In December 1860 James L. Petigru, a Unionist from South Carolina, when he heard that his state was seceding from the Union said "South Carolina is too small to be a Republic and too large to be an insane asylum". I am of the opinion that America is no longer a Republic and we are an insane asylum. Everyday I see something on the news that makes me believe that our government has lost it's frigging mind.We have a president that is a tyrant. He has a pen and a telephone and if there is a law that stands in his way then he will just go around it. The Congress and the press are okay with it. We have an attorney general that is openly telling the attorney generals of individual states to ignore their laws regarding gay marriage that were passed by the majority of the people of those states through the democratic process. Now we have a Federal Court telling American students that they are not allowed to wear an American flag on their tee-shirt on cinco-de-mayo day because of safety concerns. Yet any other nationality can wear their country of preference flag on a tee-shirt. If the school has to worry about the students safety shouldn't that mean that politicians are letting the wrong kind of people into this country. I could list so many things that are wrong with this country right now but I would never finish writing. This foolishness could stop but the American people are going to have to do it. They are going to have to get off of their apathetic butts. I am sick of hearing whining and complaining from so many people, and Conservative talk radio, but nobody is doing anything. I have seen firsthand what people can do if they will just put the pressure on politicians. Ronald Reagan said that if they don't see the light you have to turn up the heat.
I can't remember all of the dates but I was heavily involved in the fight against the state income tax here in Tennessee in 1999 and 2000. Tennessee was only one of nine states at the time that did not have a state income tax. Don Sunquist the Republican Governor at the time was running for reelection to his final term. I had voted for Sunquist partly because he had vowed to fight a state income tax. Just a few days after he was reelected he came out in favor of one. To me this was one of the most cowardly and blatant betrayals of a political constituency that I had ever witnessed. I was livid, along with many thousands of other Tennesseans. Not only over the betrayal but over the prospect of having to not only deal with a burdensome Federal Income tax system but now we were going to have to not only deal with the highest sales tax in the U.S. but a state income tax. Even though our sales tax is high Tennessee is one of the lowest taxed states in the United States. This has been a magnet for national and international business interests like Bridgestone, Nissan, Calsonic, Dell, Volkswagen, and just recently Baretta, just to name a few. I have learned over the years that nobody can waste money like government, on the National, State and Local level. Government will never be satisfied. They promised that if they got the income tax they would lower the sales tax. They might have lowered it a few cents but it would not have been enough. A state income tax would have just been another revenue stream. The local talk radio stations immediately got involved. Daryl Ankarlo and Dave Ramsey of WWTN and Steve Gill and Phil Valentine of WLAC set up their tents every time that the State Legislature met to try to pass the income tax bill. They served as the Paul Revere and the William Dawes of Tennessee's tax revolution. They put out the warning whenever the State Legislature tried to pass the tax and we were the Minute Men who responded to the call. I only missed one tax protest during that time and that was the very first one because I didn't know about it.
If I remember right the scumbags in the predominately Democratic Legislature, like Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh tried to take a vote at night and people showed up by the hundreds in Legislative Plaza, chanting, carrying signs and driving bumper to bumper around Legislative Plaza blowing their horns. From that point on the process was repeated every time they met. They would only attempt to vote when they thought they had enough votes to pass the bill. The crowds were growing into the thousands now and it was so loud from the horns and crowd noise that you could not hear someone standing next to you. I broke my horn on a 1991 Sentra from blowing my horn so much. After awhile WWTN or WlAC would happily announce that certain legislators had changed their vote and they would adjourn for the rest of the day, admitting defeat. I remember one day especially when they thought they had the votes but because of all the noise and chanting three legislators were carried out of the building to waiting ambulances because their blood pressure had spiked. I also saw first hand the local media bias. The anti-tax crowd were just average citizens. I saw men in business suits, farmers, blue collar workers and mothers with strollers, and professional looking women. The crowd seemed to be evenly split between women and men. We vastly outnumbered the pro-tax protestors who were primarily from the unions, especially the teachers union. The media always underestimated our numbers and overestimated the pro-tax crowd. They tried to portray us as a bunch of troublemakers. They gave way too much attention to the pro tax side of the argument. Most of the time the protests occurred on my days off but I would swap shifts with someone whenever I knew a protest was going to happen on a certain day. Our finest hour, to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, came on Tuesday June 29, 1999. It was late in the afternoon and my wife Debbie was shopping in Dollar Tree in Smyrna. I was waiting outside in the car listening to WWTN afternoon Sports Show hosted by George Plaster when Steve Gill, host of the morning show, broke into the program and told the listeners that the legislators had called a special meeting to sneak the income tax through. They thought it would work because most of the anti-tax people that worked downtown had gone home for the day and they figured these people would probably not bother to return for a tax protest.
I was disheartened by the news. So many people had told me Greg you can go down there all you want but they are going to get their income tax bill passed eventually. I had heard this defeatism so much and with passion I would tell them no they will not get it. Of course in my mind I knew that I was just a speck of sand on the beach but I had the hope if we just kept up this fight we would win. Polls were showing that the income tax was very unpopular with the people of Tennessee. I was livid at the arrogance of the Democrats and Don Sunquist who were determined to override the will of the people. However I was tired that day. I worked twelve hour shifts at Bridgestone-Firestone in Lavergne and I had to get up at 4:30 AM the next morning. I kept trying to talk myself out of going downtown and I figured that just a few die- hards like myself would be the only ones to show up. Something kept pushing me to go anyway. I hopped into my Sentra and headed downtown. On the way I began to notice signs that my feelings were wrong. I passed convoys of people hanging out of their cars waving signs and blowing their horns. When I got downtown I could hear the sound of car horns before I ever got close to the capital and on the radio I could hear the jubilant mood of the talk show hosts that were on the scene. This was a powerful moment for me. I had to hold back tears because I was seeing Democracy in action. People were telling these people not no, but hell no. As I circled the capital thousands of people were there. Luckily I was able to find a parking space and joined the crowd surrounding the capital. People were inside the building and were gathered on all the entrances. I believe by this time they were not letting any more people into the building, People were beating on the doors. The press tried to say that we were unruly but to me no one was out of control. Somehow a window was supposedly broken in the capital but nobody seemed to know how it happened. I can only imagine what would have occured if this had been a leftist crowd like "Occupy Wall Street". In a short while we heard the joyous news that the cowardly Democrats had backed down again.
The next time they thought they had the votes State Troopers surrounded the capital in riot gear but even more protesters showed up and they were blowing their horns. People were coming from all over Tennessee. Even my Aunt Freddy who was in her seventies then and my cousin Rowena. We would eventually win the tax battle. After 2000 the state income tax was a dead issue. In the years since Conservative Republicans have won control over both houses of the Tennessee State Legislature, primarily because of the Democratic support of the income tax. They have been able to accomplish some great things. Not only have they kept out the income tax but they have passed some of the best laws in the country regarding the right of gun owners to be able to carry their guns into restaurants that sell alcohol, convenience stores, and giving workers the right to keep their guns in their cars while at work. They also helped pass an amendment to our state constitution preventing gay marriage among other things. I wish that we could recapture the spirit of the Tennessee Tax Revolt on a national level. I believe that the anger that existed then is even more intense now. It rises with every outrage of a liberal judge, the Congress and the blatant arrogance of Obama. We just need leadership in the right places but outside of a few Conservatives in Congress we just don't have that yet.. In the meantime I will continue to write editorials, write articles on my blog, contact my elected representatives, vote when there is a candidate that I can vote for and finally I pray that God will perform a miracle and turn this country around.
|A State Trooper abusing a Tennessee tax protestor|