According to The Center for Public Integrity, Capitol
Hill lawmakers received more than $180 million from Fortune 500
firms from 1987 to 1996. For such generosity, Congress has provided so
many loopholes that about half of the 4 million corporations in the U.S.
did not pay a penny in federal taxes in 1993.
Worse, in 1995, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, a huge contributor
to House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, actually received a tax
rebate of $257 million dollars! (Yet in the year of the “surplus,” we
don’t even rate a 10 percent tax refund.)
Why does Congress continue to reduce the taxes of the super-rich
corporations, while it increases the burden on private citizens? The
answer is simple. Each corporate tax break our “public servants” sneak
through Congress is rewarded by campaign contributions from those with
pockets far deeper than our own. Forbes magazine stated it this way:
“our tax code has become a cookie jar full of good things for everybody
but the general public.”
Whom do our lawmakers represent? Not us. And given this abuse,
it’s high time we Americans asked ourselves if we yet possess any of
our patriotic forbears’ zeal for liberty?
If George Washington or Thomas Jefferson were to pay us a visit,
would they recognize us as Americans? Would they see in us a small
flicker of their passion for independence … a passion that led them to
triumph over unjust rulers and incredible odds? Would they find a trace
of the courage that prompted them to make a stand and raise the cry, “No
taxation without representation?”
We honor the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made for the cause of
liberty. We are proud of their achievements and example. But this
year, as we obediently and unquestioningly submit to a tax burden that
would have caused riots in colonial America, perhaps it’s time we asked
ourselves the question: Would they be proud of us?
Cindy Sanford, a nurse and mother who lives in Pennsylvania, writes
for a column for her local newspaper.