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Taxing story

Why WORLD isn't spending time covering income-tax protesters

Issue: "Passing the Olympic torch," Sept. 4, 2004

It is hard enough to hear from WORLD's ideological opponents that our editorial choices and approach deliberately misrepresent the truth. When we hear that from our friends, it's much harder to take.

Yet it has been some of WORLD's very best and most loyal friends who suggest that we, along with the mainstream media, have been regularly ignoring good stories-and thereby withholding important information from our readers.

Specifically, my mailbox has been increasingly full of protests from folks who say WORLD has consistently ignored important stories about the tax-protest movement. For such people, it isn't just the narrow issue of whether the federal income tax as we all know it is legal. David Zuniga of Laredo, Texas, says that however uncomfortable and unpopular the subject might seem, "there are manifold issues connected to the income-tax scam and the industry it built over [the last] 90 years. . . . America was hijacked and given a socialist, statist mindset."

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So why, Mr. Zuniga wants to know, didn't WORLD do a story about Dick Simkanin of Arrow Plastics in Texas, who has refused to withhold taxes for his employees? "After two grand juries would not indict him," says Mr. Zuniga, "the judge kept on his trail until he could put him behind bars." WORLD should have put a reporter on this, says our friend, reviewed the trial transcript, and told you about "a textbook case of a directed jury verdict."

And why hasn't WORLD covered the travails of Larken Rose of Pennsylvania, one of the leaders of the Tax Honesty Movement? Why not tell about how Mr. Rose began shipping 300,000 minidiscs of a 55-minute exposé of the so-called income-tax scam? Why not tell how IRS and Treasury troopers raided his house a little more than a year ago, and how Mr. Rose's property was taken and not returned to this day?

Why did WORLD spike the story of how dozens of files turned up missing at the National Archives-files critical to a careful researching of the history of laws governing the income-tax system?

And why didn't a WORLD reporter show up at the National Press Club for the fourth annual press conference of We the People? After all, both C-Span and FOX News were there this year.

Because I know that Mr. Zuniga is not alone in his frustration, and that a number of other WORLD subscribers similarly think we've been derelict in our editorial duty, let me summarize here some of the reasons we haven't pursued the income-tax story with the gusto they think we should have.

  • It's been an elusive, changing story. Some of the movement's leaders have said the income-tax concept was deviously constructed from the beginning. Some said it was sloppily conceived, but not deviously. Some say the IRS has no legitimate claim to tax the income of most Americans. Some say the claim is legitimate, but shouldn't be. Through all this, it's been almost impossible to know who the movement's genuine leaders really are.
  • Deadlines keep changing. As I've watched the story over the last couple of years, I've been told repeatedly that major developments would be happening by particular dates. Last year, the spring of 2004 was proposed as a date certain when the movement would finally come together in an overwhelming gathering of protesters in the nation's capital. Through last winter, that deadline was changed to the summer of 2004. Now, I'm no longer hearing about such a gathering. A reporter's skepticism grows.
  • Nobody seems to agree on the answers. For 20 years, as I've listened to various tax protesters, most of them have espoused a national sales tax as a good replacement for the graduated income tax we've had for most of the last century. But now that such a sales tax has been tentatively proposed by a few politicians, those very politicians have been taken to task for trying to change the subject by diverting attention away from the faulty income-tax system!

Such an amorphous, free-flowing story does have its fascinating and perhaps even important aspects. But it's a very hard story to get a handle on.

"But it's an important story!" our critics keep telling us. That, of course, is the billion-dollar question. Part of our task is to size up what is really likely to happen, on the one hand, and what-no matter how worthy-is still just wishful thinking. I, for one, earnestly wish for the profound tax reform Mr. Zuniga and his friends say is critical. I also have grave doubts that it's likely to happen any time soon.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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