I’m in New Haven today to attend the funeral of Irwin Schiff, who unfortunately passed away last weekend.
If you’ve never heard of Irwin, he was one of the original “tax protestors”.
He believed not only that paying federal income was unconstitutional, but actually went so far as to stop paying tax altogether.
In his 2021 year-end letter, Baupost's Seth Klarman looked at the year in review and how COVID-19 swept through every part of our lives. He blamed much of the ills of the pandemic on those who choose not to get vaccinated while also expressing a dislike for the social division COVID-19 has caused. Q4 2021 Read More
And he spent years of his life in prison as a result.
Now, you may not agree with his philosophy or its legal basis.
But I hope we can agree that keeping an 87-year old terminally ill cancer patient handcuffed to a hospital bed for failing to file taxes is a disgusting reflection of modern America.
The fact that failing to file taxes is even a criminal matter at all in the Land of the Free is truly bizarre.
In civilized countries, tax matters are precisely that– civil. They don’t throw people in prison with violent felons over something so trivial.
But this has become the way of so many things in the Land of the Free.
Aside from the most obscure violation of the US federal tax code, which goes on for thousands of pages, you can go to jail for violating any number of federal regulations, the sum of which could fill an entire football stadium.
And that’s precisely the problem with this place.
You see, I think the United States really is wonderful… with a huge caveat.
America has some of the nicest malls in the world. There are so many quality brands and luxurious shops. The restaurants are fantastic with speedy, efficient service.
You can buy the nicest cars models and live in big McMansions. All the latest technological gadgetry is available for sale at the big box retailer down the street.
Street corners are dotted with gourmet coffee shops or convenient drug stores. And there are thousands of programs to watch on television at any given moment.
Yes, the United States is one of the greatest places in the world… to be a consumer.
If you want to shop, spend, and consume, the US is pretty damn near #1 in the world.
But if you want to build. If you want to create. If you want to be a producer in the United States… it’s a whole different story.
Just think about what it takes to start a business these days– there are permits, licenses, and regulations to follow, most of which you have probably never even heard of.
Every single business day the federal government publishes hundreds of pages of new rules and regulations in what’s called the Federal Register.
Today’s edition alone is a massive 815 pages.
On Monday there will be several hundred pages more. And Tuesday. Wednesday. Etc. It never stops.
Many of these rules come with severe penalties as well.
Months ago we discovered that the Commerce Department was threatening people with a $25,000 fine and potential litigation simply for not filling out a survey.
And on top of everything else are all the rules you have to deal with regarding employees, taxes, and now Obamacare.
Oh, and that’s just at the Federal level. State and local governments add their own burdensome requirements as well.
No one is immune. They even chase away little girls who dare to operate a lemonade stand without a permit. It’s unbelievable.
And young people who try to become productive by going to university graduate with $30,000+ in debt that they’ll spend the next fifteen years paying down.
Then there’s the additional hassle of dealing with the financial system; just getting a bank account open for a new business is now a major challenge.
Banks force small businesses to jump through all sorts of ridiculous hoops to prove that they’re not money launderers, just for the privilege of depositing their money to earn 0% interest.
What’s really ironic is that a consumer can walk into a bank and easily obtain a loan to buy a new car, or even a television.
But you have basically no chance of obtaining a loan to start a new business or invest in a great company.
These are all symptoms of the same problem. If you want to spend, borrow, and consume, America is fantastic.
But if you want to save, invest, and produce, America is becoming more challenging every year.
The Universal Law of Prosperity is very simple: produce MORE than you consume. And it applies equally to people, governments, and entire economies.
In the US, and most of the West, everything in the system is designed for the exact opposite– rewarding consumption at the expense of production.
And this is a massive problem that’s causing a major decline.
Sure, you might have accumulated more ‘stuff’. But every year the West is less wealthy, and less free.
Here’s the bad news: Your government can’t fix this. They’re a huge part of the reason this problem exists in the first place.
And you can’t fix this yourself either. There is no grassroots campaign, no ‘get out the vote’ movement to get your nation back on track.
But what you can do is take care of yourself. Make sure that, if this trend continues, you’re not going to be a victim of other people’s stupidity.
Produce more than you consume. Safeguard your purchasing power. Protect what you’ve worked for. Diversify abroad. Invest wisely. Have a Plan B.
In short, you can’t fix your country, or your government. Especially if the system is designed to make you less wealthy and less free.
Because if you really want to be able to change something for the better, just make sure that no matter what happens, you’re always going to be in a position of strength.