Property Taxes: Undermining Liberty

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

The right to personal property sets the United States apart from other nations. Outside the United States, the rights to property have long been subject to the realm of kings and queens – a feudal society of sorts.

There is a tremendous anger surfacing today due to the relentless loss of property and our government’s explosive spending binge. Ravenous government spending mortgages ourselves, our children, and our property to an unrelenting assault by a government which is out of control.

Discussions about eminent domain, patents, copyrights, much of the Uniform Commercial Code, and stock ownership all center on the fundamental understanding of the right to property.

The U. S. Constitution addresses and protects property rights in so many ways: Source: "The Constitution and Property Rights"

"The Founders were worried that Congress might use the tax system to loot property owners in some states for the advantage of other states. Accordingly, they required that direct taxes (mostly importantly property and income taxes) be apportioned among the states (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 and Article I, Section 9, Clause 4). They also required that indirect taxes, such as import duties, be levied uniformly (I-8-1 and I-9-6). They flatly denied Congress power to tax exports (I-9-5).

They empowered Congress to protect intellectual property by authorizing copyright and patent laws (I-8-8).

They granted Congress authority to punish piracy, a crime directed principally against property (I-8-10).

They granted the federal courts jurisdiction over interstate land claims and interstate debts to limit the extent to which state courts could discriminate against the property rights of out-of-staters (III-2-1 and III-2-2).

They added the Full Faith and Credit Clause (IV-1) partly to require state courts to honor property records in other states.

The Founders gave Congress an unlimited power to dispose of public land (IV-3-2), but only limited power to acquire or hold land (I-8-17 and certain incidental powers). This was because they wanted most publicly-owned land to be transferred to the private sector.

They adopted the Third Amendment, which largely prevented the government from quartering troops in private homes.

They adopted the Fourth Amendment, which protected persons, houses, papers, and effects from unreasonable search and seizure.

They added the Eighth Amendment, which barred excessive fines.

They also inserted a number of other checks and balances, designed partly to protect minorities from unfair property confiscations."

Today, threats to property, particularly your home, are at epic levels and the battle will shape the landscape of our nation forever.

Taxes on property have been debated incessantly for decades. What started out as an "innocent" means of raising taxes has blossomed into a perceived unlimited source of funds by which government can make promises of future benefits to a select few to the detriment of the remainder of us. Property owners have the choice of either paying the taxes dictated for them by politicians or risk losing their property through foreclosure and tax sale.

Contrary to popular belief, the property tax system started in the United States dates at the time of the founding of our nation.

Ever increasing property taxes have allowed municipal governments and schools to make promises that they could not possibly keep.

These "promises" have precipitated a record number of bankruptcy filings of municipalities since 2010. The settlement of these bankruptcies will most certainly raise the level of debate of property taxes to unparalleled heights. The outcome of this battle will most decidedly determine whether or not American citizens have the right to own property.

With the rapid rise in property taxes needed by most jurisdictions to cover their promises and with lower pay and higher unemployment of taxpayers throughout the nation, the property tax is now forcing millions of Americans to reassess where they live, how they live, and if they can ever retire let alone own their home.
The debate in the nation about property taxes should not be just about the method of taxation but it must center on what government is spending. The out of control spending in education and government without measurable results and performance and uncontrolled unfunded pension obligations will bankrupt our communities, our states and our citizens.

It is the spending by government, not just the method of taxation that must be overhauled, by our government.

The American dream of home ownership and the liberty inherent in property is being shattered by those elected to serve all of us. It is time that we demand a control in government spending, and an assessment of why property is taxed at all.

It is not just property, it is your home! It is your freedom at stake. "Company towns" of the 19th Century are being replaced by "State towns" in the 21st Century unless we act to reform spending and return the right to property to the people.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) was elected to the PA House of Representatives in 2016 and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected] and twitter at @fryan1951