Blog: Chapter 3, part 2
In the face of increasing tax delinquency, politicians (and their minions and masters, the newspapers and banks) predictably groveled, begged, and threatened the public to pay their taxes. One particular ARET pamphlet urging non-payment asked, "Shall I pay a tax which by general admission is unfair and illegal and which by court order is fraudulent and void and which is more than double the amount that would result from a fair, reasonable, legal assessment of the taxable wealth of Cook County?" The answer to that seems obvious. It was obvious to the residents of Cook County as well—a group with a membership of 35 at the beginning of 1931 grew to 8,000 by October, and by June 1932 passed 20,000. Those numbers must have struck a glorious fear in the hearts of the elected pillagers.
But the pillagers still had the newspapers to rely on. While denying ad space (paid ad space) to ARET, the papers regularly donated full page ads to the city government's "Pay Your Taxes" campaign. Donald Duck was on board at the national level.
In their desperation for tax money, some of the propaganda posters asked people to "Pay What You Think Is A Fair Tax." This capitulatory request was met with scorn by Mauritz Hallgren of the Nation magazine. "He sensed in this slogan dangerous evidence of civic impotence, or worse, anarchy." Oh no, the peasants might catch on! Hallgren continued: "This is not only a tax strike, it is open revolt against government. One must consider the present state of affairs little short of anarchy when civic societies feel impelled to flood the town with posters calling upon the residents to 'Pay What You Think Is A Fair Tax! Pay Now! Keep You Schools Open!'" A little short of anarchy actually sounds good to me. The alternative is made quite clear by Hallgren, although maybe not purposely. The opposite of paying a voluntary amount to the city government is paying the amount they say, when they say to pay it, and there had better not be any grumbling or else! At least the mafia works for their extorted income.
So tax protesters are anarchists. What other slanderous label can be applied to them? Irvin Wilson of the Chicago Principals' Club (a club? Were girls allowed? Did they have a secret password?) predicted a Bush tactic when he said the tax strike was the "most dangerous form of terrorism and public disorder." Terrorists! You're either with us or against us, and if you're against us, you're with the terrorists, but if you're not actually with the terrorists, but you're against us, then you're really with the terrorists, so pay your taxes. Why doesn't it surprise me that Dubya didn't come up with the terrorists slam on his own?
So with tax money trickling in and credit with the banks drying up, what could possibly be done? Members of ARTE's board had an idea. Cut spending! Novel. One of the board saw the tax strike as "the best way to guarantee a reduction in costs and force politicians to 'relinquish the powers they have built up through governmental machinery and the allotment of jobs… which have no natural part of government. The only time the politician understands the people mean business is when the money is shut off. So shut the money off!'" I don't think it could be any clearer.
Up against unassailable reasoning like that, and losing ground, the city and it's various appendages decided to pull out the big guns—The Children. You can never argue with The Children. The city began to indirectly threaten to close the schools as a cost-cutting measure, but only as a means to strike a blow to ARET and similar groups, not as a way of actually cutting costs. That would be a little too much to ask. "Prominent educator" George Strayer authored a study that recommended closing schools "as a device to shock the public into realizing they could no longer "emasculate" the school system." I think public education is good enough at emasculation without any help from tax payers or non-taxpayers.
It would have been historical if they had done it though. What would public school be like today if a major city like Chicago had a debilitated—or even extinct—school system? The emperor would have no clothes. Alas, they were smart enough to realize that closing the public schools would have accentuated the fact that there was competition. Some teachers feared that "closure might result in a massive and permanent switch of allegiance away from the public schools." Oh dear, our propaganda mills and brain washing centers are empty! What shall we do? One teacher observed, "There are plenty of other schools in the city for all the children to go to if we do [close the schools] and they will go. There are private schools, there are Lutheran parochial schools and there are Catholic parochial schools." Nicely said Teacher, but observing and verbalizing your own obsolescence and desuetude must have been painful.
ARET called the School Closing Crisis bluff. Peter Foote, head of an ARET branch office, welcomed the money-saving idea of school closure. "Let them learn to sew on buttons and other sensible things for a while." And he was no bystander—he had ten kids (although I would be curious to know what his wife thought of the idea). Others were of a similar opinion. Another Chicago parent said, "If closing the schools for six months or a year is the price we have to pay for the abolition of corrupt, incompetent and extravagant government, I should say without hesitation, let us close the schools." So you get rid of corrupt and incompetent government, and as a bonus your kids don't get the collectivist mind-meld for six hours every day? Sign me up! (You may or may not be interested to know what my wife has to say on that matter.)