The Fourth of July is coming up fast — it’s on July 4 this year — and to commemorate that special day 231 years ago when the Founding Fathers slapped together this great nation of ours, one New Hampshire couple is insisting that the U.S. government has no right to make them pay taxes. They’ve hunkered down in their house, armed themselves to the teeth, and declared they would sooner die than pay up. Live free or die, indeed!
It is patriotic Americans like these who remind us how great it is to live in a country where you have the freedom to be a complete jackass if you want to. In many countries, they would have been shot dead already by government agents, their bodies dragged through the nearest town square and nailed to the city gates. Germany, for example. But because this is America, the government agents are waiting until juuuuust the right moment to raid the house and kill everyone inside, Waco-style. Because here in America we have a little thing called freedom.
The couple, Ed and Elaine Brown, were convicted in January of failing to pay taxes on nearly $2 million of income between 1996 and 2003. In April, they were sentenced in absentia to 63 months in prison — in absentia because while the court was making its ruling, the Browns were holed up in their house, where they say they have enough guns, food, and supplies to live indefinitely, if you can call that “living.”
The Browns’ contention is that there is no actual law requiring people to pay income tax. In Ed Brown’s own words: “There is no law. We looked and looked.”
Now, you’re thinking they must not have looked very hard, because it’s right there in the Sixteenth Amendment: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.” The Browns clearly love the First and Second Amendments; how come they be all hatin’ on the Sixteenth?
Well, you see, according to the Browns and their ilk, “income” only refers to gains — profits, in other words. The salary that you get paid for doing your job, that doesn’t count, because you’re being paid for your time, and the government can’t tax you on your time.
Or if that reasoning doesn’t hold up, which it obviously doesn’t, then the Sixteenth Amendment is invalid because it was never properly ratified, because some states ratified it with slightly different punctuation or with spelling errors. I’m not making that up, either. That’s really one of the excuses the tax protesters give.
All of this rationale, of course, was done in reverse order. It wasn’t that someone was looking at the laws for some other reason, happened to notice a discrepancy, connected the dots, and said, “Hey! We’ve been paying taxes all this time EVEN THOUGH THE LAWS ARE INVALID!!” It was that people didn’t want to pay taxes, so they went looking for reasons why they shouldn’t have to — and hey, what do you know, after a lot of tortured logic and flawed reasoning, they found something! It’s like the religious nuts who make up their beliefs first, then go looking in the Bible for something to support it.
The Browns surely have a lot of sympathizers when it comes to not wanting to pay taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes. Many of us are grateful for modern technology like TurboTax, where the software asks you questions and you answer them, and if it ends up saying you owe more money than you want to pay, you can go back and change your answers until you get a result you like. It’s like having your own dishonest accountant, right there in your computer!
Nonetheless, we understand that we have to pay taxes whether we like it or not. If we’re passionate about it, we can work to change the tax laws, either by persuading our elected officials to institute reform, or by electing new representatives who will do so. None of that will work, of course, and we’ll still have to pay taxes, BUT STILL! We will have participated in the democratic process.
If you’re thinking of joining the Browns in their cause, however, you might consider some of the other things Ed Brown has been saying. In a press conference in front of his house on June 21, he said there’s no way he can get a fair trial in federal court because “the court system falls under freemasonry.”
“There [are] no longer any lawful courts,” he said, according to ABC News. “The Freemasons have taken over our nation….[Freemasons want] to take over our nation and all nations on the planet.”
Oooooo-kay then. At least he’s not blaming the Jews.
But wait! Yes he is! He said in early June that this business of trying to arrest him is part of a “Zionist, Illuminati, Freemason movement.” That’s right, the Jews, the Illuminati, and the Masons are all in this together. They secretly run our country — which, if true, means the Jews, the Illuminati, and the Masons are woefully incompetent. Of course, it’s the Jews and the Freemasons who have to do the bulk of the work, since the Illuminati don’t … you know … exist.
So it would appear that the Browns are crazy, or that Ed Brown is, anyway; Elaine doesn’t seem to say very much. But crazy or not, the Browns are dead serious about not paying taxes. Listen to what Ed told the U.S. marshals outside his property: “Do not under any circumstances make any attempt on this land,” he said in that press conference, carrying a pistol in his waistband. “We will not accept any tomfoolery by any criminal element, be it federal, state, or local. We either walk out of here free, or we die.”
Do you hear that, federal officers? Ed Brown will abide no tomfoolery! I say that’s all well and good, Mr. Brown, but what about shenanigans? What about hijinks? What is your stance on escapades and buffoonery? How strange that you should take such a firm anti-tomfoolery position yet remain silent on the matter of hooliganism, not to mention monkeyshines!
The U.S. marshals have cut off the Browns’ electricity, phone, and Internet access in the hopes that they’ll become uncomfortable enough to surrender. (If it were me, they’d have me at “Internet access.”) The Browns have generators, but those can only last for so long. Nonetheless, the Browns say they are never coming out, and the marshals have said they have no intention of raiding the home guns a-blazin’, probably because it is extremely likely that the Browns, being militia-minded lunatics, have more weapons than the government does.
Either way, both sides are in for the long haul. The feds say they’ll wait until the Browns surrender. The Browns say they will never surrender, that the government will have to pry the back taxes from their cold, dead hands. I say I’m bored with the story already. Wake me up when somebody gets shot.
Something I discovered in my research: The more favorably a website speaks of the Browns, the more likely that site is to call them "the Brown's," with the errant apostrophe. Is there a connection between the lack of fundamental writing skills and the belief in crazy conspiracy theories? Maybe the Zionist/Illuminati/Freemason conspiracy WANTS you to use apostrophes correctly, and that's why some Brown supporters refuse.
Oh, and the Browns have a MySpace page, which they've been unable to update since the siege began. You should totally be their friends! LOLZ!
The line about how the "Founding Fathers slapped together this great nation of ours" is a throwback to an old "Snide Remarks" column from 2001, where my use of that terminology so enraged one Sue Maxwell of Provo that she got her neighbors to sign a petition demanding an apology. (I recently named her letter, and others in response to that column, to be among my favorite angry letters of all time.) I used the "slapped together" line one other time, just a few weeks after the first time, but Sue Maxwell didn't take the bait. If you happen to know Sue Maxwell of Provo, please make sure she sees today's column. Thanks.
Oh! And I almost forgot to mention that I had a ridiculously fun time writing the "tomfoolery" paragraph. That group of synonyms for "mischief" is one of my favorite word clusters. Probably my most favorite, though, is the list of words to describe a public fight: brouhaha, fracas, melee, donnybrook, fisticuffs, skirmish, ruckus, rumpus, etc. An old college roommate and I once determined that it's not technically a "brouhaha" unless pies are being thrown, but I don't know if that's universally accepted.