The world community needs to understand that the United States and its citizens view any proposal for global taxation as an unacceptable attack on our sovereignty. Global Taxes Are Back, Watch Your Wallet

Like a bad sequel to a rotten horror movie, the debate over global taxation once again is rearing its ugly head — courtesy of the United Nations. And, despite lacking the requisite hockey mask and chain saw, the seemingly countless proposals for the imposition of global taxes are truly terrifying.

In July, Inter Presse news service reported that a top U.N. official was preparing a new study that will outline numerous global tax proposals to be considered by the General Assembly at its September meeting. The proposals will likely include everything from global taxes on e-mails and Internet use to a global gas tax and levies on airline travel. If adopted, American taxpayers could wind up paying hundreds of billions of dollars each year to the United Nations.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is among those leading the charge, having stated that he "strongly supports finding new sources of funding" for the U.N. through global taxes, according to Inter Presse. In fact, Annan made very clear his support for the imposition of global taxes in a 2001 Technical Note that he authored for a U.N. conference. "The need to finance the provision of global public goods in an increasingly globalized world also adds new urgency to the need for innovative new sources of financing," Annan wrote. The Note goes on to describe and evaluate the merits of several global tax proposals.

Global tax proposals are not new. Various plans have been flitting around in academic circles and liberal and socialist think-tanks for decades. And while the United States and other developed nations have staved off such proposals in the past, third world nations have increasingly dominated the U.N. General Assembly by sheer numbers since 1970. As a result, they have begun to see promise in their quest to take and keep for themselves the wealth of citizens from nations like the United States — specifically using the term "redistribution." Recent U.N. actions have also provided a new excuse and set the stage for the third world to not only renew its pursuit of global taxes but also hold out hope for eventual success.

In 2000, the U.N. General Assembly approved a "Millennium Declaration" that committed the world body and its member nations to a sweeping list of objectives, particularly in the area of assisting "developing" nations. Among them were five specific goals, to be achieved by 2015, aimed at reducing poverty, improving children’s health and fighting AIDS around the world.

Arguing that developed nations like the United States have not done enough to achieve these goals, despite the fact that we provide the bulk of the U.N.’s money, U.N. leaders have recently begun using the Millennium Goals as an excuse to explore global taxation. As Inter Presse reported, U.N. Secretary General Kofi "Annan has warned that unless current development assistance is doubled to $100 billion annually, the world’s 132 developing nations will fail to meet their Millennium Development Goals."

Using the Millennium Goals as the excuse, the United Nations is set to once again begin considering specific methods to extract wealth from citizens of the United States and other first world nations for "redistribution" to the citizens in the less developed, poorer third world. Among the schemes being contemplated are:

Those are the most frequently discussed of a bevy of global tax proposals that have been put before the international community. Others include a tax on the international conventional arms trade, fines for ocean dumping, a tax on commercial fishing, a tax on Earth-orbiting satellites, a tax on the use of the electronic spectrum (for television, radio, cell phones, etc.), a tax on the profits of international businesses and even a tax on international advertising.

While the names and proposals are different, the vital undercurrent remains the same. The drive toward world taxation focuses on three key purposes, all of them objectionable: (1) making policy through taxation (for example, levying high taxes on gasoline in order to reduce use of fossil fuels); (2) generating revenue for the United Nations; and (3) redistributing income from richer nations like the United States to the poorer ones in the third world.

Countless books and scholarly articles have been written on the folly of affecting policy through taxation. Suffice it to say that little good ever comes from a tax plan constructed to affect behavior. All too frequently, such taxes have devastating unintended consequences, wreak havoc on free markets and cause more harm than good.

The notion of generating even more revenue for the already bloated United Nations is similarly absurd. In recent years, the world body has been the birthplace of nearly continuous stories of corruption, most notably the recent Oil for Food scandal. So it’s hard to understand why anyone would advocate funneling even more billions through an organization where the money rarely gets to where it’s intended.

Then, of course, there’s the concept of redistribution. Future commentary will focus on this subject even more sharply. But for now, consider this: one of the most important strengths of the United States, and one of the reasons it has been the destination for immigrants worldwide for more than two centuries, is the assurance that, in our system, everyone is free to pursue success, and if they achieve it, their rewards will not be seized and handed over to someone else. Redistribution would turn this fundamental strength and foundational value on its head. While Americans work hard and strive for success, failing and corrupt nations would reap the benefits.

Needless to say, the failing nations, led by banana republic regimes, would like nothing better. A global tax would be the ultimate handout — and security assurance — for crippled governments, failed states, and totalitarian regimes.

As the United Nations and its chorus of developing countries begin to make their case in earnest over the coming months, Americans should watch their wallets. The global taxation zealots are coming.

And, just as in previous renditions of this fiscal horror flick, Americans need to be ready to make their voices heard. The world community needs to understand that the United States and its citizens view any proposal for global taxation as an unacceptable attack on our sovereignty. Hopefully, this time, Americans will take the chain saw to the U.N.'s global tax agenda once and for all.

August 12, 2004
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