Given the emphasis placed on education in this country, we’re particularly chagrined to see the heights a person can reach despite an apparent misunderstanding of basic American history. How high, exactly? Try the U.S. Justice Department.
A recent Associated Press story reported on efforts to target businesses that advise people how to avoid paying income taxes.
It included the following quote from Assistant Attorney General Nathan Hochman, who oversees Justice Department tax prosecutors: “With the privileges that this country gives you, we have both obligations and responsibilities to give back.”
No disrespect to Hochman, but the Founding Fathers might beg to differ with part of that statement.
From the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights … that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men …”
What those words say to us is that the benefits of living as free people do not flow from the government, as Hochman’s quote suggests. The government doesn’t provide the blessings of liberty; it protects them.
While we’re on the subject, people don’t really “give back” when it comes to taxes. Giving implies choice. It would be more precise to use the term “surrender” — as in, people surrender their money to pay taxes.
Of course, these observations don’t mean that we necessarily agree with the Justice Department adversaries who consider income taxes unconstitutional. We just disagree with Hochman’s choice of words and characterizations.
He could have made the point that paying your taxes, like it or not, means following the rule of law. He could have refrained from telling reporters that taxes “are the lifeblood of the American civilized society.” No mention of things like culture, charity, freedom of religion, freedom of speech — taxation and taxation alone keeps America’s heart pumping?
Unfortunately, his comments portrayed government as a grand benefactor to which we owe our fealty, and taxation as some kind of surcharge for human liberty. If a lot of people in the federal government look at things that way, this country has much bigger problems than some so-called “tax defiers” running loose.