Ten cents on the dollar

Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2003

"How much do I owe you, John, for this fine haircut?" the young soldier asked.

"Ten cents for the haircut and 90 cents tax," was my dad's reply.

Kadashan by Bertrand J. Adams Sr.

Little did people of that time realize what a prophetic statement was made by my father's amusing reply.

During the World War II, Yakutat had the third-largest military airbase in Alaska - lively with 20,000 troops. Our little community of no more than 300 souls was a place I remember as full of activity, not only with the everyday hustle and bustle of folks who carved a living from the commercial fishing ventures, but with friendships I remember my parents and people of the village had fondly established with many of the young men who had volunteered a short period of their lives to the ideals and freedoms upon which this country was founded.

My father was what he called a "cat skinner," which translates to a heavy equipment operator, or more specifically a caterpillar operator. Every time I take off the runways or land in Yakutat on Alaska Airlines, I am reminded about how his co-workers had nicknamed him "Muskeg" because he, at the beginning of the construction of the runways, was operating his cat digging and moving dirt and swampy material, creating a huge ditch that would eventually be filled with rock, sand and gravel in preparation for the asphalt resurfacing.

I'm not sure how my dad became a heavy equipment operator, but I know from hearing stories by those who knew him that he was a good one. Nor do I know how he became a barber. I do know he was a good one because he had cut my hair and my brother's many a time.

I do remember, however, he started with those ancient, now antique, hand clippers. My dad became a very popular barber during those days. With the military he would go on base and cut the GIs hair every Saturday and it was then he inherited from his army buddies an electric hair cutter. When the war ended and the military moved out, the Army gave him the barber chair that he used when he was cutting hair on base. From that time on, every Saturday morning, he would move that chair from the corner of the room in our house and put it in the middle of the room. And then he would hang his barber shop shingle outside his door:

Haircuts: 10 cents

Tax: 90 cents

If this were real, he would have been paying 90 percent of the one dollar he made from each haircut into the government's coffer; 10 percent would be his to add to his own treasury. In reality, this is the direction our hard-earned dollars, through the federal graduated income tax, are routing very quickly. That's why, in my April 2002 column I wrote how the founding fathers (by the way, I understand there's a movement not to use this term any more) believed that the power to tax by the federal system was the power to destroy the soul of America. What they feared was if the central government were given the authority to tax on our incomes, that America would, over a period of several decades, become impoverished. And the reason we would become insolvent was because "big brother" would begin this process of redistributing wealth without any effort on the part of the recipients. Let me say that in this day and age there are two factions of people in America: the givers and the takers. Very rapidly the takers are outnumbering the givers, and this is one other reason why America is in financial discord. Last month my article addressed why the U.S. Constitution reserved the taxing powers to states and local governments.

One of the most damaging amendments to the U.S. Constitution was the 16th. We should abolish it and bring the taxing power back where it belongs. When this happens, you'll see local governments begin to prosper. Likewise, the state governments will have more control over their fiscal affairs, and the federal system will be brought to its proper size.

Kadashan is the Tlingit name of Bertrand J. Adams Sr., who lives in Yakutat.

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