In announcing Thursday that he would no longer negotiate with President Obama over a deal to reduce the nation’s budget deficit, House Speaker John Boehner said that Republicans would support no more tax increases. The question, he said, came down to “how much more money we want to steal from the American people to fund more government. I’m for no more.”
Proudhon proclaimed that property is theft. Boehner proclaims that taxation is theft. That’s the kind of claim more associated with fringe parties that have never been in government, parties that argue that their governmental system is no longer legitimate. It’s the language of Beppe Grillo’s xenophobic Five Star Movement in Italy or the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party in Greece, two nations in which both government corruption and tax evasion are systemic. It’s not the kind of claim we associate with a party that has controlled the executive branch of the U.S. government for 20 of the last 32 years and one or both houses of Congress for more than half of that time span. For that would mean that Republican presidents and congresses routinely stole from the American people.
Presumably, what Boehner only meant was that the U.S. government when controlled by Democrats was stealing from the American people (though most theft victims tend to think themselves robbed regardless of who the perpetrator may be). Presumably, what he meant was that the last two Democratic presidents lack legitimacy because – well, because they’re Democrats. But if Boehner means anything at all by what he said, he should call for the dissolution of the U.S. government, since its revenue raising has no more legitimacy than a pickpocket’s loot.
Taxes, Justice Holmes famously said, are the price we pay for civilization. In John Boehner’s world, civilization isn’t worth the price.