Are you, like many Minnesotans, tired of having your taxes jacked up endlessly by a legislature that cares more about feeding the state bureaucracy than about your family's bottom line?
Did you send a buck or two to the Taxpayer's League, or vote for Governor Pawlenty and your state legislator because they took the TPLoM's "No New Taxes" pledge?
According to the head of the Minnesota State Patrol's Trooper's Association, you're no better than a racist, cop-murdering thug.
The late seventies and early eighties were a lousy time in rural North Dakota. The farm market was beginning to enter another wave of technological transformation that was making hordes of family farms obsolete; productivity was driving prices down below the point where lots of farmers could make ends meet.
Faced not only with a changing way of life, but an eroding income and evaporating lifestyle, people whose families had been on the land for generations, going back to their respective old countries were faced not only with career changes that nothing in their backgrounds could prepare them for, but bankruptcy and endless harassment by creditors, lawyers, and the IRS.
Faced with this choice, most farmers moved into other lines of work, or relocated, formed co-ops. They adapted.
Some, desperate for answers, saw the government as the primary problem - a common thread on the prairie, endless and expensive farm subsidy programs notwithstanding. They griped about the feds over coffee and donuts in countless, dying small town cafes.
Some of those people - very few - found their answers in anti-government groups - Christian Identity, the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, and the Wisconsin-based Posse Comitatus, among a welter of others. The Posse preached that all government above the county level was illegitimate, that the federal income tax was unconstitutional, and that races should not mingle. They were frequently calleld "Neo-Nazi", and as much as those groups intermingled, some members no doubt were. I wouldn't have let them babysit my kids.
The nineties were a lousy time to be a constructionist and advocate of limited, restrained government in Minnesota. You had your choice of political parties; the pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-intervention party that favored raising taxes to pay for endless spending programs in an ever-expanding budget - or the DFL. Conservatives were held at arm's length even within the GOP.
That began to change later in the decade. There were lots of factors in this change; younger conservative turks moving into leadership within the party; the rise of talk radio, giving voice to the formerly silent conservative undercurrents in the state and party; and the Taxpayers League, which may not have been the first conservative lobbying group in Minnesota, but it was the first to get any traction.
David Strom is the relentlessly upbeat leader of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. A lapsed academic but a bon vivant in good standing, he leads a group with a fairly simple agenda; lower taxes, more government accountability, more taxpayer voice in government.
Read the website. See if you can find any references to violent resistance, racial separation, sabotage of the tax system, dismantling of government...anything.
Take a moment and try. Please.
Corporal Timothy Jensen is the president of the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers' Association, a public employees union.
Jensen, writing in his capacity as president of the MSPTA in the Winter '04/05 edition of the union's house organ, starts out with a recollection:
That Sunday in February 1983 was my first introduction to the world the violent tax protesters. While attempting to serve a warrant for a probation violation on a tax protester named Gordon Kahl, Federal Marshal Ken Muir and Deputy Marshal Bob Cheshire were executed on a North Dakota highway.Cops are sensitive about other cops' deaths in the line of duty. I'll buy that, and accept that as a reason for Jensen's hyperbole.
But according to James Corcoran, a former Fargo Forum reporter whose book Bitter Harvest was the definitive history of the event, the marshalls, along with a squad of Stutsman County deputies and Medina (ND) police, were waiting for Kahl at a roadblock. Knowing the Posse members to be armed, the police carried shotguns and assault rifles. The Posse fired first, the Marshalls went down firing. It was murder, and it was a ghastly crime that killed two good men. But it was no execution; they had the ability to fight back.
But that's not the story. Jensen continues:
During my time in Clay County [the Moorhead area] I remember several confrontations with Posse members. One confrontation still haunts me as a near-death experience. I stopped a Posse member one evening in a rurual location, nowing the slug had an outstanging warrant. The man was well known to law enforcement as a problem billy With no assistance available for miles, I confronted the man alone. He decided he would not be taken into custody, and the fight was on. We fought on the blacktop, on the shoulder, and in the ditch. He broke away and ran into the woods where I followed him and tackled him. We fought until we could not fight anymore As he pinned me in the dirt, I drew my gun with every intention of killing him before he killed me...for 22 years, I have had no use for radical tax protesters. They are irratitional and a danger to a democratic society.Indeed, but not for long.
I know you are wondering, what in the world is he rambling about now?
As radical as the Posse Comitatus is about protesting taxes, we have a radical anti-tax organization within our own state that advocates some of the same Posse principles. Where the Posse uses violence and irrational right-wing beliefs to advance its cause, our Minnesota organization uses money, threats and political blackmail to enforce its anti-tax, anti-government agenda.WHAT organization?
The organization is proud of its "no new taxes" pledge it has blackmailed many of our elected officials into signing, and posts its conquests prominently on itsGot that? He's talking about the Taxpayer's League of Minnesota.
website. Although the organization isn't obviously violent, its final result is just as dangerous. We have radicals dictating how our quality of life will be affected.
According to the head of a state employees union, lobbying to lower taxes and make government more accountable and transparent is morally equivalent to being a racist, cop-murdering radical separatist.
No, I'm not making a specious rhetorical connection; he's speaking literally (emphasis mine):
Whether you dress a tax protester in camouflage with an automatic rifle, or in a business suit with a laptop computer, the protester is still nothing more than a radical. Our Minnesota quality of life is too precious to be lost over a blackmail pledge. Let's get on with the people's business. Our quality of life is slipping away.So there's no difference at all between someone who protests taxes through the courts, the legislature and at the polls - the way our country is supposed to work, via the democratic system - and someone who secedes from the system and threatens to kill anyone who tries to drag them back?
We allow this man to carry a gun? To write tickets? To carry out snap judgements about the activities of the rest of us?
That phrase - "Let's get on with the peoples' business" - echoes the justification for some of the most ghastly crimes of the last century. Minnesota's "quality of life" - defined earlier in the piece as "valuable public employees, expected services..." - are "slipping away", more or less like the Posse thug on that road in Clay County so long ago.
Lefties - you think you have no stake in this? How is this different than saying "An anti-war protester is no different than a terrorist?" If any conservative - much less David Strom - had said any such thing, they'd be pilloried, lynched from the nearest rhetorical lamppost.
Corporal Jensen owes us, the people who pay his salary, an explanation. Is "lobbying for a more accountable government" morally the same as "killing cops"? Really? Is wanting my state government to give me much better explanations for where my tax money goes than in the past the same as trying not to pay at all? Is exercising my right as a law-abiding citizen and voting for the candidate who promises to hold government accountable the same as drawing a bead on a cop at a roadblock and squeezing the trigger?
Is that where you want this discussion to go?
By the way - while the publication is apparently not printed by the government, the MSPTA represents a labor force that is entirely paid by the taxpayer, and whose budget is entirely paid by dues deducted from public employee salaries.
Corporal Jensen owes us - the good, patriotic, law-and-order supporting citizens he so casually defames in his article - an apology. Please - take a moment and contact:
[Note to completists - read the whole article right here.]Posted by Mitch at February 9, 2005 08:35 AM | TrackBack