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Valentine’s Day: Uncle Sam Breaks Taxpayers’ Hearts

in Business and Economy, Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 6 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Cupid

As I often point out, holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. It’s even more fun and effective if you’ve gathered liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday. We often share such information in the Liberator Online as a holiday nears.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’m pleased to present the following information from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) about how much government is adding to the cost of your Valentine’s Day celebration. It’s shocking stuff, sweetened just a bit by ATR’s trademark humor.

Government Versus Valentine’s Day
(from Hayley Robinson, Americans for Tax Reform)

This Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Romantics all over the nation have spent the week buying gifts and making dinner plans, all at a considerable price. Last year the National Retail Federation estimated consumers would spend a whopping $17.3 billion on Valentine’s Day — an average of $133.91 per person.

But that price is driven up enormously by an unexpected third wheel — Uncle Sam. Valentine lovers certainly won’t love discovering that, for almost every part of the day spent with that special someone, government taxes and fees send costs skyrocketing.

Consider:

Roses and Valentine’s Cards: These are romantic must-haves for many people. An estimated 233 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day, and consumers will spend $1.9 billion on flowers145 million Valentine’s cards will be purchased for the occasion. Over $1 billion of the money spent on cards and flowers goes to… you know who.

A Romantic Dinner for… Three? Yep, save a chair at the table for Uncle Sam. $3.5 billion is spent dining out on Valentine’s Day — and a hard-to-swallow 31% of the cost of your bill comes from government taxes.

Wine: If you’ve been saving a nice bottle of wine for the occasion, be sure to savor it — 33% of the cost is due to government. That’s enough to drive you to drink… if you could afford all the taxes.

Chocolate: Consumers will spend nearly $1.3 billion on chocolate. Of this, 31% will be paid to the government. Ugh — that dessert just got a little less sweet.

Jewelry: In 2013, 6 million people expected or planned a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. In 2014 it was projected that $3.9 billion would be spent on diamonds, gold, and silver. But beware, the government is standing right there beside you as you pledge your love — and taking a 36% cut of the cost of your glittering symbols of love.

Cell Phones: If you’re in a long-distance relationship and can’t travel to see your sweetheart, hopefully you’ll still be able to give them a call. You might want to keep it short, though: Uncle Sam will be on the line as well, and he’ll be responsible for 40% of the cost of your bill.

Travelling: Making a surprise visit to your long-distance loved one? Whether you’re driving or flying, you’re paying Uncle Sam for the privilege. Last year 45% of the cost of gasoline was due to government taxation, while other taxes and fees accounted for 44% of the cost of airfare. An annoying backseat driver or snoring seat mate would be much better than the travel companionship offered by Uncle Sam.

ATR sums it up this way: “Single or steady, taxpayers will remain heartbroken this Valentine’s Day — when it comes to the costs imposed by the government.”

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 20, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Black History MonthI’ve often noted — especially in my One Minute Liberty Tip columns — that holidays and annual observances offer a great opportunity to present the ideas of liberty to family and friends.

Libertarians should consider collecting facts and stories to share on such occasions, when appropriate. That’s why we offer such information frequently in the Liberator Online.

February is Black History Month. This event, observed annually since 1976, potentially opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

If anyone should be receptive to the message of libertarianism it should be black Americans, who as a group have suffered from government oppression more than any other ethnic group in America, and whose historical and ongoing struggle for freedom is arguably the most dramatic one in our history.

And that story — the story of a people savagely oppressed by government power for centuries and bravely fighting to overcome that oppression — is one that Americans of all races would benefit from pondering.

Black History Month is an excellent time to show how government coercion was and is the chief engine of the oppression of black Americans, as well as Americans in general. Libertarians have a unique angle to bring to that discussion.

The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month,” an article by James Padilioni, Jr. of Students For Liberty, is a great place to start. It will stimulate your thinking on this issue and provides a seldom-heard historical and theoretical background.

For specific issues relating to black Americans and liberty, here are some excellent resources.

More and more people are — at long last — questioning the War on Drugs, which has been horrible for all Americans and from which blacks suffer disproportionately. Liberty-minded U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has won a lot of positive attention by taking a leadership role on this issue in Congress.

* “How the War on Drugs Is Destroying Black America,” by John McWhorter, a prescient 2011 Cato Institute essay, provides a short, powerful argument that the Drug War is the major source of racial hostility today. Excerpt: “If the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resentment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist.”

* “Race and Prison“ from drugwarfacts.org provides some astonishing figures. Excerpt: “In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated — orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. … In some areas, a large majority of African-American men — 55 percent in Chicago, for example — are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting…”

Strongly related to the War on Drugs’ disproportionate effect on black Americans is the militarization of police — another issue on which Rand Paul (“We Must Demilitarize the Police,” TIME magazine, Aug. 14, 2014) and libertarians have been leading the national debate.

* The best book on the subject is libertarian Randy Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.

* You can read a lengthy excerpt from Rise of the Warrior Cop for free, courtesy of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal website.

A look at black champions of liberty is certainly appropriate for Black History Month. Here’s a great collection of videos of black libertarians and classical liberals, past and present, speaking on liberty. They’re suitable for any time of year, of course, but Black History Month is a perfect time to share them online.

Thanksgiving: Share Some Shocking Facts About Thanksgiving and Big Government

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 22 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Thanksgiving TurkeyHolidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends, so be sure to gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday. We often share such information in the Liberator Online as a holiday nears.

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) warns that an uninvited guest is planning to crash your Turkey (or Tofurkey) Day celebration. Save a big seat at the table for… Uncle Sam.

ATR offers some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Thanksgiving celebration.

Share this information with your family and friends, if appropriate, and you’ll surely open minds and spark stimulating discussions. You can share it online, too, by sharing this link.

Maybe they’ll even give thanks that you and other libertarians are working hard to spare them from this kind of government plunder.

Following is ATR’s report. (Note: ATR first posted this fun and informative piece in 2011, and unfortunately they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Thanksgivings back…”)

Hard to Be Thankful for Bigger Government this Thanksgiving
from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for reuniting with friends and family. Unfortunately, the government wants in on your celebration too. Whether you stay home or travel for the holiday, government is a significant contributor to the costs of the celebration.

Of an identified $10 billion in spending that occurs during Thanksgiving weekend on the wine and beer, the gas and plane tickets, and the meal itself, government taxation composes 35.86 percent of those expenses — approximately $3.6 billion in revenues.

Many of these Thanksgiving items are subject to the increased costs of income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate income taxes, and other taxes on business activity. Government then includes additional fees and excise taxes that further increase the cost of providing specific items or services.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a 2011 Thanksgiving meal for ten increased in cost by $5.73 to a total of $49.20 — and government taxation gobbles up $13.68 of that.

And this doesn’t include beer and wine consumption. Between football games and meals, nearly 53 million cases of beer are consumed. Government collects $219 million in taxes — 44.33 percent of the cost of each case. Thanksgiving attendees will also find it hard to be grateful for the 32.77 percent increase in the cost of each bottle of wine thanks to government.

Whether you fly or drive to be with your loved ones this Thanksgiving season, government heavily taxes your preferred mode of transportation. Of the 94 percent of travelers driving their cars, government will raise an estimated $1.1 billion in tax revenue — 45.33 percent of the gasoline price tag. Similarly, government also increases the cost of the average $376 Thanksgiving flight — making up 43.57 off each ticket’s price.

Government hits taxpayers particularly hard during the holiday season, filling its plate with these taxes and fees. As you gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, remember that Uncle Sam is to thank… for your smaller slice of pumpkin pie.

Halloween: Share Some Scary Facts About… Government

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HalloweenThe scariest holiday of the year is fast approaching. Bloodsuckers, devils, demons and creeps will roam the streets, demanding we hand over our goodies — or face nasty consequences.

No, not the elections — Halloween!

Holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. We recommend libertarians gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday and share them if and when appropriate. (We try to share such info in the Liberator Online as major holidays near.)

Below is a fun and startling report from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) that gives some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Halloween celebration this year.

Unfortunately, ATR first posted this in 2011, and they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Halloweens back…”)

So, if the opportunity arises, scare your family and friends with some of this truly terrifying information. You can share it online, too, by linking here.

You’ll surely open some minds about the creepiest House of Horrors of them all— the federal government! Happy Halloween!

The Frightening Cost of Halloween — Thanks to Government
(from Americans for Tax Reform)

Think Halloween is scary? Ha! It’s nothing compared to the Frightfest of taxes and hidden costs government adds to this beloved holiday.

Each year, parents spend $1 billion on kid costumes for Halloween. On average, for the estimated 41 million trick-or-treaters, each kid wears a costume costing almost $25 — a hefty sum for parents who know this annual investment is only going to get a few hours of use.

Taxes make up a shocking amount of that cost.

Kids’ costumes are almost all made of heavily taxed synthetic fibers. On top of the state sales tax paid at the register, the government increases the cost of buying these costumes by imposing a 17 percent tariff on many of these imported costumes. Businesses not only have to absorb these costs, but also those imposed by income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, and other payments to federal, state, and local forms of government.

When all is said and done, government taxes compose a terrifying 47.82 percent of the cost of the average kid’s costume — $11.66 of the average price. Boo!

But the government’s tricks don’t end there. The Halloween season brings with it $2 billion in candy purchases. Due to excise taxation on sweets in addition to the burden of taxes placed on the confectionery industry, the government takes a 30.81 percent bite out of the average trick-or-treaters’ candy haul. Ouch!

Altogether, the cost of celebrating our scariest holiday is made all the more frightening by the costs imposed by government: hidden taxes and other costs constitute 40.91 percent of your Halloween celebration. 

This amounts to a burden of $688 million — or $16.80 per kid. The remaining $1.3 billion of candy not distributed during trick-or-treating represents another $406 million in taxes. Finally, after including taxes on adults for decorations and costumes the total Halloween tax bite comes to… a bloody and bruising $2.7 billion.

And the cost is even higher if you attend a spooky party with alcoholic beverages. Wine, distilled spirits and beer are all subject to more hidden taxes. Going out to dinner instead of trick-or-treating also carries higher government costs. And if you have to drive your kids to trick-or-treat, the government bite of gasoline also takes a hefty bite out of your wallet…

Wherever you turn, wherever you go, you can’t escape the bloodsucking horror of… the federal government.

Hey, if you’re still searching for a truly bone-chilling costume idea, here’s one: dress up as… Uncle Sam.

A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Holidays and annual observances offer a great opportunity to present the ideas of liberty to new and receptive audiences. Every libertarian should collect a selection of facts and stories to share on those occasions. (We offer them frequently in the Liberator Online.)

February is Black History Month. This event, observed annually since 1976, opens the door for discussions on issues key to libertarians.

If anyone should be receptive to the message of libertarianism, it should be black Americans, who as a group have suffered from government oppression more than any other ethnic group in America, and whose historical and ongoing struggle for freedom is arguably the most dramatic one in our history.

And that story — the story of a people savagely oppressed by government power for centuries and bravely fighting to overcome that oppression — is one that Americans of all races would benefit from pondering. Libertarians have a unique angle to bring to that discussion.

As a start, I recommend “The Law Perverted: A Libertarian Approach to Black History Month,” an article by James Padilioni, Jr. of Students for Liberty. It will stimulate your thinking on this issue and provide a seldom-heard historical and theoretical background.

Black History Month is an excellent time to show how government coercion was and is the chief engine of the oppression of black Americans, as well as Americans in general. One obvious example is the War on Drugs, which is horrible for all society and from which blacks suffer disproportionately.

Here are some resources:

* “How the War on Drugs is Destroying Black America,” John McWhorter, Cato Institute.

* “Race and Prison,” drugwarfacts.org. Excerpt: “Mass arrests and incarceration of people of color — largely due to drug law violations — have hobbled families and communities by stigmatizing and removing substantial numbers of men and women. In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated… orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. … In some areas, a large majority of African-American men — 55 percent in Chicago, for example — are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting…”

Another topic is state-created unemployment for black Americans. “Race and Economics,” a column by economist Walter Williams, examines this.

* Williams looks at the racist outcomes of the minimum wage more closely in Minimum Wage’s Discriminatory Effects.” Excerpt: “Minimum wage laws have massive political support, including that of black politicians. That means that many young black males will remain a part of America’s permanent underclass with crime, drugs and prison as their future.”

* Walter Williams’ 1982 book The State Against Blacks shows how numerous government programs, enacted supposedly enacted to help the poor have caused enormous harm to blacks and others.

* In his column “A Painful Anniversary“ economist Thomas Sowell argues that the 1960s Great Society / War on Poverty programs helped destroy black families. Excerpt: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

* Another fascinating topic tailor-made for Black History Month is the little-known history of how gun rights helped protect civil rights activists and advance the civil rights movement. For starters, check out “Yes, Guns Are Dangerous. But They Also Save Lives and Secure Civil Rights” by Damon W. Root of Reason magazine. Also see this excellent review of the 2004 book The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill, from The Nation magazine. This book tells the remarkable story of the Deacons for Defense, who at their peak had several hundred members and twenty-one chapters in the South.

* Ex-slave Frederick Douglass is one of the towering figures for liberty in American history.  A short libertarian look at Douglass is found in “Frederick Douglass, Classical Liberal: A fresh look at the political evolution of a great American,” a book review by Damon Root from the August/September 2012 issue of Reason magazine. Also, see  the Cato Institute’s libertarianism.org for more on, and by, Douglass.

* Finally, here’s a great collection of videos of black libertarians and classical liberals, past and present, speaking on liberty. They’re suitable for any time of year, of course, but Black History Month is a great time to share them.

How the Government Stole Christmas

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 24 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Forget the Grinch — it’s the government that’s stealing Christmas.

So reports Americans for Tax Reform, a non-profit group that works for lower taxes and smaller government. (The following article is based on their 2011 report.)

The holidays are supposed to be a season for giving and spending time with loved ones. However, Uncle Sam has forced taxpayers to add him and his greedy local and state relatives to their gift list. Of an identified $10.72 billion of holiday spending, an incredible 43.36 percent is due to government taxes, fees, and other costs.

If you are one of the 93 percent of holiday revelers traveling this season, you will pay $69.65 in gas taxes for the average $152.47 round-trip excursion — 45.68 percent of the cost of the trip. Taking a rental is another convenient option, but 38.77 percent of your car’s rental cost is due to taxation, particularly from state and local governments.

Choose to fly to visit friends and family and 42.47 percent of your trip is made up of government costs. If you retreat from your in-laws to a hotel, remember that 39.39 percent of the cost of your stay is funneled back to the government. In Christmas 2011, the government stuffed its stocking with $3.79 billion in traveling taxes.

Holiday revelers enjoy an estimated $992 million in alcoholic beverages to celebrate the season. Savor your next mug of eggnog, because 56.31 percent of the price is taxes. Government guzzles 44.33 percent of your seasonal beer and drives up the price of your glass of wine at Christmas dinner by 32.77 percent. Sipping a soft drink won’t let you escape frosty government fees — 27.98 percent, or $61 million in taxes, is attached to the cost of soda.

When Santa comes down the chimney this year, he’ll have to save room in his sack for Uncle Sam’s gifts. Government gets $21 billion of a cumulative $69.1 billion spent on presents, consuming nearly a third of Christmas gift-giving.

All told, the government collects around $26 billion in new revenues over the holiday season.

That’s naughty — and definitely not nice!

(Please note: This excellent and entertaining report was prepared in 2011 by ATR. We deleted a section referring to a proposed Obama Christmas tree tax, which is to our knowledge no longer relevant. When sharing this information with friends and family, just add “A couple of years ago, Americans for Tax Reform found…” in case some of these figures have since changed. To see if ATR has updated this report since we published this issue, visit their website.)