Starve the Beast of Empire: Ax the Income Tax

As we approach April 15, the day when we render unto Caesar what is ours, it is well to bear a few stark and simple numbers in mind.

The personal income tax for 2011 will haul in a hefty $1.09 trillion to the federal coffers. The estimate for 2012* is $1.16 trillion.  

On the other side of the ledger, the best estimate of the known “national security” expenditures for 2012 is $1.22 trillion dollars.

That’s right; it takes the entire personal income tax, and then some, to cover the costs of war and Empire.  

The total federal revenue from every source will be $2.47 trillion in 2012, so the war machine and its various appurtenances take an enormous bite out of the total federal budget. 

There is a question of morality when the taxpayer forks over enormous tribute to bulk up a military Empire which visits death and destruction on untold numbers of people in the developing world – often with a public relations veneer of “humanitarian” endeavors.    Historically antiwar tax resistance of various types has grown out of such moral concerns.  The moral consideration bites harder when the wars are either sold on the basis of lies as W’s war on Iraq or are undeclared as with Obama’s on Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Iran.   In the case of undeclared wars for which we pay, it may fairly be said that we have taxation without representation.

With the end of the Cold War long behind us, a powerful new alliance to end taxes for war and Empire is within reach.   Consider the call of the conservatives, neocons excepted, when it comes to the income tax. “Starve the beast,” they cry.  And quite obviously they have a point when one considers the nature of the “beast,” aptly named in this case.  In fact when libertarians and “paleocons” call for an end to the personal income tax and also an end to wars and Empire, their demand is not the insanity that the some progressives would have us believe.  We would do well to consider axing a big chunk of the personal income tax.  Progressives would do well to embrace allies on the Right in fighting taxation to pay for death and destruction.

Hence a new coalition may emerge to cut the personal income tax.  Such a coalition has the potential to be more powerful than any seen yet on the imperial scene.  And it could deliver a crippling blow to the U.S. Empire.  Hillary Clinton clearly fears this, referring to such an incipient alliance as the “Come Home America” crowd in her article in Foreign Policy on the “pivot” to Asia.

For their part libertarians and genuine conservatives would do well to consider wooing a new segment of the population to their anti-tax crusade, at the very least to oppose the most despised of taxes, the federal personal income tax.

In the view of this writer, a view from the Left, not all taxes ought to be put on the chopping block.  The corporate tax, shrinking for many decades, deserves a lot more influx from the swollen accounts of America’s crony capitalism.   Most important, the payroll tax which finances Medicare and Social Security is money well spent and hence deserves preservation.    It is most appalling when Obama and the Obamabots call for cutting the payroll tax, not the income tax.  In this case they are not starving the beast; they are starving the people, sometimes quite literally.   And they are driving programs like Medicare into a weaker financial position whereupon the cry can go up that such programs are insolvent, unaffordable and must be slashed.    We do not hear the average Jane and Joe raise a hue and cry about the payroll tax – and that quite wisely.

If you ask progressives why they feel that cutting the payroll tax is a dandy type of stimulus, they will tell you that the payroll tax is regressive and so it is fine to take an ax to it.  But the personal income tax, with its panoply of loopholes, is profoundly regressive.  Ask Warren Buffet.  So by progressive logic, the personal income tax should be put to the knife. In fact such cuts are a stimulus that will bring smiles to economists of many different persuasions from the Keynesian to the Monetarist. That smile would certainly spread to the faces of cash-strapped Americans.  Ax that tax.

Author: John V. Walsh

John V. Walsh writes about issues of war, peace, empire, and health care for, Consortium News,, The Unz Review, and other outlets. Now living in the East Bay, he was until recently Professor of Physiology and Cellular Neuroscience at a Massachusetts Medical School. John V. Walsh can be reached at