According to that old cliché, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. In Alabama, at least one tax defies death…literally. For over one hundred years, the state has collected millions of dollars from its residents via a special tax designed to aid Confederate veterans of the Civil War. Trouble is, the last veteran of this long-ago war to have benefited from the fund died in 1934. No one apparently told Alabama’s legislature, because the tax is still collected today.
What makes this story more amazing is that it was from the Associated Press. I always thought the AP never met a tax it didn’t like, but in this case the liberal mainstream news agency takes an unusually jaundiced view of this one. But before anyone thinks the AP suddenly has joined forces with the anti-tax Tea Party movement, a closer examination of the article reveals its true sarcasm about Alabama:
Despite fire-and-brimstone opposition to taxes among many in a state that still has ‘Heart of Dixie’ on its license plates, officials never stopped collecting a property tax that once funded the Alabama Confederate Soldiers’ Home, which closed 72 years ago.
Apparently, Alabama has continued to collect and use the money for things other than its intended purpose:
The tax once brought in millions for Confederate pensions, but lawmakers sliced up the levy and sent money elsewhere as the men and their wives died. No one has seriously challenged the continued use of the money for a memorial to the ‘Lost Cause,’ in part because few realize it exists.
The Lost Cause memorial is the Confederate Memorial Park which rakes in an annual $400,000 from the tax.
The Confederate veterans tax troubles me on two levels: one as a veteran, and the other as a taxpayer.
As a veteran, I find it disturbing that lawmakers would continue to collect a tax meant to fund veterans’ pensions, only to use it for other purposes (even if it’s for a veterans’ memorial). As a taxpayer, this kind of behavior is common, and it needs to end. Taxes should be raised for specific purposes, and when that purpose ends, so should the tax. In fact, all taxes should have expiration dates, and upon expiration, legislators – responsible to the public – should have to vote to extend them. If funding the Confederate Memorial Park is a good idea, then the citizens of Alabama should have the final say by electing legislators to fund it with a new tax.
Ironically, the article also notes (buried down in the text) that there are federal excise taxes that are still collected on tobacco and alcohol that were first enacted during the Civil War. The revenue was raised to fund the Union, and it is still collected 150 years after the war. I’m certain the total amount collected annually by these taxes far exceeds the $400K that Alabama collects from the Confederate veterans tax. Perhaps the AP should have made the alcohol and tobacco tax the focus of its story instead, since the impact on the taxpayer is much more significant.
Death and taxes are inevitable. But taxes that that resist death like vampires have no place in our republic. It’s time to drive a stake through the heart of all these misdirected and anachronistic revenue-raising schemes, and return the savings to the taxpayers. It’s our money to begin with.
Mike Angley is the award-winning author of the thriller series, the Child Finder trilogy. He is a retired USAF Colonel and 25-year career Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). Follow him on Twitter: @MikeAngley, FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/mike.angley, and visit his website: www.mikeangley.com.