RBC | As a free market loving, Libertarian leaning Republican I am fond of the saying “Taxation is Theft.” While I know it’s a bit glib and typically used as a sensationalized attention grabber designed to make a big splash I was reminded this week why I really do despise taxation so much, and no it’s not because my tax bill is due in a couple of weeks (although that makes me want to yell too).
The Colorado Legislature has announced that they want to explore adding sales taxes to newspapers on two fronts; by repealing the sales tax exemption for newsprint and printer’s ink and the exemption for newspapers themselves.
The battle to tax news is nothing new to this country and is far deeper and more sinister that the general issues associated with taxation. In fact, it goes all the way back to our Revolutionary days and the notorious Stamp Act of 1765.
You see, one of the key roles a newspaper plays is reporting what government, at all levels, is up to and how those decisions impact the citizenry. Historically, when the government becomes unhappy with their news coverage they seek to punish the news with the giant government fist of taxation. In colonial days’ newspaper editors were questioning the British Parliament and their role in the Colonies. The Brits responded with the Stamp Act which prompted outrage in the Colonies.
More recently, in the 1990s when California print news outlets began calling for legislative term limits the California legislature slammed the papers down with a circulation sales tax.
Lately the Colorado legislature has been marred with multiple harassment scandals coupled with an ever growing budget deficit. They are growing desperate and the appeal of taxing newspapers is obvious; they can both offset their outrageous spending and take a shot at those tasked with holding them accountable to the electorate. It’s a transparent move that will not only harm your ability to access information about what the legislature is doing “in your name” but will, in reality, raise very few funds.
The founders knew how vital a free press was to this nation, that’s why they specifically carved out a space for it in the First Amendment. As John Adams said, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.”
Punishing newspapers through taxation is about as un-American as you can get.
Jen Hill is the Rangely-area correspondent for the Herald Times.