Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Sovereign Citizens and Tax Deniers (Same Shit, Different Day)


What do the Constitution and the Bible have in common?  Conservatives claim to have read both but never actually have- or understand either.

The latest trend in YouTube videos is 100MPH car chases by the Police, often ending in horrific accidents or even death.  I had to turn one off the other night as a young man committed "suicide by cop" by leading Police on a long chase and the emerging from his car with a gun. They played the 911 call he made where he basically spelled out his intention to die. "I want to call my daughter first to say goodbye" he says.

What a waste. How can you have children and be so irresponsible?  Granted, his life was a mess.  But you can bounce back from even two DUIs and all he had to do was surrender.  But mental illness is never rational, I guess.

If you watch enough of these videos, YouTube will "suggest" Sovereign Citizen videos, where idiots are taken down by the Police - or Judges - when they try to pull that "laws don't apply to me" crapola. How people end up believing this shit is beyond me, other than, again, mental illness and also I think meth use.

It got me to thinking about the "tax denier" craze of a few years back and how the arguments (if you can call them that) for that scam were about the same as for this "Sovereign Citizen" grift.  Someone sells a seminar or kit online, telling people things they want to hear - you don't have to pay taxes, you don't have to obey laws.  Of course, these are lies, but the grifter makes a few hundred from each victim, selling them the "kit."  And since the victims end up in jail, you never have to worry about them coming after you.

How does this work?  Well, it is like the Bible - a large book that has a lot of stories in it that contradict each other.  Whatever it is you want to believe, you can find it in the Bible - or find the exact opposite!  It is just a matter of where you look and how you interpret it.  If you want a lot of right-wing nonsense, try the Old Testament, which has a lot of pissed-off God, smiting people.  You want left-wing?  Try the New Testament, where Jesus goes all woke and commie, handing out free fish and bread like he's a walking EBT card.

And if you still can't find what you want, take something that means the opposite and twist it around.  I recounted more than once how I heard an AM radio preacher once argue that "Judge not lest ye be judged" was a call to Christians to go around judging everyone all the time as Christians were prepared to be judged themselves (and after all, they are perfect in God's eyes!).  It was a perversion of Bible verse but in a weird way, it could be deemed as making sense - to those of limited intellect who don't understand "context."

Tax denial works the same way.  And in a way it is like any other conspiracy theory.  In a conspiracy theory, the theorist doesn't address the obvious issues but instead picks away at trivial details.  If some document is dated wrong due to a clerical error, that is prima facie proof, in their minds, that the conspiracy exists.  In the mind of the theorist, all details are of equal merit, so one minor inconsistency outweighs a mountain of evidence.  In their minds, anyway.

So, for example, our tax system relies on you voluntarily reporting your income every year on a form 1040. The tax deniers twist this around to mean that the entire tax system is voluntary and if you get audited all you need to to is repeat some secret incantations and the IRS agent will let you go, scot-free. Of course, this is just nonsense - you have to voluntary report your income, and if you don't and owe taxes, well, you can end up paying those taxes, plus penalties and interest, or like Wesley Snipes, end up in jail.

Which brings up why people do this.  I started this blog over a decade ago when I was socked with an unexpected (but expected) capital gains bill of $40,000.  I noted before how a friend of mine at the IRS once remarked that their two greatest assets were (a) withholding and (b) the unnatural fear people have of the agency.  Without withholding, which takes a portion of each paycheck, taxpayers would get a huge bill at the end of the year and have no realistic way to pay it.

Hence why some rich people are upset about taxes - they have huge tax bills, often because they used tax dodges in earlier years - and no way to pay it.  In my case, it was "depreciating" my office building down to zero and then having to pay capital gains tax on the entire sales price as a result, years later.  I expected the bill, but I didn't expect it to be so high.  Elon Musk's problem was using loans to avoid paying any taxes in one year, but failing to appreciate that those loans would have to be paid back, eventually, which means selling stock and paying capital gains taxes.  And no one likes paying taxes.

So the "tax denial" scheme is appealing to folks who end up socked with tax bills or who are audited by the IRS because the small business they were running was showing fraudulent losses for ten years running.  They have no way out and the tax denial sounds appealing.

The same effect is true for this "Sovereign Citizen" movement.  You get a couple of DUIs and they take away your license.  In America, this is tantamount to being imprisoned as you have to rely on rides from friends and family just to get to work or get your groceries.  In fact, courts recognize this and often allow those so convicted to drive - but just to and from work or the store or church.  I recounted before how I met a young man - swinging a fifth of cheap booze - lamenting how he can't afford the rental on his car breathalyzer.  The system is trying to work for him, but he's not cooperating.

And no, there is no taxi, bus, or "uber" in many rural places in America.  For someone living on the side of a mountain in West Virginia, there are no other options than to drive.  So naturally, "Sovereign Citizen" nonsense sounds appealing.  All your problems solved at once!  Just print your own license plates and if you are stopped, just recite the mystical incantations ("I am not driving, I am travelling") and Officer Friendly will let you go free!

Well, not exactly.  He will bust the window out ya car and then taser you. And the fun is just beginning!  But even in court or in their jail cells, the "Sov Cits" don't give up.  They may be serving a year in jail, but the entire justice system is just an illusion.  They are here voluntarily!  It's in the Constitution - somewhere!  Or maybe the Bible - is there a difference?

How do you avoid falling into traps like this?  Well, for me, it is easy - and not because I am smarter than anyone or anything.  Rather, I was brought up to believe (correctly) that life is hard and anything worthwhile takes effort - and even then, you are likely to fail half the time. I expect my toast to land butter-side-down.  So I tend to be distrustful of anything that sounds too convenient to me.

Go to a casino?  I would expect to lose - not just because I took a course in probability, but because I understand these businesses are not a charity and far, far more people will lose than win.  And given how life works, I know which side of the coin I will end up on.

70% off sale?  I assume there is a catch.  Great lease deal?  Of course there is a catch, or two, or a baited bear trap.   Maybe you can call me a pessimist, but realist is more accurate.  Why indeed does the Catholic church teach that life is all about suffering (and finding meaning from it)?

The sort of folks who fall for these scams - or indeed, any con - tend to believe in something-for-nothing and that they can get ahead not through hard work (or dumb luck or inherited wealth) but by knowing the secret inside tips 'n tricks that only the wealthy know about - and you can know, too!  Just send three Urethium to the following wallet for our special "Sov Cit" kit!  Buy now and you get this laminated copy of the US Constitution - valid in all countries!  And, for the next five callers, you'll also get our tax denier kit to boot!

With all of this, how can you afford not to buy?

You know, funny thing, but you never see these  "Sov Cit" home-made license plates on a Rolls Royce parked at the country club.  You'd think the very rich would be on to this!