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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some thoughts on Joseph Stack and the IRS

The subject of Joseph Stack - the man who did a kamikaze attack with his private plane on an IRS office in Austin, Texas this past week - came up last night while a friend and I were getting a bite to eat after seeing Shutter Island (an excellent movie, incidentally).

For whatever it's worth ('cuz hey, I'm just a blogger on the Intertubes) I think that Mr. Stack was a very troubled individual, and I would no doubt hold to that assessment even if I had not read his bizarre and rambling screed that he posted on a website before burning down his own house and then flying off the brink of madness.

I also think that it's very, very inappropriate for anyone to ascribe Stack as being typical of a political ideology. In the past few days I've seen self-professed liberals claim that Stack echoed the sentiments of conservatives and the Tea Partiers, and I've seen self-professed conservatives insist that Stack was a liberal.

I saw much the same happen in the days and weeks following the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. That was wrong then and trying to score political points off of a senseless act is just as wrong now.

That said, I am inclined to ponder what it was that drove Mr. Stack to such extreme behavior, and as with everything else I believe such curiosity can be meditated upon without examination in that darklyiest mirror of temporal politics. A better mind than my own for this sort of thing - namely, that of Chuck Baldwin - has articulated some thoughts about Stack and his anger. Baldwin doesn't excuse Joseph Stack or make him out to be "a martyr for the cause"... but he does address the increasingly growing frustration that many Americans are having with a government that they are compelled to believe no longer represents them or derives from our consent.

Finally, in his pre-mortem manifesto Joseph Stack referenced Section 1706 of the 1986 tax act: a bit of legislation that Stack claimed declared him to be a "criminal and non-citizen slave" and drove his programming career into financial ruin. A 1998 article in The New York Times addressed the very same problem that apparently so provoked Stack, and tax attorney Harvey J. Shulman discusses Section 1706 further in light of recent days. Reading it, I must profess that it's hard not to have some sympathy toward Joseph Stack (and I can have that without condoning his actions of this past week) as well as toward anyone else who is trying to make it as an independent computer programmer or technical consultant. The IRS has enforced such an inordinately burdensome tax liability on these people that I cannot but believe that it has led to a stifling not only of personal wealth, but of innovation and creativity in this country.

Kinda makes you wonder if Steve Jobs or Bill Gates would have ever started Apple or Microsoft after 1986... or if they would have just given up their dreams because the government mandated too much money from them to have ever made it worthwhile.


Rusty Shackleford said...