America: Freedom to Fascism is a 2006 film by Aaron Russo, which alleges among a variety of claims that income tax is illegal. This documentary covers many subjects, including: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the income tax, Federal Reserve System, national ID cards (REAL ID Act), human-implanted RFID tags (Spychips), Diebold electronic voting machines, globalization, Big Brother, taser weapons abuse, and the alleged use of terrorism by government as a means to diminish the citizens' rights. The film's claims about the illegality of the income tax in the United States have been critiqued as factually incorrect by some reviewers. The film has, however, developed a strong following.
Federal Reserve System issues and interviews in the film
The film spends a fair amount of time examining the Federal Reserve System, including its genesis and functions. The film asserts that the Federal Reserve System is a system of privately held, for profit corporations, not a government agency, and was commissioned to print fiat money on behalf of the federal government, at a fee ultimately paid for by the personal income tax (through service on bond interest). The film also refers to the fact that the United States dollar is not backed by gold, and claims that this means the dollar has no real backing other than future income tax payments. Consequently, the film proposes, Federal Reserve Notes represent debt instead of wealth.
According to the film, the Federal Reserve System operates by manipulation of what is sometimes referred to as the business cycle of economic expansion and retraction by putting new notes into circulation to increase the ease of obtaining credit, which devalues the currency, then compounds inflation by increasing interest (prime) rates. This manipulation, according to the film, is responsible for a 96% devaluation of American currency since it was made possible to increasingly sever the link with gold backing by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The film says that this process of creating new money and adding it to the money supply is known as debasement and is a cause of inflation. In this way, the film asserts that the Federal Reserve System simultaneously controls the supply of money and its value.
The central thesis of the film may be that this monetary policy is the strongest form of governance that has ever existed, and is central to the unconstitutional, global power ambitions of the interests that supposedly control the Federal Reserve System.
The film also asserts that the private interests it claims are controlling the Federal Reserve System have been present for generations. According to the film, however, most Americans are kept ignorant of how the Federal Reserve operates through actions of corrupt politicians and an increasingly centralized media. By using what the film calls legalistic and economic "mumbo-jumbo” terms such as 'monetizing the debt' or ‘adjusting monetary policy for increased fluidity of credit’, these interests, according to the film, conceal the true actions of the Fed behind veils of legitimacy.
The argument made in the film is that there is no reason why the Federal Reserve System should have a monopoly on the U.S. money supply. The film asserts that, “America got along just fine before the Federal Reserve came into existence” (which, in the film maker's view, leads to the question of why the Federal Reserve System was created).
The film contends that the U.S. Congress has no control or oversight over the Fed, and hence has no control over the value of U.S. money. The film argues that Congressional control over the value of money is required by Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. The phrase in question (clause 5) states that the United States Congress shall have the power "To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin..."
The film includes a call to action to abolish the Federal Reserve. In 2007, the Boston Globe stated that Congressman Ron Paul, "says he doesn't agree with all the film's arguments, but he says the film had 'a huge impact' on the support his campaign is drawing", a reference to Paul's presidential bid in 2007 and 2008.
Federal income tax issues and interviews in the film
Through interviews with various individuals including former IRS agents, Russo sets forth the tax protester argument that, "there is no law requiring an income tax", and that the personal income tax is illegally enforced to support the activities of the Federal Reserve System.
One of the listed stars of the film, Irwin Schiff, was sentenced on February 24, 2006 to 13 years and 7 months in prison for tax evasion and ordered to pay over $4.2 million in restitution. In pre-sentencing documents filed with the court, Schiff's lawyers had argued that he had a mental disorder related to his beliefs about taxation. Initially, the film portrays Mr. Schiff as a tax expert, though his qualifications and those of many other individuals in the film are not mentioned. Later in the film, Russo reveals that Schiff has gone to jail.
Mr. Schiff appears in the film for another reason as well. The filmmaker lampoons Judge Kent Dawson's reaction to Schiff's defense. The film alleges that the judge "denied Irwin the ability to prove to a jury that there was no law requiring Americans to file an income tax return. He denied Irwin the right to attempt to prove to a jury there was no law . . . by stating, 'I will not allow the law in my courtroom.'" At 0:48:28 of the film, Mr. Russo introduces the judge and his statement.
Under the U.S. legal system, the general rule (with exceptions) is that neither side in a civil or criminal case is allowed to try to prove to the jury what the law is. For example, in a murder case the defendant is not generally allowed to persuade the jury that there is no law against murder, or to try to interpret the law for the jury. Likewise, the prosecution is not allowed to try to persuade the jury about what the law is, or how it should be interpreted. Disagreements about what the law is are argued by both sides before the judge, who then makes a ruling. Prior to jury deliberations, the judge, and only the judge, instructs the jury on the law.
Another listed star, Vernice Kuglin, was acquitted in her criminal trial for tax evasion in August 2003. This means she was not found guilty of a willful intent to evade income taxes. (A conviction for tax evasion requires, among other things, proof by the government that the defendant engaged in one or more affirmative acts of misleading the government or of hiding income.) Kuglin's acquittal did not relieve her of liability for the taxes. Kuglin entered a settlement with the government in 2004 in which she agreed to pay over $500,000 in taxes and penalties. On April 30, 2007, the Memphis Daily News reported that Kuglin's Federal tax problems continued with the filing of a notice of Federal tax lien in the amount of $188,025. The Memphis newspaper also stated that Kuglin has "given up her fight against paying taxes, according to a Sept. 10, 2004, Commercial Appeal story."
The preview clip for the film includes assertions contradicted by official government publications regarding the activities and nature of such institutions as the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve System
Russo's argument using the Fifth Amendment goes as follows:
* Premise 1: The government can criminally prosecute someone and put one in jail for information one puts on one's 1040 tax form.
* Premise 2: The fifth amendment says one does not have to do something that incriminates oneself.
* Conclusion: Since filing a 1040 incriminates oneself, filing a 1040 therefore violates one's fifth amendment rights.
Though the second premise is not completely correct, the main source of error lies in the first premise. If one truthfully reports one's income, one does not incriminate oneself in the commission of a crime. However, falsely reporting one's income is itself the commission of a crime. Put another way, the fifth amendment protects one from incriminating oneself if testifying truthfully will incriminate oneself in the commission of a crime. It does not offer a provision for lying.
The fifth amendment does, however, allow oneself to withhold the source of the income if doing so will incriminate oneself in the commission of a crime. One must still truthfully report the amount of the income.
The film refers to both article 1 section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which grants Congress the right to impose taxes, and disputes the legitimacy of the Sixteenth Amendment (see Tax protester Sixteenth Amendment arguments), which removes any apportionment requirement.
Other issues related to taxes
Some of the premises of the film include:
* The Federal Reserve System is unconstitutional and has maxed out the national debt and bankrupted the United States government.
* Federal income taxes were imposed in response to, or as part of, the plan implementing the Federal Reserve System.
* Federal income taxes are unconstitutional or otherwise legally invalid.
* The use of the Federal income tax to counter the economic effects of the Federal Reserve System is futile.