Paul L. Caron

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tax

Mlk_2In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: reports on how some southern officials tried to use state tax laws to stop King and the nascent civil rights movement:

  • "In Alabama, ... Governor John Patterson in early 1960 directed state revenue authorities to charge Martin Luther King, Jr., with tax evasion and perjury in completing his Alabama state income tax returns. The charges against King, who had already moved his ministry from the Dexter Street Church in Montgomery to his father's church in Atlanta, specified that he had diverted money raised for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) into his own pockets without ever reporting it as income." Kermit L. Hall, "Lies, Lies, Lies": The Origins of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 9 Comm. L. & Pol'y 391, 404 (2004).
  • "The only person ever prosecuted under the Georgia income tax perjury statute was Martin Luther King." Corey R. Chivers, Desuetude, Due Process, and the Scarlet Letter Revisited, 1992 Utah L. Rev. 449, 454 n.27.

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Thank you very much for posting this along with the videos. Watching those videos of MLK is a great reminder for everyone what this country went through and is still going through today. Thank You.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 19, 2010 1:59:39 PM

Yeah, I've always wondered about that. How did the party that founded the Confederacy, and that opposed the civil rights movement tooth and nail, end up today with the Black vote? How did the party that was founded to oppose slavery and that ended up defeating and banning it, get so much Black leadership hatred?

Posted by: Ed | Jan 19, 2010 6:14:38 AM

Another point, those democrats who decide not to engage in this kind of warfare have a much harder time winning office.

This is why most of the democrats I know in my personal life are not race baiters and don't hate different sorts of people, and yet most democrat politicians preach like that. It's like political natural selection. In a populist party, if you don't play groups off eachother, you better have some other really good plan.

This is less true for the GOP because of a fundamental difference in what conservatives should do with laws and peoples, but it's still somewhat true for them.

Posted by: Clarence Thomson | Jan 19, 2010 5:58:28 AM

While I don't think the GOP is the end all be all of civil rights anymore, I do think Woody's seeing false irony.

The democrats have not changed much from the 1960s when they opposed civil rights legislation. They have successfully triangulated a lot of civil rights mantras, but their policies have not made America more equal, and their rhetoric is highly racialized to this day.

Georgia is a great example. If the wrong race is about to win an office, democrats will point that race out. The GOP has simply never done this at the level the dems have because of core differences in populist treatment.

I think a lot of democrats are very interested in equal opportunity and regarding people for the content of their character, but the democratic party has simply adapted to racial politics while playing that race game just as hard. Al Sharpton is not the fairest example, because he's such an extreme example, but the democrats may never stop pointing out what 'group' you're in and telling you have you need the democrats to have lots of power to keep those other 'groups' from taking from your group. This divisive garbage is America's unfortunate birth defect.

Racist like Al Gore Sr and Robert Byrd are stark examples of what to avoid, but are considered awesome leaders of the past that should be emulated with a modern spin.

Just look at oddball characters outside the democrat favored group culture. Look at how their leaders treat dark skinned but brilliant thinkers, or women, or the religious, or the individualist.

It's not that democrats are evil: it's that they are populist and motivated primarily in gaining political power, and group or identity politics are the easiest way to reach their goals. Conservatives may not understand this... they just want government to reach a sustainable point and change only to face serious problems from time to time. Populists want to continually point out problems (real or imagined) that can scare voters to the polls. And really, it's not like the GOP doesn't have its chare of populists, present and past. Fear of rich white men on wall street, black men marrying your white daughters, natives, fundies taking away your civil rights (whether they are really rights of not), SUV drivers warming the planet until we all die, etc etc etc. Find someone who isn't in a target group of voters, and demonize them.

I think Obama is particularly good at doing this, even to the point of demonizing both sides of any group, depending on who he's talking to that day. I do not think it's surprising that he went to a particularly angry church or uses a preacher's rhetorical style, or launched his career in an opposing viewpoint's angry domestic terrorist's house. It sounds very nutty to allege this (though it's all true). Obama doesn't really believe in Wright's race supremacy or Ayers's hatreds, but he knows how to play both fiddles and many more.

If what some politician says cannot be applied to all law abiding Americans, they are trying to con you. Tax law is the easiest way to find examples of this con.

Posted by: Clarence Thomson | Jan 19, 2010 5:54:56 AM

And let us not forget that Democrats opposed the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, and started the KKK. Or that most of the civil rights legislation was passed by a Republican Congress.

Posted by: EvilDave | Jan 18, 2010 4:45:22 PM

woody, dont you know that the Dems have co-opted the black leadership for them and those they have chosen? Look at the financial fortunes of Sharpton, Rangel, Lee, Jackson, etc. Those 'leaders' have sold out their brethren for the 30 pieces of silver.

Posted by: swift boater | Jan 18, 2010 3:46:43 PM

It's ironic that the governorships and state legislatures of those states were controlled by the Democrats at that time. Today, Democrats nominate those that they used to prosecute.

Posted by: Woody | Jan 18, 2010 1:10:48 PM