33 Ways to Encourage Atlas to Shrug

Monday, Apr 25, 2011

Ayn Rand's 1957 novel "Atlas Shrugged" is enjoying renewed popularity following the release of the new Atlas Shrugged movie. Rand's story describes a group of American industrialists that lose patience with onerous regulation and taxation, and "shrug"--disappearing from their normal lives to relocate to a hidden valley called Galt's Gulch. While this tale is fictional, it has some strong parallels to modern-day America. And despite the fact that Ayn Rand was an atheist and favored legalized abortion, she was a good judge of both character and the inevitable tendencies of elected governments. When I consider the regulatory and tax burdens that have been implemented in my lifetime--I was born in 1960--I believe that Rand had amazing prescience. Let's face it: We no longer live in a free market capitalist nation. At best, it could called a "mixed" economy with statist tendencies, and verging on socialism.

Reading the news headlines in recent months has led me to believe that the Galt's Gulch concept has a lot of merit. If The Powers That Be wanted to encourage the Atlases of the world to shrug, they couldn't have done a better job. What is the best way to get the most productive Citizens of our nation to go on strike, and retreat to "gulches"? Consider the following "to do" list for those whom Ayn Rand called "The Destroyers":

  1. Remove the homeowner's mortgage interest tax deduction. Yes, they're pushing for it.
  2. Reinstate the Federal estate tax and pre-Bush Administration income tax levels. They want to impose the old tax rates on anyone with an income of $250,000. Oh, and the CBO's budget predictions are all using the assumption that the 2001 tax cuts are reverted. Is this wishful thinking (to make the increases in the Federal debt not look quite so bad), or a fait accompli?
  3. Nationalize IRAs and 401(k)s. Yes, its under discussion.
  4. Increase taxes for unemployment-insurance funds. This is already in progress.
  5. Drag out approval of new mining operations with endless Environmental Impact studies. They're already doing it.
  6. Inflate the currency to rob those who save money--a hidden form of taxation. Standard practice for 40 years.
  7. Drag out approval of newly-developed medicines. Now the status quo.
  8. Push up the rates for "sin" taxes on tobacco, alcohol, and other items. Already implemented in 2010.
  9. Increase the Minimum Wage. Several states have done so, but even worse yet, some unions are pushing for more socialist "Living Wage" laws
  10. Raise import tariffs. Each new tariff causes problems. Didn't they ever hear Ben Stein's high school Economics lecture on the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? (OBTW, Ben Stein is now warning about an economic collapse.)
  11. Increase the tax paperwork burden by requiring "1099-MISC" reporting of all cash transactions over $600. (Attempted, but thankfully set aside for the time being.)
  12. Increase the cost of doing business through mandatory insurance. (The "labor burden" for an employee with a nominal salary of $17 per hour ($35,360 gross, annually) is an additional $20,029 per year.) Workman's compensation, in particular, is getting painfully expensive.
  13. Increase sales taxes. Several states have increased sales taxes, since 2009.
  14. Increase property taxes, as home values decline. Many counties have hiked their tax rates.
  15. Continue to increase the size of the government (and its debts). The Federal debt increases are looking inexorable.
  16. Push for increased mandatory employer-paid benefits for company employees like mandatory health insurance for part-time employees and European-style long term parental leave. Also, push toward excluding companies from government contracts unless they have expanded health care coverage.
  17. Mandate payment of state sales taxes on out-of-state purchases for Internet and mail orders. Yes, they're still pushing for these taxes, and for regulation of the entire Internet.
  18. Create a pervasive Nanny State mentality. For example: penalize companies and consumers for high trans-fat foods, and alcoholic beverages that taste too good.
  19. Sue the makers of guns that actually work just as they were designed. (At least a partial law shield law was enacted, in 2005.)
  20. Use taxpayer funds to destroy classic cars that are in running condition, while subsidizing hybrid cars that use batteries that will pollute landfills for centuries.
  21. Over-regulate small firms out of business. Dry cleaners are a prime example.
  22. Fine farmers and ranchers for using traditional practices.
  23. Create a European-style Value Added Tax (VAT). Yes, they're still pushing for it.
  24. Legislate expansion of company-paid health insurance to cover everything from same sex "domestic partners" and autism to sex change operations.
  25. Lobby for mandating that companies pay for three weeks of paid vacation per year for all employees.
  26. Institute dozens of unfunded mandates from the Federal level, that must be compensated for with higher state, county, and local taxes.
  27. Increase license, permit, and vehicle registration fees. In progress. Meanwhile, institute "temporary" tax increases. These surtaxes on income, sales, or real property are described as "temporary." (But don't be surprised if they are not repealed.)
  28. Providing free education to illegal immigrants while levying taxes on home schooling families for services that they don't use.
  29. Make it illegal for owners to protect their livestock from predators.
  30. Remove the salary cap on Social Security tax "contributions". The liberal think tanks are pushing for it.
  31. Encourage a litigious society where huge lawsuits are filed over trifles, and where the makers of products can be sued even if product buyers intentionally misuse products.
  32. Implement carbon taxes and credits. Still in early stages of implementation.
  33. And lastly, the big one: Implement socialized medicine. Despite a strong public outcry, it is now Federal law. But thankfully there is a push to rescind part or all of it.

The shrugging and gulching has already begun...

Reading the foregoing might have you inspired to find your own Galt's Gulch. Although I admit a personal bias, one practical option that I can suggest is the American Redoubt. (I'm the originator of the plan.) The Redoubt region is inside of the continental United States, so moving there is much more realistic than moving offshore--at least for most of us.

Many folks are now ready to vote with their feet. Atlas is starting to shrug.

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