February 18, 2010

Two Men With Tax Problems: Two Roads

Both men were entangled in long-running disputes with the IRS. Both were in debt up to their ears. Joseph Stack chose to become a domestic terrorist and wasted his life in a cowardly attack on a building full of innocent people, while Terry Hoskins bulldozed his own home flat to punish his bank.

The High Road: Flattening his Home
Terry Hoskin's home was valued at $350,000, and he owed the bank $160,000. He found someone who would purchase the house for $170,000, which would settle his debt. But apparently River Hills Bank, which was owed only $160,000, decided to move ahead with foreclosure so that they could sell the house at full value, or at least for a lot more than they'd make by allowing Hoskins to settle his contracted debt. Rather than settle for what they were actually owed, it seems River Hills Bank decided to abuse the law so they could grab money they were not entitled to have.

Congress needs to enact laws that force banks to work with people who find a way to meet their contracted obligation, even if they are behind in payments at the time, as long as the homeowner comes up with the solution prior to foreclosure. This case illustrates clearly why we need bank reform; banks should not be able to skirt the edges of the law to basically commit theft. In this light, Hoskin's actions are truly heroic: he snatched their ill-gotten prize from their jaws, basically ensuring the bank did not profit from corrupt machinations.

And he did it without resorting to terrorism, and without risking a single life.

A Despicable Act
No kind words for Joseph Andrew Stack, who left a long diatribe against the IRS, the government , big business, and organized religion before flying his plane into an office building full of people. He blamed everyone but the one person responsible for his actions: himself.

He starts off complaining about the rule of law. Then He railed at the injustice of the federal goverment spending hundreds of billions of dollars to keep automakers, investment brokerages, and banks afloat while not helping him out of the problems he dug himself into. Of course, the bailout, which everyone agrees is a mess, is intended to help hundreds of thousands if not millions of people by preventing a collapse of our entire economy, while bailing out Joe Stark would only help Joe Stark. He railed at our ridiculously complicated tax code that exempts religious and charitable organizations from paying taxes, ignoring that those organizations have to meet rigid standards to qualify for those exemptions.

What happened to start Stark's journey to terrorism is something that has happened to thousands of Americans, and it is a terrible flaw in the enforcement of our tax laws: employment paperwork was filled out that made him responsible to pay taxes that he thought his employer was paying. They may very well have lied to him about it. It's happened to a member of my family. What happens in these cases is that the IRS comes after the one the paperwork says was responsible for paying, even if the employer logically should have been the one paying.

My relative appeared on numerous news programs, lobbied his congressional representatives, and ultimately paid the IRS what they demanded. It took him years to recover. But he did recover, and recently was able to retire to enjoy his family. And he's been lobbying for changes, And he hasn't committed a single act of terrorism.

Joe Stack is no hero. He did nothing worth celebrating. He was a gutless coward who took a coward's way out of the mess he'd made of his life. Even if you buy into his ludicrous premise that the IRS is a criminal enterprise that answers to no one, the building he flew into - an IRS office complex - would never have been filled solely with IRS staff. Having been there himself, he was well aware that there would have been people just like him - taxpayers being audited - all over that building. He wasn't just lashing out at the IRS, he was out to callously murder innocent strangers who had no complicity in his troubles.

Joe Stark was no victim. The real victims are his own family, who is left to clean up a mess that he made unimaginably worse.

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