Kudos for your April 2004 issue on taxation (“Just Say No!”).  Thomas Fleming’s “Tax Slavery” (Perspective) and David Hartman’s “Revolting Taxation” (Views) were right on the mark.  I recently retired after 31 years and 8 months as a bottom-feeding, leg-breaking parasite (IRS revenue officer) for Godzilla, née Leviathan.  The main thing I learned over all those years is never to underestimate the servility of the American people.

Although public education (primarily training to love the unitary state) and mass entertainment (various levels of pornography) have contributed to this state of affairs, I believe that direct taxation of individual income is the main culprit.

Income taxation is founded on three legs.  The first and most important is the middle-class acceptance of the socialist ideology of envy, based on hatred of the rich.  The second leg is withholding at the source.  A more pernicious evil would be hard to dream up.  Who in his right mind would voluntarily pay over to the national government that which is taken by force?  And the third leg is punishment: swift, total, brutal, and, most of all, public.  Fear is a wonderful administrative tool for collecting taxes.

Since the Revenue and Restructuring Act of 1998, the last leg, punishment, has fallen on hard times.  Absent a few liens  and levies on wages and bank accounts, most of the pre-1998 enforcement has been suspended.  The IRS has taken a therapeutic road instead: We are a service; we are here to help you; we feel your pain; we’ll walk you through the process so you can pay your fair share of taxes; we’ll make the forms easier to understand; and so on, ad nauseam.

Rest assured, though, that the system is in no danger of collapse as long as the first leg remains a part of the middle-class psyche.  The second leg would be in danger only if large corporations and employers (the true tax collectors) stopped withholding.  That is unlikely to happen.  Besides, the punishment pendulum will swing back when Congress starts complaining that revenues have fallen.

I believe that the middle class can be weaned from individual income tax if they see alternative systems such as a Value-Added Tax or a national sales tax to be in their financial interest.  Until then, nothing will change.

The IRS is simply the process.  The real problem is the income tax itself, the cash cow of the political class.  As long as Americans waste their time complaining about and seeking to “reform” the IRS but do not ever question the philosophical basis of the income tax, the politicians are happy.  They dread the day when the middle class wakes up to their theft.

And remember the party line: We have a voluntary system of taxation in the United States!  Yeah, right.  Try telling that to the revenue officer who is taking your assets or the revenue agent who is auditing your income-tax returns.

        —Paul R. Peters
Sherman, CT