Taxpayers in Revolt: Tax Resistance During the Great Depression
David Beito has brought to light a remarkable and previously unknown chapter of the Great Depression: its tax revolts. They were widespread and systematic, and they made such huge progress that in some places they threatened to bring local and state government to its knees.
Here we have an aggressive resistance to the New Deal, in the form of some 1500 anti-tax movements in the United States that formed to resist FDR’s looting. It’s no wonder historians before Beito completely ignored this great movement.
Beito explores their driving force, the leadership, the ideological basis, their progress and their dealings with the press. He shows how they worked the system to curb tax increases and roll back the taxes in place.
The movement has roots in the 1920s boom, when local spending zoomed and taxes did too. Taxpayers were already complaining. But when the Depression hit, the taxes were becoming a crushing burden, and political pressure mounted to repeal them. Governments, however, were strapped for revenue. This dynamic set up a conflict that exploded in protests. The author deals with how the elites and the government (including large corporations) smeared the movement as enemies of the people and society.
Beito’s book reads like a novel, complete with a tragic ending that teaches lessons for the future. Without meaning to give away the ending, the tax-revolt movement was brought down by a vast propaganda campaign, and the promise of good and better government in the future- a naive assumption that the leadership should have seen through.
There is so much to learn from here! This is a first-class piece of historical research and writing.
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