In a talk last week to about 40 people attending the tea party meeting in the old Anderson Chevrolet building on Roswell Street, J.D. Van Brink denounced property taxes and talked about how they factor into the vision set forth in Karl Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto.”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Van Brink said. “Terms like ‘worker’s paradise,’ ‘livable wage,’ ‘affirmative action,’ ‘social justice,’ and ‘sustainable development’ may sound good to some, but each of these slogans has resulted in government exceeding its constitutional scope and power, which diminishes all of us.”
The first of the 10 planks of “The Communist Manifesto” is the abolition of private property and the application of all rents of land to public purposes.
Van Brink said this is done at the federal level through eminent domain and such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
At the local level, there are school and property taxes as well as eminent domain, he said.
“Who owns your land if government can control what you can and cannot do on your land? And who owns your land if it can be taxed away from you?” Van Brink asked. “Who would want to buy your land once the government has decreed that it cannot be used for commercial or recreational purposes?”
The federal government owns 30 percent of the land in the 50 states, or about 650 million acres, he said.
To reverse this “infringement” on private property rights, Van Brink called for replacing the property tax with a sales tax.
“The property tax discriminates against a class of people, property owners, and fails to tax many of those who use our roads, bridges, water, hospitals, schools, parks, and services. This includes people from outside of Cobb County who work and shop here, and illegal aliens,” he said.
The property tax is also subjective, complex and costly to administer, with, for example, two identical houses next to each other potentially being assessed at different values due to foreclosures, short sales, or auctions, he said.
By contrast, Van Brink said a sales tax is objective, simple, and the least intrusive and costly method of taxation.
“Your obligation to the tax collector begins and ends with each purchase,” Van Brink said. “There are no audits, no receipts to keep, no lawyers, no accountants, and no government sticking its nose into your life.”
Van Brink said his group is discussing with county chairman Tim Lee the feasibility of replacing the general-revenue portion of the county property tax with a sales tax, called a Homestead Option Sales Tax.
“I would personally like to eliminate the entire property tax for both individuals and businesses, because it would better protect our private property rights, broaden our tax base, lower our total taxes, and bring more businesses and jobs to Cobb County,” Van Brink said. “However, we need to make absolutely sure that the sales tax truly replaces the property tax without any loopholes for it to be added back, and we need to develop a strategy to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Jim Jess of east Cobb, who serves on the tea party’s board, said he too favors the idea.
“Property tax, it’s one of the cruelest taxes out there,” Jess said. “A person may be retired and spent all of his life putting his money into a house, may be on a limited income, but yet he’s still going to get hit by a property tax. And as J.D. points out, it does call into question how much control you have over your own property. It really goes right to the heart of the rights of property, controlling your property, because the logical implication is if you don’t pay that tax the government can come repossess your home. Well, is that really you having control of your property?”
At the state level, Van Brink said his group must work with legislators to restrict eminent domain from being used for special interests. At the federal level, Van Brink suggested the government sell some of its land.
“This would lessen the scope and responsibility of the federal government, provide a source of funds for paying down the national debt, increase the likelihood of the land being put to productive use, and lessen the crowding in our cities,” he said.
The federal government must return many of its responsibilities to the state governments, he said.
“The Constitution does not authorize the departments of education, energy or commerce, all of which impede our private property rights and state sovereignty,” Van Brink said. “We need to be realistic about what we can accomplish at the federal level for the next two to four years, but what we can do is continue to work at the state and local level to find and develop elected officials who will eventually bring a constitutional perspective to the federal government.”
Lee, who was not at the meeting, said he agreed with Van Brink on the sales tax.
“The consumption tax, the fair tax concept is the right way to go, and that’s why I’m moving toward that if I can get support for it,” Lee said. “We are doing exactly what he said: working together to see how best we can bring that concept forward.”
Eliminating all property taxes for both individuals and businesses, however cannot be done without help from the state, Lee said.