Our country is no longer controlled by, and for, We the People, but instead by, and on behalf of, international banking and multinational corporate interests. While the gradual, almost imperceptible takeover of our government by this corporate fascism has been evolving by design for many decades, it is a coup d'etat nonetheless and has been disastrous for the vast majority of Americans. This blog is an exploration and discussion of how this occurred, and the damage it has done to our democratic processes.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In His Own Words

For some reason conservatives are under the impression that those at the lower end of the economic spectrum "don't pay taxes", and thus don't contribute to what they perceive as an unfair federal tax structure -- one that's progressive. 

Conservatives hate the progressive tax structure, one where people with more income pay a higher percentage of that income in tax -- on that last earned dollar -- than do those with less income. It can also be applied to a system where tax exemptions and tax credits are used to adjust the tax base, giving those who earn very little a reduction in their taxable income and, consequently, their tax burden. This is why low-income households pay relatively low, or in some cases little, federal income taxes. It is very similar, in effect, to the mortgage deduction homeowners are still able to use to reduce their overall tax burden (and is one of the few middle-America still retains).

Most tax systems around the world are progressive in nature, or at least contain progressive aspects. In the United States there are six "tax brackets" in our federal tax structure, ranging from 10% to 35%. These are used to calculate the percentage of taxable income for individuals. If an individual's taxable income falls within a particular tax bracket, the person pays the listed percentage of income on each dollar that falls within that monetary range. Once a transfer payment is made (in the United States, a payment made to individuals by the federal government through various social benefit programs; e.g., social security, financial aid, etc.), the tax code categorizes it as to whether it is a tax exemption or tax credit, lowering the taxable income of its recipients.

Last week, Alan Grayson made some very valid and poignant points regarding taxation in this country, making it clear that even one of the principal founders of this nation, Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to General Thaddeus Kosciuszko, expressed his preference for a progressive tax rate -- one that places the greater burden of taxation on those who can more afford it. He wrote this letter in 1811, a few years after leaving the presidency. I found another document, where Jefferson expressed similar sentiments, in a letter he wrote twenty-six years earlier while living in France and serving as the United States Minister to France. This letter was written to Bishop James Madison (not to be confused with his statesman cousin of the same name), who was the president of the College of William and Mary and the first Bishop of the Protestant-Episcopal Church in Virginia. Read his own words (highlighted portions are my own).

REVEREND JAMES MADISON

Fontainebleau, Oct. 28, 1785
Dear Sir -- Seven o'clock and retired to my bedside, I have determined to enter into conversation with you. This is a village of about 15,000 inhabitants when the court is not here, and about 20,000 when they are, occupying a valley through which runs a brook and on each side of it a ridge of small mountains, most of which are naked rock. The King comes here, in the fall always, to hunt. His court attends him, as do also the foreign diplomatic corps; but as this is not indispensably required and my finances do not admit the expense of a continued residence here, I propose to come occasionally to attend the King's levees, returning again to Paris, distant forty miles. This being the first trip, I set out yesterday morning to take a view of the place. For this purpose I shaped my course towards the highest of the mountains in sight, to the top of which was about a league.

As soon as I had got clear of the town I fell in with a poor woman walking at the same rate with myself and going the same course. Wishing to know the condition of the laboring poor I entered into conversation with her, which I began by enquiries for the path which would lead me to the mountain: and thence proceeded to enquiries into her vocation, condition and circumstances. She told me she was a day laborer at 8 sous or 4d. sterling the day: that she had two children to maintain, and to pay a rent of 30 livres for her house (which would consume the hire of 75 days), that often she could get no employment and of course was without bread. as we had walked together near a mile and she had so far served me as a guide, I gave her, on parting, 24 sous. She burst into tears of gratitude which I could perceive was unfeigned because she was unable to utter a word. She had probably never before received so great an aid. This little attendrissement, with the solitude of my walk, led me into a train of reflections on that unequal division of property which occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which I had observed in this country and is to be observed all over Europe.
The property of this country is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesman, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all these comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are undisturbed only for the sake of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands not to be labored. I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree, is a politic measure and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. If for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be provided to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not, the fundamental right to labor the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment, but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state...

From: The life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, edited and with an Introduction by Adrienne Koch and William Peden (Pages 360-362); 2004 Modern Library Paperback  Edition, Copyright: 1944, 1972, 1993 by Random House, Inc. 

Afterthought:
It's worth noting that The French Revolution occurred during the years of 1789–1799, officially starting just four years after this letter was written. When Mr. Jefferson speaks of "enormous inequality", "unequal division of property", or "property...concentrated in a very few hands", does this remind you of the injustices that the Occupy Movement spoke about soon after its initial protests began last September? It should...

 

13 comments:

Anna Van Z said...

Excellent points here. And I wonder if it will ever get to the point here where "enough is enough". More people ARE waking up, but many are still so clueless about what's being perpetrated on them, right under their noses. The bread (while it lasts) and circuses have been extremely effective diversions.

Jefferson, like a number of other founders, had tremendous insight into what issues would prove disastrous for democratically inclined societies.

Anna Van Z said...

This relates to myths about taxation rates:

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/30

S.W. Anderson said...

Today's conservatives maintain the mindset of early Americans that no one here need ever be truly poor. That's because in early America, those who lacked land and decent job prospects, or a job that paid a decent wage, could move west and claim their own piece of the great open frontier. There they could find land for farming, trees for felling, fish and game for the taking — all free capital! And up until the beginning of the 20th century, that's what large numbers of people did, creating a new and better life for themselves for very little startup cost, although risk and lots of hard work were involved.

The great open frontier, aided by land grant policies, was the biggest, best social welfare program any country, any people, ever had. Additionally, the coming of the industrial revolution created demand for workers and developed mass markets. Both factors meant opportunities for large numbers of people to not be locked into joblessness and poverty.

One of the things Franklin Roosevelt recognized in the 1930s was that the absence of the great open frontier and coming of the industrial revolution had made many millions of Americans utterly dependent on a paycheck. They could no longer move west and do subsistence farming to start a new life. The frontier was no more. So, when the money economy collapsed, when earning a paycheck wasn't an option, what were people to do, starve?

The one avenue left, the one equalizer, was the government. When the frontier was no more, the game was forever changed. Capitalism in the early 20th century, as now, always augers toward concentrating wealth in the hands of a few. Without an equalizer, without an engine of prosperity to make opportunities broadly available, you end up with an endless series of revolutions and forced redustributions of wealth. That was the story in Latin America for nearly 300 years.
(continues . . .)

S.W. Anderson said...

Today's conservatives/libertarians/tea partyers are ignorant of all that. Or, because of their cockamamie ideology they just don't want to recognize the truth of it. The U.S. could end up a lot like Haiti and it would suit them fine. Until the inevitable bloody revolution.

Jefferson's fascinating early observations are a variation on this theme. The difference is that in his time the industrial revolution was yet to come and the economies of the U.S. and France were mostly agricultural. But in France, where he met that poor woman, all the land was owned and had been for centuries. He rightly recognized the need to redistribute wealth and ensure opportunities for all because successive generations of inheritance causes land holdings to be divided and subdivided, eventually into unworkably small parcels.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Anna Van Z: Jefferson was definitely a man for all seasons. He had his faults and failings, as we all do, but he had a sense of what was right and dutiful, and as you said, great insight -- unlike the preponderance of people in public or political life today.

S.W. Anderson: Thank you for your commentary. You couldn't have nit the nail more squarely on the head. Our early history, as you said, was overflowing with "free capital"; everything and anything was essentially there for the taking. Things changed forever when westward expansion was complete and "the west was won". Today, most people of this nation are in the same predicament as the old woman that Jefferson met on the road in France. There are no expansionary boundaries left.

Thanks again for your words...

Dave Dubya said...

I'm afraid our corporatist aristocracy has a firmer lock on power than the pre-revolution French aristocracy did. Our elites have their tools of propaganda in every home, a corporate media filling the underclass with drivel about their "exceptionalism" and ability to join the elites if they only work hard enough.

The fact they also own one, and much of the other, two major political parties seals the deal.

Democracy is being asphyxiated by Big Money's dominance over government, media, finance, labor, industry and health care.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Dave Dubya: Your observation isn't taken lightly. I've remarked on many occasions, on your own blog as a matter of fact, that Nazi Germany's former Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, would have been envious of today's very sophisticated Madison Avenue-effect in the field of colonizing the mind.

Imperialistic behavior has moved from the realm of converting and subverting physical geography and drawn boundaries, and is now entering the very dangerous and undeniable arena of
PSYOPS and mind control
. I suppose, whether we agree or not, they're going to make sure we genuflect toward the burgeoning corporatocracy.

Anna Van Z said...

Dave, I agree, and it makes me worry that so many citizens are comatose in a stupor of info-propa-tainment!

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Anonymous: The only thing you've shown me is that you know how to copy-and-past. You took the whole article from Burt Folsom's blog and posted it to this comment page, instead of following accepted etiquette ("netiquette"), and societal norms of common courtesy, of providing a hyperlink to his site. I consider what you did to be spam, and I will not tolerate spam. For this reason, and it's a reason I've warned you about before, I'm deleting your comment.

By the way, I can't believe you have the audacity to compare the wisdom of one of our most prolific and forward-thinking founding fathers to someone like Burt Folsom. (Well, actually, I can believe you would...considering.) He's a libertarian mouthpiece extraordinaire and surely is funded by some member, or group, of the exploitative 1% to conduct their bidding. If you're so fond of his writings, please post them on your own blog -- not mine! (Oh, I forgot, you don't have one. ;-)

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Just My Two Cents (a.k.a., Anonymous, Anonymous2, Harry from Mass, Harry from Prison, Just the Fascist!, Moduspropogandi, and an assemblage of others), you're just about the most despicable excuse for a human-being that I've ever had the displeasure of being associated with. Your objective is not to inject sensible counterarguments to the viewpoint I share on this blog, but rather to be a nuisance and a pest.

For this reason, and there are many more, your comment that's timestamped 5:17 PM is now being deleted. Whoosh! (It's gone.)

Just My Two Cents said...

I'm sorry that May Day was such a flop just like your blog! You are just going to have to get over it.

Jefferson's Guardian said...

You're totally wrong...again! May Day was a resounding success. Your own FOX News reported, "The U.S. protests were the most visible organizing effort by anti-Wall Street groups since the movement's encampments were dismantled last fall."

In Europe, hundreds of thousands marched in solidarity
. As austerity measures become more common in this country (and they will), the Occupy movement will continue to grow. Everything's progressing as expected.

As far as my blog...it's better than yours! (Oh, I forgot, you don't have one... ;-)

Michael Stivic said...

Jefferson and Dave,

We may have lost the battle with Walker in Wisconsin but the war with the right wing Nazi tea baggers is not over!