During my years as state senator, I sometimes came into contact with persons holding distinctly marginal viewpoints. Ed Brown was the outlier even in that group. He was never able to persuade me that the Illuminati is on the cusp of executing its 100-year plan to impose a global police state … or that the income tax is unconstitutional.
Ed and Elaine Brown were properly found guilty of having failed to pay their income taxes. And, yes, it is good that U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier has not yet called in what would assuredly be a deadly assault on the Browns.
But the stand off between the Browns and the Marshall has already gone too far. A SWAT team brought in to surround the Browns’ property shot at and nearly killed an unarmed man walking the Browns’ dog.
Purveyors of the innocuous are urging the Browns to surrender. To encourage this, law enforcement has cut off power, phone and Internet service to the property. But the Browns have obviously envisioned and spent years preparing for exactly these circumstances. They’ve got dry firewood, solar and wind power, a diesel back-up generator, canned food, a reinforced concrete watchtower, and God knows how much firepower. They’ve got access to the world via cell phone and have been able to broadcast the daily “Ed Brown Under Siege” radio show. Perhaps a dozen like-minded conspiracy theorists from around the country, now including Randy Weaver of Ruby Ridge, have converged in a quasi-permanent live-in on the property.
Watch Elaine Brown yourself in this Monday video to decide for yourself whether they are serious. “If they come in … we’re dead .. we will not be arrested .. we will not volunteer to go into their prison for a non-crime. We have committed no crime … We either walk out of here free or we die.”
Yes, the Browns should turn themselves in, serve out their 5 year sentences and live on to make their political points. But my fear in watching Ed Brown’s YouTube videos is that, if the feds approach the Brown “compound,” they will engage in a futile firefight to the death. “We do this for you folks. Don’t forget it,” said Ed Brown. “These people need to be strung up, they are so criminal. A lot of people would love the opportunity to rip out their hearts and shove them back down their throats.” Eerily similar to the words of Cho Seung-Hui, Virginia Tech massacre/suicide perpetrator.
Some accidental good may come of the Browns’ deadly theater. Congress might finally be moved to reform the proximate cause of the Browns' complaint -- the universally reviled income tax code, with its endlessly changing and impossibly complex special provisions, total pages for which have increased 42 percent since 2000. Ed Brown is right about maybe this: it is time to do something usefully radical. Replace the income tax with a consumption tax.
The IRS itself conservatively estimates that between one-third and one-half of all of us with income tax liability play the tax cheating game. Individual tax evasion tallied to $345 billion in 2001, up from $100 billion in 1990 (IRS, 2006).
My consumption tax preference is the Fair Tax, which would replace all federal taxes on income, payroll, corporate profits, capital gains and gifts with a 30 percent, single-stage tax on consumer purchases of new goods and services. The Fair Tax would be made moderately progressive via a monthly prebate check sent to all low income households. Savings in record keeping, tax compliance and reduced tax evasion could exceed $500 billion annually. The number of obligated taxpayers would be reduced several fold.
And when Ed Brown buys the 3G infrared rifle scope he asked for in one of his broadcasts, the government would get its revenue and Plainfield, New Hampshire would again live in peace.