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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Aaron Russo's New Film Tackles the Income Tax
 by Vin Suprynowicz, Apr 30, 2006


Vin SuprynowiczFormer Nevada gubernatorial hopeful Aaron Russo -- one-time producer of mainstream films including "Trading Places" -- vows to take his new documentary, "America, Freedom to Fascism" to Cannes in May and open it in major U.S. cities in July.

The film, which previewed here April 9, is pure Aaron. In some of the most enjoyable parts, Mr. Russo casts himself in an on-camera role reminiscent of Michael Moore in such parallel (albeit from the left) documentaries as "Roger and Me."

The hefty Mr. Moore made a show of himself, quite literally, trying to get Roger Smith, then CEO of General Motors, to answer questions about why his company was (supposedly) breaking long-standing promises to Michigan workers by closing plants there.

(Needless to say, Mr. Moore never asked any auto union executives whether they'd foolishly priced themselves out of a competitive world market.)

Also needless to say, Mr. Smith proved pretty inaccessible, and the instinctive resistance of his clueless security guards to letting any cameras near him was a part of the fun of Mr. Moore's early work.

Aaron RussoHere, a far-from-willowy Aaron Russo similarly draws some laughs and head-shaking as he stands on the public sidewalk outside IRS headquarters in Washington, trying to get someone in the building to answer a few simple questions about who really owes the income tax - or, heck, even trying to get "Homeland Security" to allow a U.S. citizen to photograph a taxpayer-funded building from the public sidewalk.

The film starts with some fairly good historical background about the Federal Reserve Board -- which, we are informed in suitably breathless tones, is a private corporation owned by private bankers who make up fiat money out of thin air and loan it to the U.S. government at interest, with the inflationary result that (while the dollar held its value and even appreciated from 1789 to 1932) a dollar today buys what four pennies would have bought in 1930.

All this is true. The sadder truth is that this seems to come as news to so may Americans.

Kicking off from there, "Freedom to Fascism" deals primarily with the basic question of the tax education movement -- who owes the income tax, and why won't the IRS show us the law that requires an average wage-earner living in one of the 50 states to file and pay a tax on his wages?

Of course we do have to file and pay, in the sense that armed government goons will seize our houses and cars and paychecks if we don't.

But that's no different from saying you "have to" give your wallet to an armed thug who's threatening you in a parking garage. The question is why judges refuse to allow any detailed reading and discussion of the actual written statutes and relevant Supreme Court rulings in their courtrooms -- witness the recent federal trial of Irwin Schiff here in Las Vegas.

The first of the two most powerful segments in this film comprises a first-person interview by Mr. Russo of retired IRS Commissioner Sheldon Cohen, now a high-powered Washington attorney. The smug eye-rolling of this fatuous toad, who actually goes so far as to ridicule Mr. Russo for asking him how the IRS code comports with Supreme Court rulings handed down in the years immediately following the ratification of the 16th Amendment is priceless.

Cutting off the interview because Aaron insists on asking whether the court didn't rule (in the Brushaber and Baltic Mining cases) that the 16th created no new taxing authority, etc., the supercilious Mr. Cohen asks, incredulously, "You want a 1920 Supreme Court decision to take precedence over an IRS code that was written years later?"

Here, in a mere couple of minutes, Russo demonstrates that ours is no longer a "nation of laws," but a nation where unelected bureaucrats just make up their own rules as they go along.

"So the whole thing's a (expletive) lie," is the way Aaron summarized that scene for me over the phone on April 19. "It's a hoax and he got trapped; it's mind-boggling."

The second most moving sequence features a poor-resolution home video shot by Illinois citizen Whitey Harrell at a meeting with the IRS, in which he asks his assigned IRS agent to show his written delegation of authority - a perfectly reasonable request, since the law authorizes only the secretary of treasury to do many things, which can then be done by his subordinates only with such a written delegation.

The IRS functionary replies, "I asked my boss about that written delegation of authority, and he says my badge is my written delegation of authority."

So much for the separation of powers, or any limits on a badge-holder's jurisdiction.

More importantly, however, Aaron then interviews a woman who sat on the jury of this so-called "tax protester" (a misnomer since Harrell, like so many, kept insisting he would happily pay the tax if they could only show him a written law making him liable.) The juror, Marcey Brooks, explains the IRS agent in question testified under oath that he took no notes during the meeting in question.

"We were all sitting there, watching the video in the courtroom, and we could see him writing away," Ms. Brooks explains. "I expected the judge to stop it right then and there and say 'You're committing perjury.' But everyone ignored it as if nothing happened."

Retiring to the jury room, this jury sent a note to the judge, asking to see the law that made the defendant liable to file and pay a federal personal income tax. The judge sent back a note that said "You have everything you need." So the jury acquitted.

Brooks describes the judge as white-faced when he heard this verdict; "He left the room without saying a thing."

"Why do you think they wouldn't show you the law?" Aaron asks.

"Because there is no law," Ms. Brooks smiles.

The rare courage of such jurors, determined to see justice done in at least one courtroom, on at least one day, is heartwarming.

But is this enough to set us free, for citizens and jurors simply to ask, "Show us the law"?

I appreciate Aaron Russo's sincerity and dedication, but this is where I fear his failure to build a logically and legally rigorous argument gives us a film that balks like a horse refusing to make the jump -- a film that could lead viewers into deep water without providing either a lifeboat or adequate swimming lessons.

Because the answer is, "No." In my experience, it's not enough for people who haven't done quite a bit of study to simply demand of the taxmen: "Show us the law."

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of "Send in the Waco Killers"
and the new novel "The Black Arrow."

Source: http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Apr-30-Sun-2006/opinion/6704537.html

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006 04:31:43 AM

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