When I extolled the virtues of our federal system of government in a previous column (“Sovereignty, from sea to sea,” Times op-ed, Sept. 21), I left out an unfortunate and pernicious side effect of having a government of multiple jurisdictions taxes.
Multiple layers of government, while encouraging balance of power and competing regulatory ideas, also mean multiple layers of taxation. In Seattle, this means the federal government, state government, King County and the city of Seattle all take their pick at one’s paycheck, business, house, car and, of course, purchases of goods, including gasoline.
The complexity and opaqueness of all these taxes and their attendant regulations are so arcane that they keep legions of accountants and tax lawyers employed to make sense of them all, acting as a huge drag on economic activities of the nation.
Yet, if Seattleites thought that the statewide gasoline tax was the last word on taxation debate for now, there is another thing coming their way: global taxation.
Unbeknownst to many Americans, the United Nations yes, that organization of endemic cronyism and corruption, oil-for-food scandal and sex abuse by “blue helmets” has been attempting for years to levy global taxes, particularly on wealthy nations.
Despite the best efforts of John Bolton, the Bush-appointed U.S. ambassador to the U.N., to defeat such schemes, yet another incarnation of global taxation made its appearance in the U.N. World Summit outcome document last month.
The document refers to “the establishment of timetables by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 percent of gross national product for official development assistance by 2015.” It then goes on to tout “the value of innovative sources of financing, provided those sources do not unduly burden developing countries.”
Translation: Selected rich countries, including the United States, should be obligated to transfer their wealth to poor nations by what is, in effect, a global income tax (after the U.N. siphons off its “administrative costs,” of course). The document also makes a specific mention of one such “innovative source” of funding in the form of “a contribution on airline tickets,” i.e., a global taxation on air travel, reputedly pushed by France.
According to the Center for Individual Freedom, other “innovative” global-taxation schemes under discussion in and out of the U.N., in addition to the air-travel tax, include an e-mail tax, a “carbon” tax on gasoline, coal, oil and natural gas, a currency-transaction tax and an aviation-fuel tax. There are apparently other global-taxation ideas, including taxes on arms trade, ocean dumping, commercial fishing, satellites, electronic spectrum and international advertising.
These taxes would be in addition to, not in lieu of, the myriad of taxes that Americans are already subjected to by varying layers of jurisdictions within the United States.
Cliff Kincaid, editor of Accuracy in Media Report, has been tracking these global-taxation efforts tirelessly. Kincaid, quoting U.N. adviser Jeffrey Sachs, writes that the U.N. proposed “Millennium Development Goals” associated with the summit document would “obligate the U.S. to spend an additional $845 billion in foreign aid” above what it already contributes. To give a sense of scale, that figure is close to half of the French gross national product in 2004.
Recognizing the danger, the U.S. Senate has sprung into action. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., along with 17 co-sponsors, is in the process of proposing legislation that “would require the withholding of United States contributions to the United Nations until the president certifies that the United Nations is not engaged in global-taxation schemes.”
The vast dollar figure is outlandish enough for most Americans, but beyond the money, the underlying ideology behind global taxation is far more sinister. The left, while raising the phony specter of a fascist theocracy in the United States, has been ridiculing the right’s fear of “one world government.” But the ability to tax is one of the surest manifestations of sovereignty and, as such, the acceptance of global taxation under the disguise of international development aid is an alarming precedent for international intrusion into what has been traditionally the domain of sovereign national governments.
No reasonable critic of global taxation is suggesting that Americans would be subjected to one world government overnight. But if we accept such precedents, inch-by-inch, step-by-step, we will creep toward “global governance,” another euphemism for one world government, and will gradually relinquish our unique American way of life.
James J. Na, a Senior Fellow in foreign policy at the Discovery Institute (www.discovery.org), runs “Guns and Butter Blog” (gunsandbutter.blogspot.com) and “The Asianist” (www.asianist.org). He can be reached at email@example.com.