In 1786 and after hearing about the tax revolts occurring throughout the newly formed United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, who was in France, claimed such rebellions were good things...and it was medicine necessary for the sound health of government. On the other hand, Samuel Adams believed that those who had rebelled against the laws of a republic and were committing treason and should suffer death.
These differing views came to mind when a software engineer launched a suicide attack against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). After setting his home on fire, Joseph Stack flew a small plane into an IRS building. Evidently, the tax rebel, or domestic terrorist, was unable to find work, had zero income, and did not file a tax return. As the IRS tried to collect taxes, he accused them of cannibalizing his savings and retirement funds.
Stack believed the government was not interested in justice, but only concerned about financially bailing out America's corporations, its plunderers, and pompous political thugs. He accused law makers of becoming rich cronies, liars, and thieves that sought their own self-interests while ignoring corporate atrocities. By crashing a plane into an IRS building, he wanted to wake people up to government-sponsored draconian tax laws.
During the tax revolt, or act of domestic terrorism, the Pentagon scrambled two F-16 jet fighters thinking it was a terrorist attack.
After the American Revolution, state legislatures collected taxes to pay for the war. Taxes fell most heavily on poor farmers, most of them veterans. Many were unable to pay and as states seized land, cattle, and harvests, thousands of veterans, along with poor farmers, revolted. While some tax rebels burned down court houses, others mass-petitioned judges and prevented courts from adjourning and taking away their property.
On major tax revolt was led by Daniel Shays, who fought at Lexington, Bunker Hill, and Saratoga, and was wounded in action. He found himself in court for nonpayment of debts and was threatened with being sent to debtor‘s prison. When the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts met and indicted him and other leaders of the movement for being disorderly and seditious, Shays organized 1,700 men and marched to the court.
Wealthy merchants quickly funded and raised their own private militias. They pressured state legislatures to suspend Habeas Corpus and passed the Riot Act. Shay's Rebellion was crushed, as were many others. While several leaders of the tax revolt were executed, wealthy property owners accused the British of stirring-up farmers. Shays returned to a live of hardship and poverty.
Tax rebellions were the main reason for the U.S. Constitution and the establishment of a strong central government. General Henry Knox, who became Secretary of War as a result of the Constitution, wrote, "Our government must be braced, changed, or altered to secure our lives and property." Under Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the very first power is collecting taxes, duties, imposts, excises...for the common Defense and general Welfare. Other powers mention raising Armies and declaring War.
Since no one could hold state office without being a wealthy property owner, the U.S. Constitution inherited the potential for an abusive government controlled by the wealthy elite. In fact, the Constitution excluded men without property, women, slaves, indentured servants and Native Americans. Some warned that the Constitution was a tyrannical document of the Few, and it only deepened the divisions of class, race, and gender.
Currently, the Many pay taxes on income, property, purchasing goods, fuel, and on services like education, water, electric, gas, waste disposal, phone, cable, etc... While many Americans are unemployed or losing their homes, it was just reported that General Motors Company CEO, Ed Whitacre, will receive a salary of $9 million this year. It is now estimated too that the wealthiest 1% of Americans now own 70% of the nation's wealth.
Ron Moore, of the Houston Examiner, uncovered how Whirlpool, which recently received $19 million from the government to stimulate the economy, will move its manufacturing plant in Evansville, Indiana to Mexico. Over 1,000 people will lose their jobs. Although it took many decades for the Bill of Rights to apply to the Many, there is still no reference to economic rights, which only concern the Few. This is why the first $700 billion stimulus package went to subsidize financial institutions, bankers, and corporate conglomerates.
Many laws and institutions in America have tragically failed, becoming structurally unjust and violent. It was regrettable that after spending his entire life working and trying to save, Stack believed violence was not only the answer, but the only answer. But then again, so does the present-day State. In a society that teeters on the brink of corporate domination and people power, monarchy and democracy, and tyranny and liberty, there will always be the freedom to do good or the freedom to be abusive for one's own selfish gains.
Jefferson believed that from time to time the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.(7) As in 1786, experts on the Right and Left will debate if this incident was a tax revolt or a domestic act of terrorism. Just like the current War On Terror, they will more than likely ignore the root causes of dehumanization, economic poverty, and loss of human dignity. However, one thing was certain: "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."