Baltimore City Paper

Taking Back Our Country for Tax Fraudsters

I got an e-mail yesterday from an old volleyball teammate with this link and the expressed hope "that she hits the charts with it." My former teammate seems a very normal American Citizen, with a job and a family, a little house, and a backyard grill. This guy is apolitical, in other words, and the tune he sent looks like a benign enough country tune in the "Okie from Muskogee" vein, with a vaguely threatening chorus promising that we're taking our country back, and if that don't sound good to you, "let us help you pack." But beneath its twangy grin? The Militia! And behind them? Grubby little tax cheats. If you follow the links on the signs in the video you arrive at  the Mesa County 2nd Amendment Task Force and Restore Colorado. Both are Tea Party-related sites with a militia-heavy emphasis, and so help us trace the continuum from merely "concerned citizens" to radical, right-wing stuff, and finally to the fraud at its base. The Mesa County 2nd Amendment Task Force endorses and links to the "Articles of Freedom" [here is the PDF] produced last November by the "Continental Congress 2009," wherein "delegates representing each of the 48 states convened . . . at Pheasant Run in St. Charles, Illinois to . . . decide a plan to restore Constitutional Governance in the United States." If you never heard of this momentous event, don't feel bad. It rated fewer than 30 mentions in the "liberal media," according to a Lexis-Nexis search I just did. Then again, if the newspapers wrote big features on every gathering of batshit wingnuts, the media would be full of nothing but batshit wingnuttery, with no room in the news cycle for Lady Gaga or the stock market. I'm not saying that would be a bad thing, either, as the mentions of this event I reviewed tended to miss the salient fact about the gathering and its ringmaster (more on him below). Why do I dismiss this fine citizens' gathering as batshit? Let us take one example. Among the Articles' supposed facts: The federal income tax is illegal. As the Articles of Freedom states:

This is not a new position—anti-government zealots have been claiming this for generations. They're wrong. The income tax was properly ratified, federal withholding is constitutional, and this question has been adjudicated many times, with each judge coming to the same conclusion. Given that, why does the claim survive among right-wing militia groups and in other circles? Because there is a huge tax-fraud industry that is based on the claim, with hundreds or even thousands of people profiting. (Lynn Merideth, for instance,


by selling books and kits promoting tax scams). They profit because the laws against tax fraud are so seldom and so spottily enforced that most people filing with these bogus claims get away with it for many years, giving false credence to the claims of the fraudsters that they have the correct interpretation of the law. The problem, ironically, is not that the IRS is too tough on tax protesters—it's that the government is too lenient, and so that allows these bogus claims to grow in popularity. This is all explained, using named defendants and numbered cases, by David Cay Johnston in his book,

Perfectly Legal.


The income-tax error is just one of the problems with the "Articles of Freedom." It also advocates the controversial practice of "jury nullification," return of the "gold standard," and the rescinding of all federal gun laws. But perhaps the document's most batshit clauses revolve around the subject of President Barack Obama's birthplace and citizenship. In short, delegates to last fall's "Continental Congress" in Illinois were birthers, convinced that Obama is a foreign national. Among the shaky evidence cited is Executive Order 13489, under which birthers claim Obama exempted release of his birth certificate. In fact, the order only applies to presidential records created by his administration and under control of the National Archives. Debunking birther arguments, of course, is a fool's errand. No committed birther will hear facts that run contrary to his or her narrative (and will likely denounce such facts as "liberal" propaganda). The right-wing movement in the U.S. has been with us always—from the "No-Nothings" of the re-Civil War period to the John Birch Society; from the KKK to, well, the KKK. A a mix of ignorance, jingoism, and fascistic fantasy has always animated the far fringe in American politics. What is scary today is the size of it, and the degree to which some of the right's most noxious, crazy, and dangerous ideas have infiltrated even well-meaning apolitical types. Look, folks, we're all against our bribed Congress and the nutzo bailouts they've engineered for the criminal class. But the way to fix this is not by marching in lock-step with a more blue-collar, angrier criminal class

that doesn't actually oppose them

. Undertaxing the super-rich has arguably contributed to the mess we're in, both by lowering government revenues and by creating the so-called "Masters of the Universe," whose incentive is to maximize short-term gain. The grubby little tax-cheat seminar business you see tabling at all the "patriot" and Tea Party confabs is just an example of the little guy trying to ape what the bigwigs do, and abetting them in the process. The

is a subsidiary of

, which was founded by Robert Schulz, an infamous tax protestor. Schulz (a.k.a. Schultz) has been unsuccessfully suing the IRS for years, and his foundation(s) have been enjoined from promoting his tax scams (here's a

). What's left for him is to try to create a "movement" in his support (donations accepted, natch) and this "constitutional convention" appears to be his broad tent—a way to sign up as supporters everyone from illegal immigrant haters to bailout haters to Libertarians generally. I just hope my volleyball buddy isn't sending him money.