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Russian Tax Collection

January 11, 2001

The mainstream media poses as the nation’s political watchdog, so it’s worth examining the premises behind their political and economic coverage. A revealing example aired January 4, 2001, on CNN. The report was titled: "Tax Collecting in Russia, Not for the Faint-Hearted."

The segment was introduced by the anchor, Joie Chen, with the following banal description of the situation: "Collecting taxes, at least in Russia, can actually be a dangerous job, and now a special school has been set up where future tax collectors are learning how to deal with tax evaders."

Chen proceeded to explain that these future tax collectors, some as young as ten years old, are being rained to steal, destroy, and kill, if necessary. But rather than outrage, we get a straight and rather sympathetic report of the rigors of the Russian Tax Policy Academy. No contrary views, or even a note of skepticism, were offered. The network appears never to have met a tax or tax-collection tactic they didn't love.

Ryan Chilcote began his report: "Collecting taxes in Russia is not a job for you if you have a weak stomach. At the nation's first tax police academy, kids begin training at age 10." Colonel Valery Krug states the Academy's goals succinctly: "Our goal is to teach them discipline from the fifth grade on, while they're still young. You can't be a good tax policeman without discipline."

Yes, discipline. But discipline to do what? Clues for the answer to this question appear in the brief description of the regimen of the school. Up at 7:00 a.m. and then a "tidiness test," then a morning workout and later, a hygiene checkup. From there the children review various lessons--on the day Mr. Chilcote visited, the children were reviewing the socioeconomic relations in ancient Babylon--no doubt the military's ideal of a well-run society.

Mr. Chilcote goes on to report that in Svetlana's class, "Improving is a central theme. The songs of Cossack warriors centuries ago strengthen the battle spirit."

And we have it from young Sasha's mouth directly his sense of rage against that dreaded threat against the human race, the tax evader: "Tax evaders won't get past me. That's not going to happen, because I will stop it. I will do my best. I will do the most and bigger than I can, and I will stop them anyway, even if I have to kill them."

Another clue is the role that the parents of these budding storm troopers play in all this. One girl's mother and father are both tax police themselves, who say their daughter was never much for dolls.

"She's been dreaming about war since she was little," they say. "Our family's been in the service for generations. Some drove tanks; others were in the artillery, so it's natural that we're in the tax police."

Oh, yes. Natural. But things get more interesting when Mr. Chilcote reports that, "The tax police are one branch of the military with a tall order ahead of them. The International Monetary Fund has called Russian tax collection inadequate, and tax evasion is rampant."

So the tender machinations of the IMF has resulted in the militarization of police and tax collection. Ah, that's progress indeed, never-mind that a standard for what constitutes inadequate tax collection and rampant evasion is not given by the reporter.

Rampant tax evasion, for example, is a predictable response to too high tax rates. Mr. Chilcote, however, is satisfied to call any failure to pay an example of brazen "criminality."

How is it that the reporter is not even slightly shaken to observe prepubescent children stomping around wearing camouflage fatigues? Why is there no exception taken at children being indoctrinated into the service of the state and bragging about killing and warmaking--against civilians and citizens? Why is it not worthy of mention that this training camp is a good sign that the state has declared war on society?

Perhaps I am too naive to expect anything of value from CNN, but to not even comment on having the military train children, to be later deployed against domestic citizens, should have struck CNN as at least something unusual, or at least worth some "Humanitarian Monitoring" of the sort to which other regimes are subjected.

Finally, Mr. Chilcote ends his report with: "Even if they don't go on to join the force, the teachers say they're more likely to pay their taxes, and that's already progress." Keep in mind this view of what constitutes "progress" the next time this network pronounces on any aspect of domestic politics.

If you have the stomach for it, here is the print version of the CNN report.

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Adam Young is studying computer science in Ontario, Canada (email: adamyoung@hotmail.com)


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