Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Andrew Joseph Stack: Pauper with a Private Plane

    So, Andrew Joseph Stack was angry at the IRS for his financial problems. So he got in his plane....

    Stop. Stop it. Stop right there.

    Do people in the media ever listen to themselves?

    We have a person who, aside from being a murderer, feels he's being unjustly treated by the taxman. And that person, who considers his woes so unbearable that he's willing to take human life, has at least one personal aircraft. I know what you're thinking: The poor man. It's like something out of Steinbeck.

    A little surfing around the internet suggests that one could buy a used Piper Cherokee plane, like Stack's, for something in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $170,000, depending on how old the plane is and some other factors. So Stack, persecuted victim of the IRS, owned a pleasure craft whose resale value was either two or three times the national median income. What has this country come to?

    This is what our national discourse, our national sense of what's normal, has come to: a man so rich that he can spend two or three years of average-middle-class income on a toy still feels entitled to talk about himself as an economic victim, and that part actually seems normal to people. Republican Congressmen, people in elected office, can say, yes, it's wrong what he did but the IRS really is a problem.

    It's laughable. Or it should be. But people actually base successful political campaigns and real policies and actual legislation on this nonsense. Because let's face it: a lot of the people complaining most bitterly about taxation in our public forums, the people screaming about Big Government even as the effective tax rate on the rich stays at rock-bottom lows: those are almost all Guys with Planes. Sometimes it's actually a plane. Sometimes it's a boat. Sometimes it's a summer house, or a ski lodge. Sometimes it's a boat and a ski lodge and a Jaguar and a Vicodin addiction and love nest somewhere. You know what these people call themselves?

    Regular guys. Average joes. Victims. "The middle class."

    It would be funny if it weren't so ugly and so mean. You know who the real privileged in America are, according to these people? Mothers receiving food stamps. Illegal immigrants busing tables for half of minimum wage. The unemployed. According to the Guys with Planes, these people are not being punished enough, so the thing to do is cut off the food stamps, kick penniless immigrants out of the emergency rooms, and cut the capital gains tax.

    Conservatives have been complaining for years about the culture of victimhood. And they're right. It's ugly. Anytime they want to drop the victim act is good with me. You can put the sense of entitlement next to it.

    I'm tired of being poor-mouthed by guys with their own planes. Suck it up, fellas. Things are tough all over.



    True that. I would add that the real victim, Vernon Hunter, did not own a plane.

    As soon as I read this, I thought of your new book. This could almost be an epilogue for it (or a forward).

    Don't mean to horn in on your territory, G.

    The more the merrier. I hadn't actually been thinking about the income angle, just race, religion, gender, and sexual preference. Maybe I'll use it (with your permission of course).

    I'm in my happy little bubble over here, not thinking about American politics or American dysfunction. Pretty much all I've been thinking about is applying enough sunscreen. And sometimes, when I'll be cracking open my next cold beer. And now you have me all pissed off again. Thanks a lot, Doc. (No, really. Thanks a lot. Mosquitoes don't bite people who are stressed out because they don't smell good. And I've been getting eaten alive!)

    rich or poor does not change what many middle class faces every year:

    How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system? Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand. Yet, it mercilessly "holds accountable" its victims, claiming that they're responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand. The law "requires" a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that's not "duress" than what is. If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

    I hate to break this to you: "rich or poor" does change whether or not someone is middle class. The dictionary will back me up on this one.

    I see you're quoting Stack's incoherent suicide note like its one of the highlights of The Federalist. I have to break this to you, too: that note is stupid. But on the other hand, it's full of lies.

    Stack claims, in his self-pitying and self-justifying whine, that the tax laws are too hard to understand, and that makes them terribly unfair. But this is a lie on its face. Surely, Stack knew that he could not actually count his own house as a church and get a tax exemption. If that was beyond his intellectual capabilities, he was monumentally stupid. But it wasn't: he was smart enough to know better, but stupid and dishonest enough to try it anyway.

    If you think Stack was a hero, striking a blow for the middle class, you're fairly monumental yourself. Joe Stack wanted other people to pay taxes so that he didn't have to. He was a liar, a bungler, a crybaby, and a fool. And if this sort of thing matters to you, he was a murderer, who killed a real middle-class working stiff who'd actually bothered to come into work that day while Stack was flying around in his toy plane.

    tax code is 60+ thousand pages. Last year I went to a lawyer/CPA, got advice contradicting the text in turbo tax. In fear, I paid the bigger number.

    That's horrible. You went to a professional for professional advice and got it.

    Here's the difference, my anonymous friend, between you and Stack. You actually abided with the law, and when you got professional advice that you didn't want to hear, you took it anyway. Stack got angry that the person he hired to tell him what the law was didn't instead tell him what Stack wished the law would say. And then, instead of obeying the law, Stack murdered somebody.

    And if you experience compliance with the civil law as primarily motivated by fear ... really, you have my sympathies. That must be a very painful way to live.

    Is the tax code complicated? Yes. You know one of the reasons it's complicated? All of those lovely tax cuts that politicians keep trumpeting ... exemption for this, deduction for that. Of course it's complicated when you keep doing that.

    Unlike Mr. Stack, I did not spend my time/money to find what is right. Buying a software to figure out what is my tax is not right, yet "I insure nothing will change".

    Neither did Stack.  And by that I mean both his efforts to evade taxes that he owed and his murderous airplane mission.  If you think either of these things have or will change the tax code in any material way, think again.

    Do you have something other than "repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different"?

    Great post, Dr. C.  I believe that this is what Hobbes meant when he wrote that we look a the world through "multiplying glasses."  For all of their bluster, I could pretty much guarantee that you'd never see Beck or Limbaugh pulling a similar stunt.  In truth, they're pleased as punch with our present system.

    Latest Comments