It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
It has been my honor and blessed privilege to chair a local grassroots organization known as the Lebanon 9-12 Project. This organization was formed in the early days of tea party movement with an emphasis on remembering the events that followed September 11, 2001; not to simply remember the horrific event itself but to hold fast to the spirit in America that followed where we came together as a nation and, for a moment, set aside party and other divisions to work together as a people united in purpose. While established during the rising “tea party” movement, it was also something different, where policy was more important than personalities or party.
At the center of the Lebanon 9-12 Project, is the subject of Liberty…personal Liberty… and this differs from simple freedom. Freedom can become absolute anarchy because the absolute freedom to do as we wish can include the violation of the liberties of others and this becomes a threat to the exercise of both Freedom and Liberty. Liberty, true Liberty, contains within it, the restraining principle that I am free to exercise my rights so long as I do no harm to others.
To engage in the principle of liberty is to embrace foundational truths on our natural and inherent rights. It embraces the sacred principles of the inherent and protected personal expressions of the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association. There is not a single issue in our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of rights or Pennsylvania’s Constitution in Article One that is not, somehow, directly connected to the right of property.
These sacred and inherent rights have one singular limitation that, in the expression of these rights, we seek to do no harm to others. It is a foundational truth established long before the land we now call America became a nation. It is found in teachings of Jesus Christ. He expressed it like this “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). We believe those words can equally be applied as a summary of the Law as established through a just government.
It is found in the writings of Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas Aquinas, Algernon Sydney, John Locke and Montesquieu…all of who preceded our founders and the birth of this Nation as a free an independent Union of States under the guidance of the rule of law as established in our Constitutions making us a nation that was best described as a Constitutional Republic..
As Thomas Jefferson declared in his rough draft of the Declaration of Independence “to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organizing it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety & happiness.”
Those words were so profound that it’s one of the few segments of the rough draft of the Declaration that made it through without being altered.
If we accept that there is just government we must also accept that there is also unjust government; that sometimes laws established in even the most just of governments become corrupted and that those laws become unjust in their forceful execution. Those unjust laws then become instruments that no longer protect the natural and inherent rights of the people but, instead, become instruments of harm to both individuals and society as a whole.
Through the organization of the Lebanon 9-12 Project we have set as one of our highest priorities, the reestablishment of the inherent rights of property to the people in the protection of those sacred, natural and inherent rights. Our guidance in this matter has been framed around a moral principle laid out for us at the founding of this nation and in the founding of Pennsylvania as a Commonwealth.
Before I go any further, I need it to be clearly understood that, by property, we mean all property; not just the property of our real estate. As James Madison said “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” (James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792)
In the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States we find a list of the six ends to which the Constitution is addressed: union, justice, domestic tranquility, defense, general welfare, and liberty. The matter of liberty described most fully in these words, “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
In 1679 William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, wrote “Three Rights are so peculiar and inherent to us, that if we will not throw them away for Fear or Favor, for Meat and Drink, or those other little present Profits, that Ill Men offer to tempt us with, they cannot be altered or abrogated….The First of these Three Fundamentals is Property, that is, Right and Title to your own Lives, Liberties and Estates: In this, every Man is a Sort of Little Sovereign to himself: No Man has Power over his Person, to Imprison or hurt it, or over his Estate to Invade or Usurp it”
Now I’m saying all of this to lay a framework for an argument. That which follows is in the context of that which preceded.
I fully understand the economic peril that the school property tax has become since it’s abuses began in the late 1960’s. I accept the truth that people are losing their homes because they can’t keep up with the weight and burden of this tax. While I accept the economic wrong of the abuse of this method of funding education, I firmly believe that the economic impact is a symptom of the acceptance of a moral wrong in the invasion of our supposedly protected rights to be secure in our homes and possessions. It is the violation of the principle of liberty that creates the economic condition. It does so because it is an unjust Law.
Those who are comfortable with property taxation accept it without looking at the consequences of the school property tax in inflating the costs of all the goods and services we not only use, but also need for survival. Food and clothing cost more because there is a property tax. Our homes cost to us personally more because their a property tax. Even those who rent will pay higher rental prices because there is a property tax.
The principle of Liberty is violated because it is a law that, although some are comfortable with it, it requires doing harm to others. In 2015 Governor Wolf acknowledged that simple fact when he said “There is a need to understand the investment that is education. There is a choice of supporting education, but it comes with the cost of taxes and the possibility of losing a home for some” (The Pocono Record, Mat 27, 2015)
Governor Wolf’s words are a kinder and gentler way of expressing the sentiment expressed during a hearing on Property Tax Elimination by Michael Wood of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center when he said that 10,000 people losing their homes each year is not a significant enough number to do something about it. To demonstrate that the Governor must apparently agree with the sentiment of Michael Wood, understand this: In 2015, under Governor Wolf, he became Executive Budget Manager of the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget (June 2015 – July 2018) and then in July of this year Michael Wood became the Policy Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
Michael Wood and his ideological positioning to accept a corrupted system of taxation, a system supported by Governor Wolf’s statement is one way that we can understand how the deep state works. Once appointed after spearheading an organization that works against the best interest of the citizenry of this Commonwealth, these people can advance their agendas. Adding insult to injury, by appointing them to critical positions within this deep state shadow government, they can operate behind the scenes, hidden through a general lack of transparency when it comes to the actions of this myriad of Departments, Agencies and Commissions where they will further influence policy and impose regulations that further perpetuate the violations of our homes and possessions.
Recently we saw another appointment of an individual as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. That person was Jerry Oleksiak who was lauded as being a teacher upon the announcement of his nomination. Oleksiak was, actually, a ghost teacher, where instead of teaching in the classroom, he was paid to do the work of the PSEA, Pennsylvania’s largest public sector unions representing teachers. While a ghost teacher, Oleksiak advanced through the ranks to become the President of the PSEA. Prior to being elected PSEA President, Oleksiak served as PSEA Vice President, PSEA Treasurer, a member of the PSEA Board of Directors, and President of Mideastern Region of PSEA, which includes Bucks and Montgomery Counties. He also served as Chair of the Coordinated Bargaining Committee.
As head of the Department of Labor and Industry he will now oversee the Collective Bargaining aspects related to the PSEA.
As James Madison wrote in Federalist Papers, No. 10, November 23, 1787: “The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling which they overburden the inferior number is a shilling saved to their own pockets.”
In this same document Madison explained that no man should allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. Through the deep state, however, this is exactly what we see happening. Individuals with personal self-serving interests are setting policy and controlling regulatory authority allowing them to be the judge in their own cause.
To accept the taxation of property to fund education is to accept the institutions established that are working behind the scenes to perpetuate this violation of our rights to property where doing harm to others is entirely acceptable behavior so long as a few benefit greatly by its implementation or, as Senator Folmer explained, “Sacrificing principle on the altar of self-interest.”
The goal of the Lebanon 9-12 Project is the complete elimination of all property taxes, starting with the egregious school property tax. We must move away from bad taxation principles that violate our personal liberties. Those bad policies begin by first ignoring our sacred and inherent rights to property and the government’s responsibility, if they wish to remain a just government, of protecting that sacred and inherent right. To be clear, taxation as a means to fund the necessary functions of government is a shared responsibility. That responsibility, however, should never primarily be limited to one class in society, especially where, within that class, exemptions are continually carved out that passed that burden on to fewer people with in that class. That responsibility MUST be based on taxation established through the principle of ability to pay.
The property tax is not based on ability to pay. It assumes a wealth based on property ownership and imposes a special penalty on us. That assumed wealth will never generate the income necessary to pay for the property tax. By shifting to an income related tax or to a sales and use tax, we better reflect ability to pay and con do so in a way that is for more equitable and will not require the constant tax increases that are necessary because we rely on property tax to fund education and our government.
The goal is, elimination and how we get there is very important. We accept our mutual responsibility in the funding of something so important as education. In this fact, we agree with our opposition that education funding is important, where we disagree is in how we fund that system of education.
Our opponents accept the immorality of the unjust system of taxation that is not based on ability to pay that has the power to deny some the liberty in their sacred and inherent rights to pursue their own happiness through the purchase and complete ownership of their home. We understand that either we have a right to our own property or we become the property of others. Through the property tax, we become the subservient player where the protected privilege of denying liberty to some, thus actually denying it to all whether directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly, and giving agencies of government an authority over our homes in ways that were never intended by our founding or through the foundational doctrines of our Commonwealth and Country…for certainly the abuse of property taxation has become a perversion of the intent of those who were tasked with creating those profound documents.
The continual efforts of fixing this issue through relief schemes or through carving out more exemptions has continually demonstrated that these tactics aren’t working. They not only aren’t working, they are making the situation more intolerable for more people. And yet, we continually hear about their temporary fixes where they plot and conspire to do the same things in the name of property tax relief all while promising different results this time. That’s insanity.
When the same tactics continue to prove themselves to be unworkable, you have to be willing to go in a different direction. You must look for alternative solutions to this unreasonable tax burden that plagues, not only individuals, but the entire Commonwealth making us a less attractive place to establish roots, attract new business to the Commonwealth or to allow for existing business to expand.
To my way of thinking, any one defending the status quo of property taxation is also preserving the potential of pushing Pennsylvania further into that downward spiral that continues to hurt our economy. It does so because of the immoral principles that supports the property tax itself. Once you correct the injustice of the property tax, you set us on a course of better being able to fix those other issues as well.