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Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Losing Faith in the Feds

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

"The majority of Americans say the government poses an immediate threat to individual rights and freedoms," stated CNN, summarizing the results of a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

"Fifty-six percent of people questioned say they think the federal government's become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens," explained CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser.

By party and ideology, a clear partisan divide was evident in the replies to the survey. Nearly 7 in 10 Republicans and 63 percent of Independents said that the federal government poses a threat to the rights of Americans, while only 37 percent of Democrats held that opinion regarding government (CNN didn't say what percent of Democrats are dependent on government checks for their basic sustenance, either via welfare or pensions or by way of paychecks for purportedly being "public servants").

For the upcoming November elections, that means that the majority of Democrats are fundamentally out of step with a country that's increasing sounding like Patrick Henry and Paul Revere.

We know what happened the last time a critical mass of self-reliant and independent people in this part of the world decided that the government was a threat to their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness: "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."

The king, with "a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states," had "erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."

What were taxes at the time, in 1776? "English taxes were in the range of 1 percent of income in most colonies, and possibly as high as 2.5 percent in the plantation colonies," writes author Gary North. "For this, they went to war."

Today, reports the Tax Foundation, "Americans pay more in taxes than they spend on food, clothing and housing combined."

On average, taxes ate up every cent we earned last year from January 1 through April 13, according to the Tax Foundation's analysis: "Tax Freedom Day answers the basic question, 'What price is the nation paying for government?' An official government figure for total tax collections is divided by the nation's total income. The answer last year is that taxes amounted to 28.2 percent of our income, and the stretch of 103 days from January 1 to April 13 is 28.2 percent of the year."

Add last year's unprecedented federal budget deficit to the total taxes collected and the cost of government moves to May 29. That's 41 percent of our total income to pay the price of government.

Thomas Jefferson thought it was time to grab the muskets off the wall at 1 percent.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich isn't happy about any of this unruly talk. He recently wrote that the guy who crashed the plane into the IRS offices in Austin sounded like a Tea Partier, and that the "Tea Party favorite for governor of Texas," Debra Medina, "reminded those at a rally that 'the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.' "

Rich didn't remind his readers that Medina was quoting Jefferson, the same Jefferson who said that things work best when it's the government that is afraid: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland

Phone: 412-527-2199

E-mail: rrreiland@aol.com

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