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American Tax Resisters

American Tax Resisters

Romain D. Huret
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    American Tax Resisters
    Book Description:

    American Tax Resisters gives a history of the anti-tax movement that, for the past 150 years, has pursued limited taxes on wealth and battled efforts to secure social justice through income redistribution. It explains how a once-marginal ideology became mainstream, elevating individual entrepreneurialism over sacrifice and solidarity.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-36939-9
    Subjects: History, Business, Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-12)

    Benjamin Franklin’s witty remark is familiar today to most American citizens. Each year, on April 15, many share his fatalistic sentiment when they rush to fill in their tax return and send it to the Internal Revenue Service. There is no doubt that Poor Richard was right about death. He forgot, however, that one could resist taxation. Citizens may refuse to sign the 1040 form, fail to send it to federal tax authorities, and organize political and social movements to protest against tax collection. By focusing on the uncertainty of taxes, this book offers an addendum to Franklin’s famous statement....

  4. 1 Unconstitutional War Taxes
    (pp. 13-44)

    After the Civil War, Philadelphia lawyer Elihu Spencer Miller worked with his prominent colleague William M. Evarts to defend the interests of taxpayers against the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The two men were involved in a case challenging the constitutionality of the new federal income tax and informed readers of theNew York Timeson January 14, 1871, of their own reading of its constitutionality. By then, many discussions revolved around the Astor family, one of the richest in the nation. In order to vindicate his support in favor of the tax, Republican representative John Sherman wondered in 1870...

  5. 2 Down with Internal Taxes
    (pp. 45-77)

    In 1876 New York governor Samuel J. Tilden was chosen by Democrats to run for president. The well-known millionaire corporate lawyer made political reform and assaults against corruption his two main priorities. In his annual message, echoing arguments against the Radical Reconstruction, he pleaded for the return of the old “foundations of American self-government,” that he characterized as “simple, frugal, meddling little with the private concerns of individuals—aiming at fraternity among ourselves and peace abroad—and trusting to the people to work out their own prosperity and happiness.” TheNew York Timesrevealed, however, that Tilden had cheated on...

  6. 3 The Odious Income Tax
    (pp. 78-109)

    In her popular advice book,The House in Good Taste(1913), actress and interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe encouraged wealthy Americans to purchase brighter, simpler, and more refined homes. Even though economist Thorstein Veblen, in his sarcastic analysisThe Theory of the Leisure Class(1899), satirized such conspicuous and leisurely activities that aimed at flaunting their wealth, de Wolfe was proud to advocate the use of softer wall and woodwork colors and porcelain bowls, flowers, and other knick-knacks to enhance the interiors of the upper class. Although she wanted to distance herself and her rich clients from Victorian taste and...

  7. 4 Not for Mothers, Not for Soldiers
    (pp. 110-140)

    During the winter of 1923, in the cities of North Lima and Boardman, Ohio, children sang patriotic songs and protested against new federal expenditures for poor mothers and soldiers coming back from Europe an battlefields. “Don’t pass debts on to us,” read one of the posters made for the occasion. By then, World War I debt amounted to $22 billion a year, by far the largest single item of federal expenditures. A parade of old wagons—the pioneers’ old prairie schooners—was organized, and many men and women signed petitions opposing the idea of a bonus to veterans. The Reverend...

  8. 5 The Bread-and-Circus Democracy
    (pp. 141-172)

    In 1940 Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s third election came as no surprise to many tax resisters. The vice president of AT&T, Arthur W. Page, did not mince his words in describing to his closest friends what he considered a gigantic fraud and a triumph of demagogy: “We have, I think, just demonstrated that five billion dollars of bread and circuses is patronage enough to reelect any one over any tradition.” Page further charged that the vote of “a preponderance of the least competent will swing elections unless those who make a living all vote one day—and that again makes the...

  9. 6 From the Kitchen to the Capital?
    (pp. 173-207)

    On March 5, 1959, white middle-class women from Ritzville, Washington, joyfully marched down the streets to the governor’s office in Olympia. Wearing long white coats and hats with velveteen bows, flowers, and greenery, two house wives from Seattle, Mrs. Harry A. Trimble and Mrs. Joseph G. Sebren, led the small parade and brought to Governor Albert Dean Rosselini a large bucket containing petitions signed by angry taxpayers who championed economic freedom and attacked both local and federal taxes. With the optimistic slogan, “From the kitchen to the Capitol in one week,” they hoped to spark a massive movement of resistance...

  10. 7 The Tyranny of the “Infernal Revenue Service”
    (pp. 208-240)

    On the desk of New York representative Jack Kemp stood a statuette of Don Quixote. In the mid-1970s, Miguel de Cervantes’s famous hero came to symbolize Kemp’s attempt to revive tax resistance in order to challenge the Keynesian hegemony. A Republican congressman from upstate New York, Kemp was born in California to Christian Scientist parents. After working on the loading docks of his father’s trucking company as a boy before majoring in physical education at Occidental College, he became a successful quarterback for the Buffalo Bills. An admirer of Barry Goldwater and a careful reader of Ayn Rand, the football...

  11. 8 Tea Parties All Over Again?
    (pp. 241-273)

    In the old colonial neighborhood of Williamsburg, Virginia, in early June 1985, President Ronald Reagan electrified the crowd by attacking the federal tax system. Standing in front of the Capitol, he told a very familiar story to the cheering and friendly crowd of 4,000 citizens: “The members who spoke in this Capitol said no to taxes because they loved freedom. They argued, ‘Why should the fruits of our labors go to the Crown across the sea?’ In the same sense, we ask today, ‘Why should the fruits of our labors go to the capital across the river?’” With great oratorical...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 274-280)

    With his forceful optimism and his Manichean sense of history, President Ronald Reagan had always given tax resisters a revered place in American memory. Embracing the founding fathers and some famous tax rebels, including his favorite one, Daniel Shays, he participated in the formation of a powerful political and cultural construction. The country was born out of a tax revolt, Reagan believed, and tax resistance was an essential and sacred character of the American identity. It did not matter for him that Thomas Jefferson, like many founding fathers, was an advocate of progressive taxation, and that he abandoned that principle...

  13. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 283-284)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 285-355)
    (pp. 356-358)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 359-370)