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).


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. 

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...