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To start a fire

Will Kesler
Aspen, CO Colorado

As the Aspen Institute hosts the Bill of Rights Symposium, I propose the following be consid­ered.

The First Amendment to our Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establish­ment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Petition for a redress of grievances? For the first time in our history a court is currently determining the mean­ing of one of the five individual rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. This essential litigation originated in 1999 when the We the People Foundation petitioned the president, the IRS commissioner and other high officials to send representatives to the National Press Club to answer questions regarding the illegal enforcement of income tax. C-SPAN covered the event live; our govern­ment refused to attend.

For the next five years, the foundation repeatedly ran full-page ads in national newspapers and petitioned every member of Congress and key officials for redress of grievances. The record covers thousands of pages of legal research and repeated petitions sent to officials without response.

The grievance includes the most fundamental ques­tion a citizen can pose to his/her government: a simple request that our government merely identify the statute in the IRS Code that requires a citizen to file an income tax return. Reasonable enough, rationally within the intent of the First Amendment, and yet ominously unan­swered by our gov­ernment, which claims ” sovereign immunity” and remains silent. Yet, paradoxically, the petition has been answered scores of times. The director of the Alcohol and Tobacco Division of the IRS testified, under oath, before Congress that ” Your income tax is 100 percent voluntary tax, and your liquor tax is 100 percent enforced tax. Now the situa­tion is as different as night and day.” In its 1971 annual report, the IRS declared that “Each year American taxpayers voluntary file their tax returns and make a special effort to pay the taxes they owe.” There is no legal definition of a “spe­cial effort,” and the IRS itself coined the nonsensical phase “based on voluntary compliance.”

Time and again the Supreme Court has ruled against income tax. Here is, perhaps, their most salient ruling. In Brushaber v. Union Pacific, the landmark case regarding the 16th Amendment, the Court ruled that a new, direct taxing power would “cause one provision of the Consti­tution to destroy another.” And “If acceded to would create radical and destructive changes to our Constitu­tional system.”

The Supreme Court continued, as one-third of our federal government declared “Taxation on income was in its nature an excise [indirect] tax, entitled to be enforced as such.” All doubt is dispelled in light of a subsequent ruling. Quote: “The 16th Amendment con­ferred no new power of taxation but simply prohibited the previous complete and plenary power of income tax­ation from being taken out of the category of indirect taxation to which it inherently belonged.” (Stanton v. Baltic Mining Co.) The Harvard Law Review (Volume 29, pages 536-8) confirms our democracy’s demise: “In Brushaber, Mr. Chief Justice White, upholding the income tax construed the Amendment as a declaration that an income tax is ‘indirect,’ rather than making an exception to the rule that direct taxes must be apportioned.” The Constitution mandates that an indirect tax must be uniform; income tax is not.

Thus it is apparent that if filing an income tax return is required by law, that law would be in direct conflict with the above, and many other, Supreme Court deci­sions. Therefore, there is no law, no one can find one, and the government refuses to identify one in an open, public forum. Meanwhile, it compels citizens to pay income tax by terrorizing us, stealing our possessions and throwing us into prison if we don’t volunteer. This is tyranny, and it must be confronted if we are to regain our democracy.

Recently, in a critical case, a federal court held Irwin Shiff’s motion to dis­miss for over a year. Then, just hours before his trial, dismissed his every argument, including the above, as “friv­olous.” Without identifying a single false, misleading or fraudulent sentence the court banned his book for sale. And finally, instead of quoting the law that requires a citizen to file Judge Dawson simply instructed the jury that one exists and then threw Irwin, a true patriot, into prison, where he resides to this day.

If Americans cannot constrain their government to obey the law as it col­lects taxes, then all is lost. It is evident that our elected officials are too corrupt to confront this, perhaps fatal, threat to democracy. Our only hope may be in a single sentence that grants “We the Peo­ple” the right to petition for redress of grievances. If our government is forced to answer and thus obey the Constitu­tion say farewell to income tax and a host of other unconstitutional disasters.

If not, grab the Constitution in one hand, a gun in the other and head for the hills. You can use the paper to start a fire.


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