by John W. Whitehead
April 07, 2014
"To force a man to pay for the
violation of his own liberty
is indeed an addition of insult to
19th century advocate of American
The State Department wants $400,000 to
purchase a fiberglass sculpture of a camel looking at a needle for
its new embassy in Pakistan. They've already spent their allotted
$630,000 to increase the number of "likes" and fans on their
Facebook and Twitter pages.
The NATO ambassador for the U.S. needs
$700,000 for landscaping and gardening
The National Science Foundation would
like $700,000 to put on a theatrical production about climate change
The Senate staffers need $1.9 million
for lifestyle coaching
Yale University researchers could really
use $384,000 so they can study the odd cork-screw shape of a duck's
I promise this is no belated April Fools' joke.
These are actual line items paid for by American
taxpayers, whose tax dollars continue to be wasted on extravagant,
unnecessary items that serve no greater purpose than to fatten the wallets
of corporations and feed political graft (such as the $1 million bus stop,
complete with heated benches and sidewalks which can only shelter 15 people
and provides little protection from rain, snow, or the sun).
Case in point:
despite the fact that we have 46 million
Americans living at or below the poverty line, 16 million children
living in households without adequate access to food
at least 900,000 veterans relying on
food stamps, enormous sums continue to be doled out for presidential
vacations ($16 million for trips to Africa and Hawaii)
overtime fraud at the Department of
Homeland Security (nearly $9 million in improper overtime claims,
and that's just in six of the DHS' many offices)
Hollywood movie productions ($10 million
was spent by the Army National Guard on Superman movie tie-ins aimed
at increasing awareness about the National Guard)
This doesn't even touch on the astronomical
amounts of money spent on dubious wars abroad.
Since 2001, Americans have spent
$10.5 million every hour for numerous
foreign military occupations,
including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There's also the $2.2 million spent
every hour on maintaining the United States' nuclear stockpile
The $35,000 spent every hour to produce
and maintain our collection of Tomahawk missiles.
There's the money the government exports
to other countries to support their arsenals, at the cost of $1.61
million every hour for the American taxpayers.
Then there's the U.S. Supreme Court's recent
McCutcheon v. FEC, which reinforces a
government mindset in which the rights of the wealthy are affirmed by the
courts, while the rights of average, working class Americans are routinely
dismissed as secondary to corporate and governmental concerns.
Under the guise of protecting free speech,
a divided 5-4 Court did away with established limits on the number of
candidates an individual can support with campaign contributions.
In doing so, the justices expanded on the Court's landmark 2010 ruling in
Citizens United v. FEC, which not only gave
unfettered free speech rights to corporations but paved the way for
corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money promoting candidates,
especially presidential candidates.
What this does, of course, is turn the ballot
box into an auction block, wherein those who are "elected" to public office
are bought and paid for by those who can afford to support their campaigns -
namely, lobbyists, corporations and high-dollar donors.
(Then again, perhaps it will remain status quo.
According to a 2013 study by Trinity University, U.S. Senators do not take
into account the opinions and wishes of their lower class constituents.
Rather, their voting was aligned with their upper class constituents. This
dismissal of lower class opinion held true for both Republican and
Democratic Senators, themselves made up of millionaires.)
When all is said and done, what we are witnessing is the emergence of a
disconcerting government mindset that interprets the Constitution one way
for corporations, government entities and the wealthy, and uses a second
measure altogether for average Americans.
For example, contrast the Supreme Court's
affirmation of the "free speech" rights of corporations and wealthy donors
in McCutcheon and Citizens United with its tendency to deny those same
rights to average Americans when government interests abound, such as in its
2012 decision in
Reichle v. Howards, where a unanimous
Supreme Court allowed immunity protections for Secret Service agents to
trump the free speech rights of Americans, and you'll find a noticeable
Unfortunately, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The
Emerging American Police State, this constitutional double standard is
coming to bear in all aspects of our lives, not just in the realm of
campaign finance law.
It allows lobbyists intimate access to
our elected officials, while prohibiting Americans from even
standing silently in protest near a government building
It grants immunity to police officers
who shoot unarmed citizens, while harshly punishing Americans who
attempt to defend themselves, mistaking a SWAT team raid for a home
It gives government agents carte blanche
access to Americans' communications and activities, while allowing
the government to operate in secret, with secret hearings, secret
budgets and secret agendas
This is a far cry from how a representative
government is supposed to operate.
Indeed, it has been a long time since we could
claim to be the masters of our own lives.
Rather, we are now the subjects of a
militarized, corporate empire in which the vast majority of the citizenry
work their hands to the bone for the benefit of a privileged few.
Adding injury to the ongoing insult of having our tax dollars misused and
our so-called representatives bought and paid for by the moneyed elite, the
government then turns around and uses the money we earn with our blood,
sweat and tears to target, imprison and entrap us, in the form of
militarized police, surveillance cameras, private prisons, license plate
readers, drones, and cell phone tracking technology.
All of those nefarious deeds that you read about in the paper every day:
those are your tax dollars at work.
It's your money that allows for
government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text
messages, and your movements.
It's your money that allows
out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people's
homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road.
It's your money that leads to innocent
Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous
activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable
gardens, and trying to live off the grid.
Just remember the next time you see a news story
that makes your blood boil, whether it's a police officer arresting someone
for filming them in public, or a child being kicked out of school for
shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for
building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that
are paying for these injustices.
So what are you going to do about it?
There was a time in our history when our forebears said "enough is enough"
and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate
They stood their ground and refused to support a
system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and
which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people.
Their resistance sowed the seeds for the
revolution that would follow.
Unfortunately, in the 200-plus years since we established our own
government, we've let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats
muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we're back
where we started.
Once again, we've got a despotic regime with an
imperial ruler doing as they please. Once again, we've got a judicial system
insisting we have no rights under a government which demands that the people
march in lockstep with its dictates. And once again, we've got to decide
whether we'll keep marching or break stride and make a turn toward freedom.
What if we didn't just pull out our
pocketbooks and pony up to the federal government's outrageous
demands for more money?
What if we didn't just dutifully line up
to drop our hard-earned dollars into the collection bucket, no
questions asked about how it will be spent?
What if, instead of quietly sending in
our checks, hoping vainly for some meager return, we did a little
calculating of our own and started deducting from our taxes those
programs that we refuse to support?
If we don't have the right to decide what
happens to our hard-earned cash, then we don't have very many rights at all.
If they can just take from you what they want,
when they want, and then use it however they want, you can't claim to be
anything more than a serf in a land they think of as theirs.
This was the case in the colonial era, and it's
the case once again.