"I won’t go to jail."
Bob Schulz announces this in late January to a rapt crowd of 200 gathered in an auditorium in Crystal City, Virginia. It’s the first national conference of the We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, a nonprofit advocacy group Schulz founded and runs.
He delivers his declaration not with reckless bravado but with a dignified, quiet, middle-management-lifer assurance, in keeping with his general mien. Schulz is a serious white male in a nice conservative dark suit, a former environmental engineer for both General Electric and the Environmental Protection Agency.
He’s been married for 38 years to the same woman, and he has four children of whom he is quite proud. Yet when his kids begged him to reconsider the path that requires him to declare publicly that he won’t go to jail, his wife Judy told them, "Your father put his country before his family, and I support him."
Schulz has stopped paying federal income tax, and he isn’t afraid to let anyone, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), know it. Not only is he not paying, but he’s also leading a national movement telling everyone else they shouldn’t pay either.
When I talk to him after the conference, he doesn’t seem quite so confident he won’t go to jail. But he doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. "Clearly [the government is] going to react," he says. "They may well sooner or later come at me in one way or another. You hear people say, ‘Bob, they’re going to take you out. Dozens of armed agents will come turn your life upside down.’ You hear all these things. I have to say I have no fears. I fear God and God alone."
Americans have been protesting and avoiding taxes since before the U.S. officially existed. We are a nation born of tax protests. This tradition feeds the attitude that unites the serious, almost obsessed crowd here: the belief that they are the true patriots,staunch constitutionalists fiercely dedicated to the ideals that make America great. A radical transvaluation of values is going on right here in Crystal City. Far from being the very foundation of solid citizenry, acceding to the federal personal income tax is, among this crowd, an act of treason against what defines America: its Constitution and its "true laws."
Schulz’s We The People Foundation is transforming the often subterranean struggle to deny the legitimacy of the income tax. For decades this movement has been an inchoate collection of small congregations following varied gurus. Schulz and his crew, by contrast, offer a unified church with a canon of Right Arguments. The anti-income tax movement now has, through Schulz, a united, highly activist national membership organization claiming around 5,000 dues-paying members, a mailing list of 64,000, and local coordinators in 39 states and 600 counties.
While in the past evangelists of the "income tax is a fraud" message have tended to sell books and seminars, the We The People Foundation has the advantage of being hard to blithely condemn as a scam. It is not a business selling advice but a nonprofit dedicated to spending money -- more than $1 million since taking up this fight -- to spread the word. Its founder claims Gandhi as his influence: From him Schulz learned that to fight an unjust tyranny, you need a proactive, nonviolent mass movement, and that is what he is trying to create.