What has turned out to be the most expensive war in US history, the Spanish-American War, has finally been paid for. The 3% tax on long distance phone calls, enacted in 1898 to help pay for the war, has been repealed. In fact, government bean counters have determined that there has been a $15 billion overcharge and that money will be refunded to taxpayers and businesses next year. The Treasury department has ordered telephone companies to stop adding the tax to consumer and business phone bills as of August 1.
Wow! 109 years to pay for a war that Teddy R won in a 15 minute charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba. Bully!
Treasury Secretary John Snow announced proudly, "It's not often you get to kill a tax, particularly one that goes back so far in history." What he didn't mention is that the federal government has been fighting in court for years to maintain this illegal tax. Only after losing the last four consecutive appeals court cases did our government throw in the towel and concede defeat. The government's overall record in defending the tax is 1-10. One win in a lower court and 10 defeats in various lower courts and circuit courts.
The fight over the tax has lasted far longer than the actual war. In reality, federal appeals court judges killed the tax. I guess that's who Snow meant by "you".
Congress tried to kill the tax in 2000 but President Clinton vetoed the bill. I cannot find any source that gives a total of the amount collected over the past 109 years, but this source (Bleeding Heart Anti-war Website Warning!) says that, between 1966 and 2001, the illegal tax collected $89 billion and about $6 billion per year since..
The last Spanish-American War veteran, Nathan E. Cook, died 9/10/1992, age 106, leaving behind a debt of about $52 billion. That debt has finally been paid. The House of Representatives voted on May 25, 2000 (6 years ago) to kill the tax by a vote of 420-2 in roll call 233, 109th Congress, 2nd Session.
The two congressmen who, along with President Clinton, continued to insist that ol' Nate still owed us money were the loudmouth Pete Stark (he of "You little fruitcake" and "c**ks***er" fame) and, tah dah, John Murtha. Murtha has always made noises about being the serviceman's friend. And he may be, so long as you're not a poor dead 106 year-old Spanish-American War serviceman nor a serviceman currently deployed in Iraq nor a serviceman currently deployed in Afghanistan nor any serviceman currently under the ultimate command of one George W. Bush.
TAGS: Phone Tax Repeal Act, Pete Stark, John Murtha, Spanish American War, Clinton