Reining in Fascism
If fascism exists in America -- and the IRS targeting the Obama Administration's political and religious foes, Department of Justice spying on AP reporters, labeling a Fox News journalist a felon, and the NSA collecting millions of Americans' phone records indicate it does -- how could it be changed to the republic established by the Constitution?
Fascist regimes in Europe were transformed in two major ways: (1) devastating defeat in war (Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy); (2) the leader's death (Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal). Defeat, followed by the western allies' occupation, delegitimized Hitler's and Mussolini's regimes and paved the way for democratic successors. (East Germany is another story.) Franco's and Salazar's deaths might not have been sufficient for democratic regimes to emerge in Spain and Portugal, but they were necessary.
The XXIInd Amendment to the Constitution -- assuming it will still apply -- ensures that Obama will be out of office after January 20, 2017. (There is, of course, no guarantee that the next president will be much different.)
Devastating defeat of the U.S. also poses possible problems. It might lead to throwing the baby --- the Constitution -- out with the bath water -- today's authoritarian regime.
If one seeks a reform that would do the most to undermine fascism, he/she ought to plump for a smaller government with limited power. (Fascism's essence is an omnipotent central government directing virtually every aspect of a nation's economy and society.) Crimp the central government's size and power, and you have begun lifting fascism's yoke off America's neck.
There are many ways to measure government's size and power, but three are: (1) how much it spends as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); (2) how much of a nation's wealth is taxed; and (3) how much of people's lives government regulates.
Federal spending rose from about 18% of GDP during most of the years between 1945 and 2008 to roughly 24% after 2009. If we add spending by state and local governments, the percentage of GDP going to the public sector rises to approximately 40. With Obamacare - which amounts to a federal seizure of one-sixth of the economy -- total local, state, and federal government spending will rise to 50% of GDP or more.
Spending on some topics, such as national defense, does not have the same consequence as spending on welfare state programs. We also need to look at other manifestations of big government.
Prior to ratification of the XVIth Amendment to the Constitution in 1913, there was no graduated income tax in the U.S. Congress had passed a graduated income tax in 1862, but the Supreme Court ruled such a tax unconstitutional in Pollack v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. (1895). The federal government's chief sources of revenue prior to the XVIth Amendment were tariffs and excise taxes.
Even with an income tax in effect, as the Civil War ended in 1865, only 10% of Union households paid some amount of income tax, and only 21% of all federal revenue came via that tax.
Much was made during the 2012 presidential campaign of Romney's lament that 47% of the public paid no federal income tax. Overlooked was the fact that, with the tax increase enacted on January 1, 2013, along with graduated state income taxes, some people pay over half their annual income in federal and state taxes. Remember the furor when professional golfer Phil Nicholson mused about leaving California because he would be paying 63% of his annual income in state and federal taxes?
The top federal income tax rate was much higher from World War II to the early 1980s, but loopholes in the tax code frequently meant that the incidence of taxation was much lower. Many of those loopholes were closed in 1986 and there is pressure to close even more. Some advocate, for example, elimination of tax deductions for interest on home mortgages.
In addition to income taxes, people pay Federal Insurance Contributions Act (F.I.C.A.) taxes that finance Social Security and Medicare. Presently, after a certain amount of income is taxed in any given year, the F.I.C.A. tax does not increase. Partly to forestall, or at least postpone, the Social Security's and Medicare's looming bankruptcy, some propose increasing the F.I.C.A. rate and leveling F.I.C.A. taxes on all income.
Government regulation should also be considered. James Sterling Young published The Washington Community, 1800-1828 in 1966. The book's message is that, in the Republic's early decades, the federal government had virtually no impact on the average citizen's life.
Things are drastically different now. As local, state, and national governments have grown, the private sector has dramatically shrunk. If "cap and trade" takes effect -- probably by Executive Order -- the "Nanny State" will be almost total.
The foregoing was the easy part; now for the hard part. Only the naïve believe that the following proposals will be easily accomplished. Nevertheless, changes must be made if we are to cleanse fascism from America.
Just about any proposal to curtail big government will dissatisfy someone, because somebody's ox will get gored.
Democrats, of course, will object. (How the party of JFK became the party of BHO is another issue. But it will have to be considered.) For now, leave Democrats aside. Later, we'll have to figure out how they can be defeated.
Let's return to the question of how seriously to reduce the federal government's power.
The quickest and best way to "tame the beast" is to "starve it." Severely restrict the federal government's revenue flow and the other facets of big government -- spending and regulating -- become manageable. Without the graduated income tax, for example, there wouldn't be huge sums to spend on frivolities such as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees' line dances.
While we're at it, abolish the IRS.
Severely limit government's revenue and "the beast" won't be able to regulate virtually every aspect of people's lives.
The perceptive reader will have grasped where this is headed: amend the U.S. Constitution by abolishing the XVIth Amendment.
(To be effective, of course, government needs some money. An Abrams tank, for example, isn't cheap.)
Some kind of tax will have to be found to replace the graduated personal income tax. My favorite -- and I know there will be criticism -- is a flat tax. Everyone, regardless of how much money he or she makes, pays the same percentage of her/his annual income in taxes.
That idea will probably engender this outburst: "You're mean!" Right! I push grandmothers in wheel-chairs off cliffs and give babies a Bronx cheer. (Don't ask me to harm a cat, a dog, or a horse, however. I have some scruples.)
By requiring every person to pay a flat tax, we diminish the "beast's" revenue flow, and we get another benefit. If everyone is paying something into government coffers, he/she may care about what it does and be motivated to take part in the political process.
Curtail big government and give ordinary people added motivation to pay attention to, and participate in, the governmental process. That may not get the U.S. all the way to constitutional government. But it's a start.