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Our Low-Tech Tax Code 691

Posted by Soulskill
from the the-taxman-tweeteth dept.
theodp writes "After establishing that nothing can excuse Joe Stack's murderous intentional plane crash into an IRS office, a NY Times Op-Ed explains the reference in Stack's suicide note to an obscure federal tax law — Section 1706 of the 1986 tax act — which the software engineer claimed declared him a 'criminal and non-citizen slave' and ruined his career. Interestingly, a decade-old NY Times article on Section 1706 pretty much agreed: 'The immediate effect of these [Section 1706] audits is to force individual programmers ... to abandon their dreams of getting rich off their high-technology skills.' Section 1706, the NYT Op-Ed concludes, 'is an example of how Congress enacted a discriminatory law that hurt thousands of technology consultants, their staffing firms and customers. And despite strong bipartisan efforts and unbiased studies supporting that law's repeal, it remains on the books.'"
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Our Low-Tech Tax Code

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  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @11:53AM (#31218762) Journal

    I remember when this law was passed. At the time, many large companies were switching to having huge numbers of contractors instead of regular employees. Uniformly, these companies denied any benefits, like health insurance. Job security was also lower. I personally did a lot of contract work at the time. After the law passed, the big companies were forced to hire most of those contractors, with benefits. I think this improved things generally all around. For some reason, full employment creates a bond of loyalty from the employee, and sometimes from the company, which is never there as a contractor. More programmers got health care. It was a good thing.

    As a contractor, I was not personally effected, because I was an actual contractor, with multiple clients, self-employment taxes, and all. All you need to not be effected by the law is to be an actual contractor.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:05PM (#31218848) Homepage

      What are you on?

      All this does is give the employee a false sense of security. The corporation is still going to think of you as disposable.

      Programmers should be able to buy their own health care without their employer being a part of the transaction.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        What are you on?

        All this does is give the employee a false sense of security. The corporation is still going to think of you as disposable.

        Programmers should be able to buy their own health care without their employer being a part of the transaction.

        Um, programmers, or anyone else CAN buy health care without their employers being part of the transaction. It's probably going to cost more because when we say that employers are "part of the transaction", that means they are paying for a large part of the transaction. There is no law that says you have to let them.

        • by jkgamer (179833) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:53PM (#31219214)

          Um, programmers, or anyone else CAN buy health care without their employers being part of the transaction. It's probably going to cost more because when we say that employers are "part of the transaction", that means they are paying for a large part of the transaction. There is no law that says you have to let them.

          Um! Have you ever tried to purchase insurance for just you and your family? Cost aside, many insurance companies will NOT insure you. Why? Because the risk is there that you will use those benefits. Insurance companies expect that a certain number of employees will NOT use their benefits and generate enough profit to outweigh the expenses of those that do. And if you have ANY pre-exsisting conditions or you've ever smoked a cigarette in your lifetime, they will just flat out deny you any coverage no matter what the cost, as a matter of policy. If you do find some obscure insurance company that will cover you, you can bet your life (not just figuratively speaking) that it will cost you an amount much much more than an employee and his/her employer's contribution for that policy.

        • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:58PM (#31219258)

          It's probably going to cost more because when we say that employers are "part of the transaction", that means they are paying for a large part of the transaction.

          A few items:

          • Individuals cannot be turned down (in the US) for membership in an employer-sponsored group. They can be turned down for individual insurance, and between 20 and 40% are.
          • See "risk pooling", and its impact on pricing; for "high-risk" individuals (like me, for having a 100% benign growth removed five years ago), this has far more impact than the presence or lack of an employer's partial payment into a plan.
        • by corbettw (214229) <.corbettw. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @01:16PM (#31219488) Journal

          You're forgetting the tax advantages of being part of an employer group. If you buy insurance on your own, you do so with after-tax dollars. If you buy through your employer, you do so with before-tax dollars, reducing your overall tax burden (and that of your employer, since their payroll taxes get a break). The Federal government caused the mess of a health care system we have, it strikes me as absurd to expect them to be able to fix it in any meaningful way.

        • by Courageous (228506) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @02:17PM (#31220200)

          Um. On google images search for the term "lol preexisting condition". Review the picture. That pretty well summarizes the state of healthcare in this country to individual procurers of healthcare. When you are covered by a large company's health plan, there are not preexisting condition limits.

          The only way this will ever fixed will be by fiat of law. The market has categorically failed.

          C//

          • chapter 8 (Score:4, Interesting)

            by epine (68316) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:24PM (#31223270)

            Chapter 8 of How To Save Jobs [usspi.org] contains a nice discussion of the U.S. health care system. Since David Gewirtz has kindly made this book free to download, I've taken the liberty of quoting more than I might otherwise, concerning bankruptcy and rescission (emphasis mine):

            Three-quarters had health insurance. Put those two numbers together. 60% of all bankruptcies in America were driven by people who couldn't pay their medical bills, most of whom actually had health insurance.

            ...

            Most insurers claim the rate of rescission is fairly small. In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Don Hamm, CEO of Assurant Health stated "Rescission is rare. It affects less than one-half of one percent of people we cover."

            And yet, according to a story by Karl Vick in the September 8, 2009 issue of the Washington Post:

            In the past 18 months, California's five largest insurers paid almost $19 million in fines for marooning policyholders who had fallen ill. That includes a $1 million fine against Health Net, which admitted offering bonuses to employees for finding reasons to cancel policies, according to company documents released in court.

            Amazing statistical coincidence that the rescission rate mirrors the relatively low rate in modern society of personal health catastrophe.

            Gewirtz is an odd duck, with significant background in both politics and technology. If your response to Gewirtz is to pigeon-hole him for easy target practice at one end or the other of the ideological spectrum, good luck with that. If he's as clever as I think he is, his misguiding jingoism on "buy American" could be cured by a close listen to Rustici on Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression [econtalk.org], another flawed discussion which nevertheless can not be resolved by means of a circular pigeon dance. In the end, I rejected about a quarter of what Rustici puts forward, but felt edified by the other three quarters.

            I'm about halfway through The Baroque Cycle [wikipedia.org] which has an an organizing theme tumult in the understanding of financial markets and the stability of credit and currency. If Neil's super-great (mostly paternal) granddaughter Nellie Stephenson were to write the Barack Cycle several hundred years from now, it would focus on the present tumult and disorder in our health insurance industry, with lobbyists in Washington taking center stage as the imposing yet perhaps doomed palace of Versailles.

            America fails to reform it's health care system because it is now in the late phase of the French disease, terminal narcissism. Debate rarely turns on what needs to be done until coinage runs short. From what I've read, mission accomplished. Will the American empire make it to the next gas station running on fumes? America is not to be underestimated, but far enough back, hard to believe, neither was France.

            These kinds of laws are a lot like Smoot-Hawley. The elite has a shallow hand-waving understanding of how this implicates tax revenue (shared by few of the wonks), while totally failing (with scant concern) to wrap their minds around the larger consequences.

            Fortunately, there are economies gaining steam in other corners of the world less set in their sumptitude, that sucking glissando you hear as you circle around the velvet drain pipe.

            In a vigorous nation, it might be prudent to fix this while time remains, starting with a cold hard look at some of these small fish nourishing larger ponds.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by burnin1965 (535071)

        I agree that the loyalty statements in the parent post perhaps went a bit too far, however, there is a big incentive for an employer to keep their employees but not contractors.

        Employers by law must pay FUTA to cover unemployment benefits. There are various factors that determine the rates an employer must pay but one of the factors is their history of employee lay offs.

        If an employer lays off employees their FUTA rate will go up and the cost of doing business will increase.

        If an employer cancels their cont

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by catfood (40112)

        The downside to buying your own health care (insurance) is that it's easy for the insurer to drop you as an individual if you start to cost too much. At least if you're on an employer group plan, they have to weigh the cost of losing the whole group.

    • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:12PM (#31218896) Homepage

      At the time, many large companies were switching to having huge numbers of contractors instead of regular employees.

      It's true, there were a lot of companies abusing the private contractor exemptions. Many were doing it blatantly.

      But now it's a handicap. There have been many times I could have stayed on with companies as a sub-contractor but they were afraid of getting dinged by the IRS.

      We need something in between the wild west days when everyone was a contractor and what we have today. There has to be a better solution.

    • Lower than what?? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:21PM (#31218962)

      I remember when this law was passed. At the time, many large companies were switching to having huge numbers of contractors instead of regular employees. Uniformly, these companies denied any benefits, like health insurance. Job security was also lower. I personally did a lot of contract work at the time. After the law passed, the big companies were forced to hire most of those contractors, with benefits.

      I remember that too. That was during The Bubble.

      And then after the bubble? Why most of those people were laid off. Only instead of being able to get by with smaller amounts of work the way mot people do, they spent years unemployed because they couldn't contract anymore and they couldn't find permanent work either.

      I don't know why on earth you would say "job security was lower" because contractors at least always had a defined term of work and only in the most extreme circumstances would you be able to get rid of them even if you as an employee thought they sucked. Meanwhile at any moment Hammer Of Rightsizing could come down on you as an employee.

      As for healthcare, there are a lot of people with spouses also working that can cover the health angle or you can opt to go with the catastrophic coverage (still pretty cheap) along with the tactic of setting aside something more than the $2-$3k deductible in a medical savings plan. Then you are covered for the big things but also can do the small stuff too if you want.

      • insurance games you (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @02:20PM (#31220248) Journal

        One thing everyone is forgetting about health insurance. They cheat. Insurance doesn't pay what they should, and they'll always have some excuse. They can outright deny your claims. More common is burying you in technicalities that somehow amount to them paying a good bit less than they ought while trying to convince you and the doctors that they've paid their share. Watch Sicko sometime, and try not to let any bias you may harbor about the director interfere with the message.

        First thing you know is the hospital is hitting you with one of their fantasy bills for something you thought was covered. You think you're only on the hook for 10% of the 30% of the completely scandalous list price the insurance negotiated when they entered into an agreement with the doctors. But then they won't pay it. They give you and the hospital a load of crap about how some of the drugs and procedures aren't approved, the visit is classified in a certain way, the particular deductible hasn't been met yet. They've got a mile long list of excuses. Denied by insurance, the hospital has the gall to turn around and demand from you not just the 30% the insurance was supposed to pay, no, but the full 100%, because of course you don't have any such agreement with the hospital. Pretty big jump when your share of the bill changes from 3% to 100%. I've had the hospital harassing me with weekly calls and finally siccing a credit collection agency on me for a bill that the insurance bastards should have and finally did pay after much determined calling and calling and calling and waiting on hold and waiting while they "investigate" and waiting for supervisors and listening to them blame the hospital for entering incorrect codes (to which I replied that it was the insurance's fault if they'd made the system too complicated for the doctors to get right), and angrily refusing when they try to tell me I should just pay up and stop making trouble. Cost me a lot of time to straighten out just one-- so much time that maybe I could have earned as much or more money than what the insurance tried to cheat me out of. I have several others that look like they're never going to be paid. And they didn't surface until more than a year after the medical work was all done-- that's how long the hospital tried to get fully paid through the insurance. To be fair, the hospital shares a good bit of the blame for their outrageous billing practices, in particular, the miserable fee for service system with the completely insane rates that somehow can't be figured out in a timely fashion because they've got to pack it with every service they can. Decided I was through arguing about it all and am just letting the rest rot. Statute of limitations FTW!

        You may even have to find a lawyer to threaten to sue the damned insurance company.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      Uuuummm... Yes. That’s why in Germany, it is illegal to be a “contractor” with only one single client. Which means you already have to start with more than one, to not become illegal when starting your self-employment.

      I never got why anyone would work as a contractor for only one client anyway. Isn’t the whole point of being a contractor, that you have more than one client, and that if one of them is a dick, you can say fuck you, and still work for your other clients? (= “fire

  • Sounds familiar? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:06PM (#31218852)

    From TFA: In an earlier interview, Tom Burger, the director of employment taxes for the I.R.S., said one of the agency's difficulties ''is that, and I need to pick my words carefully, Congress passes laws, often without asking us about them, and then tells us to enforce them.''

    Translation: Politicians make laws without knowing jack about the consequences and not even bothering to ask those that could tell them what kind of can of worms they are about to open. And then they're too pussy to admit they blundered.

    Sounds familiar? A law gets passed that should cure some problem with the economy and the only thing it accomplishes is to cause troubles where there were none before while the problem continues to exist.

    If I get that right, the law aimed at eliminating the "fake freelancing", where companies pretty much forced programmers into freelancing instead of hiring them, resulting in cheaper labour for them and shifting the risk and insurance burden on their not-quite-really-employee. Now, that still exists, with programmers now being passed about like slaves by temp agencies where they enjoy little less risk or much more insurance while at the same time losing their freedom entirely, while those companies still get the cheap programming labour they wanted, and at the same time the whole deal also keeps those programmers that are good and sought after enough to actually be (really) self employed and successful at it from actually being this.

    Sounds very familiar...

  • Enjoy corporatism (Score:3, Informative)

    by unity100 (970058) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:07PM (#31218868) Homepage Journal

    this is how it happens :

    - you let individuals or groups to amass unlimited wealth

    - eventually some reach the wealth level with which they can influence democratic processes or representatives

    - the first individuals or groups to reach the above level start protecting their interests in lieu of everyone else

    - laws do not work against this, because if you can influence democracy and its representatives, you can MAKE laws, as in the current example we are discussing (contract law)

    - 'the people' get the shaft

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:09PM (#31218878) Homepage
    The more interesting part of the tax provision was that it was introduced by Patrick Moynihan as a favor to IBM. A $60m tax cut type of favor. I'm not saying Joe was right in what he did, but it is rather apparent that to be noticed by government, you must either be insanely rich or insanely violent.
    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:18PM (#31218930)

      but it is rather apparent that to be noticed by government

            Speaking of which, I notice an uncanny lack of reporting over this incident. It exploded across the internet, but not really through the formal news channels. CNN, which covered the plane crash of a fighter jet into a residential neighborhood for DAYS with live footage, etc, only mentioned the crash briefly in their reports and on their website had only one small link that took you to the story.

            But oh God, Tiger Woods just farted so let's dedicate a good 25% of each hour to THAT.

            It's hard to avoid thinking that the government somehow "asked" the press to downplay this, and the press is complying. Just like you never really hear about the WARS anymore... This is the New World Order. Hell if it wasn't for the internet, all the news we'd get would be about Angelina, Brad and Tiger.

      • by freeweed (309734) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:53PM (#31219202)

        Well, let's face it - Stack was a white American, so you can't drum up the "damn Islamic foreigners" angle.

        Plus, he's demonstrated quite nicely just how pointless most airport security is these days. I'm pretty sure he didn't have to go through a full-body scanner, and yet once again a terrorist has managed to crash a plane into an office building.

        Some random Arab kid screws up even *trying* to crash a plane, and it's news for weeks, with subsequent major overhauls of government practices and even the President getting involved. Some random white American SUCCESSFULLY crashes a plane, into a civilian target, and we get a brief mention one night. Double standards, what are those?

        I was also disappointed that Slashdot didn't post anything at the time (at least, this is the first story I've seen). Guy was a computer programmer, so there's the nerd angle. Plus, this site has been obsessed with any story hinting of this since 9/11.

      • by fishexe (168879) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:53PM (#31219212) Homepage

        Speaking of which, I notice an uncanny lack of reporting over this incident. It exploded across the internet, but not really through the formal news channels. CNN, which covered the plane crash of a fighter jet into a residential neighborhood for DAYS with live footage, etc, only mentioned the crash briefly in their reports and on their website had only one small link that took you to the story.

        Are you watching the same media I am? My CNN (you know, the one on the actual TV, not the one in your head) had nothing but the Stack crash for several hours on the day that it happened, including live footage of the outside of the building for as long as that was available. Then continued to mention it several times every time I've turned CNN on since then. MSNBC and Fox News have been covering it quite a bit as well.

        But oh God, Tiger Woods just farted so let's dedicate a good 25% of each hour to THAT.

        That's a good point. But when they also devote 30% of every hour to Stack, that pretty much kills your argument.

        It's hard to avoid thinking that the government somehow "asked" the press to downplay this, and the press is complying.

        Ok, now you're just trolling. We've already established your premise is false.

  • Double-Standard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:14PM (#31218902)
    Substitue "Mohammed al-Mohammed" for "Joe Stack" and "Section 1706 of the 1986 tax act" with "United Nations General Assembly Resolution 46/86" and you'll see what you folks are all doing - you're making up excuses for a terrorist because he happens to share your political views. This guy was a fundamentalist libertarian terrorist.
    • Re:Double-Standard (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:23PM (#31218976)

      This AC needs modded up.

      Just because the guy hated the same things as other libertarians that does not make him less of a terrorist nutbag.

      • Re:Double-Standard (Score:4, Informative)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:54PM (#31221238)

        One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. Always has been, always will be. What's more, the only way that that question is settled is by who wins the war. If the revolutionaries win the war, the Freedom Fighters stay Freedom Fighters. If the government wins, the Terrorists stay Terrorists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArcherB (796902)

      This guy was a fundamentalist libertarian terrorist.

      BZZZZTTTT! Libertarians don't go around quoting Marx.

      Sorry. Try again.

      • Re:Double-Standard (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ardeaem (625311) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:53PM (#31219206)

        This guy was a fundamentalist libertarian terrorist.

        BZZZZTTTT! Libertarians don't go around quoting Marx.

        Sorry. Try again.

        Glen Beck goes around quoting "progressives." Does that make him a progressive?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Glen Beck is little more than a political comedian. It's not his fault that progressives seem to say the funniest (in a scarry way) things.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fishexe (168879)

        This guy was a fundamentalist libertarian terrorist.

        BZZZZTTTT! Libertarians don't go around quoting Marx.

        Sorry. Try again.

        Sure they do. Makes them sound well-read.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by delt0r (999393)
        I was under the impression that libertarians can go around quoting who ever they want.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheSpoom (715771)

      So we can't objectively identify whether or not he had a point?

      Obviously terrorism is evil and should be stopped, but it doesn't mean we should shut off our brains.

    • Re:Double-Standard (Score:4, Insightful)

      by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:47PM (#31219164) Homepage
      Was he a "fundamentalist libertarian"? His manifesto laments the state of health care in this country. He bashes organized religion, though I think that may be residue from his attempt at one time to start a religion as means of not paying taxes. Lastly, he may have had libertarian leanings, but if so, I'd doubt he was a fundamentalist -- fundamentalists become republicans because of their desire to control people while Libertarians would rather leave people alone. Somehow, I think you are having a knee jerk reaction and stringing together every term you find derogatory.
    • Re:Double-Standard (Score:4, Insightful)

      by freeweed (309734) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:58PM (#31219254)

      I bet Stack didn't even have his water bottle confiscated at security. No wonder he was able to crash a plane!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by techhead79 (1517299)

      No this was not terrorism, here is why.

      It was a lone act by one person and there is no expectation of repeated acts by his group or him. Terrorism implies pushing a goal for a group through repeated violent actions....hence the terror part. If he were to say blow up that building and then send in a letter saying he will continue this until he gets what he wants then yeah that would be terrorism. Repeated acts of violence to push an agenda is terrorism. A lone act by one person that can not or will never com

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:18PM (#31218932)

    If it was part of this nutjob's manifesto, now if Congress repeals the law it will look like the government can be swayed by terrorism. Since the government never ever wants to appear to be that way, this law will now have to remain on the books forever.

    Way to go.

  • by swb (14022) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:25PM (#31218994)

    The question I have is whether this guy is the tip of the iceberg or whether he's just another wing nut who can't admit when he's lost whatever argument he got in.

    He does make some complaints in his screed about the kinds of issues that even rational people are worried about -- big government, big corporations and a "system" that feels stacked against individuals; some of these issues have been kicking around among conspiracy theorists and paranoids forever, yet a Treasury run by ex-bankers that loans out a trillion dollars to bankers and others who make sure the banks get paid is only too real.

    Is unemployment and the rest of it going to create more of these guys?

    • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @01:24PM (#31219586)

      He blamed 'politicians, the Catholic Church, the "unthinkable atrocities" committed by big business and the government bailouts' for his own failures to reach his goals. This is classic schizophrenic behavior, it is delusions of grandeur. With delusions of grandeur, you are convinced you are the most amazing person in the world and you should be able to succeed at anything. When you don't succeed, you start finding reasons as to why. And since you're convinced you are the best, you start at the top, because clearly it takes powerful forces to keep a great man like you down.

      So you blame any powerful group. The government, big religion and big business.

      My uncle had the same symptoms. He had all his genius ideas written down and the government was trying to steal them (physically!). He wrote to Kofi Annan (the head of the UN) to tell him that George Tenet (the head of the CIA) was in the building across the street spying on him. This is how these delusions work. Not only is the government out to get you, but the important people in the government are involved!

      So what makes these guys? Well, primarily their own mental illness. The media has a role (previously lore did) in helping them choose the bad guys who they are going to list as out to get them. But the media doesn't create them, they'd just select other enemies if the media changed their tune.

  • by originalhack (142366) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:31PM (#31219038)

    The issue with this would impact someone who forms his own contracting firm and starts to deduct business expenses like getting from home to the job site, home office costs, etc... If he is later declared to be an employee, all those deductions get disallowed and he owes the back taxes. I suspect that, if he incorporated and paid himself mostly by distributions, he also paid his taxes at capital gains rates instead of the wage rates. That's a privilege restricted to lawyers, doctors, financial consultants, investment fund managers, and corporate officers.

    Now, originally, the law's effect would have been balanced by the way that it kept companies like Microsoft and IBM from just making everyone a contractor to remove benefits, but the corporation quickly figured out that they could use temp agencies as a middle-man. It wasn't until a major lawsuit in the late 1990s that companies became sensitive to the idea that if it walks like a duck (employee) and quacks like a duck (employee), then it is a duck (employee) that can sue you for benefits. After that suit, many companies started brining contractors back on the payroll to avoid later class action claims.
  • Boo hoo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @12:41PM (#31219110)

    Yeah this poor guy could only afford a nice house and a plane. Just imagine, without that terrible law, he could have been able to afford a two engine plane and a slightly nicer house!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iammani (1392285)
      For all we know the guy may have so much debt, that his net worth is 0 (or in other words bankrupt).

      Just the devils advocate.
  • by Alan R Light (1277886) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @01:03PM (#31219296)

    I was traveling through airports when I happened to see this story on the news, so I haven't caught up on all the details, but one thing disturbed me: the lying heads went on and on about how mentally disturbed this man must have been, and how could we identify such mentally disturbed people in the future, but never once did they ponder whether this was a rational response to an untenable situation. Never once did they question the role of a convoluted, maddening, and probably illegal tax code.

    It is difficult living in a country where there is little rule of law because the multitude and complexity of laws makes virtually everyone eligible for a felony conviction at the arbitrary whim of unaccountable government officials. If Mr Stack had run into such persecution his response may well have been the only rational one. What other avenues were open to him to escape from the situation? Good riot police know that they should never cut off an angry crowd's escape routes, as they will have no choice but to fight, and most of us have heard of the dangers of a cornered animal, but what opportunities did Mr Stack have to avoid what he (probably accurately) described as a kind of slavery?

    In short, if Mr Stack had no viable alternatives, or if he was feeling especially patriotic, this response may not have been irrational. If all his friends and colleagues never suspected that he was insane, it may be because he wasn't. The fact that his suicide note was angry and used profanity does not necessarily mean that Mr Stack was mentally unbalanced - it may simply mean that he had good cause to be angry. If someone tried to enslave you, would you be angry? Would you say some naughty words? If so, does that mean that you are wrong or mentally ill to object to being enslaved, or does it mean that the bastard who is trying to enslave you is wrong?

    The fact is, all Americans have become or are becoming the slaves of the United States government, which in turn has become the instrument by which those who take more than they give (at present 60% of Americans) have harnessed the productive classes for their own benefit. This is the tyranny of the majority, and it looks like it will only increase in the future. Talking to people overseas, I have met many who envy American wealth but none who envy American "freedom".

    The fact that the lying heads on the News never addressed this question concerns me. The American media is no longer interested in discovering the truth, they merely do the bidding of their employers - and with the U.S. government being the largest advertiser, guess who their employers are? It may well be that Mr Stack really WAS crazy, but we will never learn the truth from the media.

    • I would point you to Three Felonies a Day [amazon.com] by Harvey Silverglate.

      Silverglate should have a great deal of appeal here. He was deeply involved in the ACLU, was a founding member of FIRE, and was the first litigation counsel for the EFF.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RGRistroph (86936)

      Stack's note claims that his problems stem from $12,000 in unreported income that his wife had, and a piano that had been claimed as a business expense or asset that the IRS said was not. He also mentioned having his retirement reset to 0, but hey, that's about as common as having freckles or wearing glasses.

      This caused him to destroy a house worth $250,000 and a plane that is probably worth $20,000 to $40,000. The unpaid tax on $12,000 might have been $4,000 at most, maybe doubled with penalties especial

  • Simple solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @01:09PM (#31219364) Journal

    Gross receipts tax. It's like a VAT, but on everything you receive. No deductions, no exemptions, no exclusions. Applies to everyone with a tax ID (i.e. persons and corporations). Double taxation for small businesses? Yup - you get the protection of the government via corporate veil, you pay the extra. (disclaimer - I own an S corp - I would be double taxed)

    Then it doesn't matter what is deductable. It doesn't matter how you make it or where it comes from - gifts, cap gains, interest, wages, inheritance. It favors local production (fewer middlemen). It's easy to administer. Everybody pays something.

    It does not, however, allow for social tinkering via the tax code, so it will never be adopted.

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