I recently acquired an illegal copy, fitting enough, of “America: Freedom to Fascism” directed by Aaron Russo, “a documentary that explores the connection between income tax collection and the erosion of civil liberties in America.” Basically, this 2005 documentary brings to light some astonishing revelations, that apparently federal income tax and the filing of your 1040 every year is in actuality unconstitutional. The film first claims, then proves that there is actually no law requiring the American working class to pay a tax on their wages. Oddly, I came into possession of this ’05 film just days after the director’s death from cancer.
After a bit of research myself, there appears to be reasonable arguments on both sides, though more leaning towards Russo’s stance. Aaron Russo does (mostly) right everything that Michael Moore did wrong, including: more facts and less personal opinions, more interviews, and more informative, and uproots more than what the government is up to, but actually why. You won’t find Russo taking kids to K-Mart and asking employees that they take out the bullets that they legally sold to parents of a couple fucking morons. You won’t find Russo blaming Charlton Heston for school shootings, or pouring in gallons of bullshit feelings and opinions. Hell, Moore was even disapproved by Ray Bradbury, which you obviously have to see some irony in that. Moore denied Bradbury’s request to change the title and tagline. I will say that I admire Moore’s stance on pro-movie leaking and downloading, which is rare. But I have to wonder if it’s more propaganda designed to increase fandom. Or maybe I just hate the fuckhead because he pissed off one of my favorite writers. But does Russo really have more integrity in the film than Moore has had, or is he not quite as flamboyant at it?
There are many great quotes used throughout the documentary, but some are wrongly attributed, mixed with other quotes, or clipped and cut to incorrectly accuse the originator of ill intent. Take for example the quote from Bill Clinton: “We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans." Sounds pretty fucking malicious to me, until I read the quote in its entirety: “We can't be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans to legitimately own handguns and rifles—it's something I strongly support—we can't be so fixated on that that we are unable to think about the reality of life that millions of Americans face on streets that are unsafe, under conditions that no other nation—no other nations—has permitted to exist.” Moore, I’d say, more or less.
Regardless, there are very noteworthy quotes throughout the film. Edwin Viera says, “All the power is in the people. And to the extent that government becomes alienated from the people, does things the people don't want, power is transferred until you finally come to a Police State, totalitarian state, whatever word you want to give it -- where the desires of the people really have no consequence. They go out and they vote, doesn't make any difference which candidate they elect.” Oddly reminiscent is a quote from Joseph Stalin, “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
But perhaps I shouldn’t get hung-up on minor details, and instead focus on the overall message presented: If we truly should pay income tax, then why doesn’t the 16th Amendment apply and why isn’t there a law stating it? So therefor, what is it about the 16th Amendment that is disputed? “Article V of the U.S. Constitution specifies the ratification process, and requires 3/4 of the States to ratify any amendment proposed by Congress. There were 48 States in the American Union in 1913, meaning that affirmative action of 36 states was required for ratification. In February, 1913, Secretary of State Philander Knox issued a proclamation claiming that 38 states had ratified the amendment.” All sources list all 38 states as having ratified the 16th, even Wikipedia (though generally unreliable anyway). And yet, “The 4 states listed below are among the 38 states that Philander Knox claimed ratification from.”
-“The Kentucky Senate voted upon the resolution, but rejected it by a vote of 9 in favor and 22 opposed.”
-“The Oklahoma Senate amended the language of the 16th Amendment to have a precisely opposite meaning.”
-“The California legislative assembly never recorded any vote upon any proposal to adopt the amendment proposed by Congress.”
-“The State of Minnesota sent nothing to the Secretary of State in Washington.”
What it all boils down to is that “33 states engaged in the unauthorized activity of amending the language of the amendment proposed by Congress, a power the states do not possess.” Another dispute is what “income” actually entails in the Constitution. It’s nowhere described or defined in the document, yet the Supreme Court defines it as: gain from corporate activity. Not wages or labor. Another scary point brought forth is that the Federal Reserve is actually a private bank and not a federal agency.
There seems to be a massive amount of controversy surrounding the movie, which would be understandable considering its message. Many have tried to rebuke the evidence, or lack thereof. For instance, the IMDb states that there is factual error “when speaking of disarming residents in New Orleans the footage actually shows arrests by the California Highway Patrol.” Yet, the “Highway Patrol” shown raiding houses and disarming citizens are in fact dressed in army camo, two of whom are interviewed. I don’t feel like researching this particular topic, especially considering it’s the only scene in the entire movie to be regarded as wrong, but it did strike me as a little odd that they looked just like the Army, as he described them as. (Side note: the man in the picture above is my new personal hero. He is a former IRS Inspector who stumbled onto this information, that there is no income tax law, and inquired about it. He was fired for asking too much and now hasn't paid his federal income taxes in years. Stickin' it to the man, fuck yes.)
The documentary goes on to tell much more about the unlawful taxation, the Federal Reserve, and even predicts the (somewhat typical) Orwellian future that may be ahead. Many great points are presented, and some rather disturbing information is brought to light, though with a somewhat slight of hand. Despite this, it didn’t appear to me to be quite as bad as Moore’s attempts. Though with smoke and mirrors, it’s really anybody’s guess. In the end though, it’s still worth checking out. As a documentary, it’s well-crafted and gets across its point, however astonishing and enraging it may be.
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin