Third Party & Independents Archives

Civil (Dis)Obedience

Bloody brilliant… Cary Malchow, of Muncie, Indiana, thought of a unique way to protest his way-too-high tax bill. He chose to bring his $12,000+ property tax bill to the county treasurer in cash… all of it coins and one dollar bills.

Of course the Delaware County Treasurer, Warren Beebe, was not too happy. In an AP video (to which I could unfortunately not provide a web link), the unhappy treasurer told Malchow to "Get it outta here and bring it back the way it's supposed to be." Only one problem, Mr. Beebe. It says right on the upper left corner of the one dollar bill, issued by the Federal Reserve, that "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private". Mr. Malchow has every right to pay his property tax bill in this manner.

Beebe complained further. "Other tax payers had to wait while workers counted every bill and coin." That, Mr. Beebe, is... EXACTLY THE POINT!

When looking for ways to protest when we believe our taxes are too high, there's nothing like a little good ol' American ingenuity. Cary Malchow thought of a brilliant way to draw attention to this problem while barely coloring within the lines and following the letter of the unjust law, if not the intent. He paid his tax bill, and he paid it on time, and he drew national attention to the idea that property taxes in Delaware County, Indiana, are too high. He found a way for lil' ol me, sitting at my computer here in Carson City, Nevada, to learn of the problem... and I am sympathetic to his plight.

Government, from the local level clear up to (and especially) the national, feel entitled to your money. Politicians that have been in power for far too long and that have completely lost touch with reality think nothing of, penny by penny, pushing your tax bill higher and higher and grossly mis-managing those funds. And we think nothing of handing them our money to keep this system afloat. What a bargain it is for us to give the state 20 bucks so it can give us back 19 of it in grossly inefficiant services that we probably would be better off getting on our own, if they are even necessary in the first place.

Actions like those of Cary Malchow's draw attention to this problem. "I did it so people can physically see what $12,000 dollars is."

Good for him.

Posted by Doug Langworthy at August 18, 2007 11:20 PM
Comment #229884

I like it too—very much in a good old American tradition that started with the Boston Tea Party.

Personally, I think that property taxes should be completely abolished on primary residences that are appraised below a level that might be considered a luxury home.

I live in a formerly working class neighborhood that has become very trendy in recent years, causing property values to almost double in some cases. The rich folks moving in don’t care as much, but working class and retired people who’ve lived their entire lives here and want to stay are literally being forced out because they can’t afford their property taxes. It’s just plain wrong.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 19, 2007 1:12 AM
Comment #229885

The story provides no context. It is cute that an outraged taxpayer sticks it to the man by paying with small change. But according to the Delaware County website:

“Median real estate property taxes paid for housing units with mortgages in 2005: $940 (1.0%)”

Without context, we cannot tell if the 1% rate applies to this fellow Malchow. But it seems safe to say he possesses a net worth of over one million dollars in a county which is relatively poor, and that is in property alone.

You write: “What a bargain it is for us to give the state 20 bucks so it can give us back 19 of it in grossly inefficiant services that we probably would be better off getting on our own, if they are even necessary in the first place.”

If you scroll to the bottom of this link, it breaks down county spending. Does this millionaire depend upon public eduction in any way? Roads and other infrastructure? Police? Emergency response? The judicial system?

Do you?

“… grossly inefficiant services that we probably would be better off getting on our own, if they are even necessary in the first place.”

And if Mr Malchow, who resides in an area vulnerable to tornados, should see his sizable holdings destroyed by one, what response should we expect from him?

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2007 1:38 AM
Comment #229886

This reminds me of a novel I read as a kid. The protagonist’s father paid his taxes in cash. Every month he set aside the appropriate amount in a basket on top of the refrigerator. When the government sent agents to complain, he pointed out the “legal tender” notice on the bills. I didn’t realize it then, but the author had libertarian leanings.

When he wasn’t annoying the government, he was rereading Three Men in a Boat. Who would have thought that opening a tin of pineapple could be so hilarious?

I bet some of you know the novel and writer I’m referring to.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 19, 2007 1:54 AM
Comment #229888

I agree with Phx8 Doug. I mean come on this guy is paying in just property taxes $12,600 that is near the poverty level. Thus he obviously has alot of property holdings and has a very large personal income. This is just another millionaire complaining about paying his share of the pie. If it were not for the system which he pays taxes into he would not have made his millions. He should pay his debt, as should all.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 19, 2007 1:56 AM
Comment #229889

phx8 and Richard… you are over thinking this and completely missing the point. If you want to debate libertarianism vs communism, then let’s…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 19, 2007 2:15 AM
Comment #229890

Phx8, those are all fair questions to ask. But if somebody is a millionaire, I wonder if there aren’t more equitable areas to tax them than on than assessed property values? I’m not speaking about Malchow’s case in particular (which is missing a lot of details) but about property taxes in general.

Property taxes tend to be extremely regressive. Their negative effects disproportionately hit those with lower incomes, and the very large number of people in this country who are cash poor but own some land (i.e. rural dwellers and small farmers).

And there’s also the widespread practice in many areas of public schools districts levying for funding through higher property taxes. The masses of people in the expanding suburbs (a large reason why the district needs more money in the first place) are more than happy to vote yes. They own their homes and backyards, but all the money they have in the bank or invested won’t be touched by a property tax hike. Many of these are young professional types with children (the typical type who heads to the burbs) and incomes that are very high compared to the surrounding locals who own land but don’t have large bank accounts. This is actually a very common problem as suburban sprawl continues to spread across the countryside. I’ve seen it happen many times.

I’m not saying abolish property taxes altogether, but it’s far too common for them to shift the tax burden from the better off to those who will really struggle to pay.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 19, 2007 2:16 AM
Comment #229891

Gerrold… I maintain that annoying the government is always a good thing… and I am sad to say I do not know to which book/author you refer.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 19, 2007 2:17 AM
Comment #229892

Doug you have some nerve to call myself and phx8 communist. Do you really think that there exists only two possibilities communism and libertarianism? If you do than you are seriously devoid of logic. Moreover I was just defending the current system we have, something I hardly ever do. And you call me a communist. Thus by inference Doug you think the current state of the United States is a communist state.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 19, 2007 2:28 AM
Comment #229893

Counties provide vital services, which they usually fund through property taxes. There can be a regressive element to those taxes, and it can especially be a problem in places where the assessed values of property appreciate rapidly. Other methods of taxation in order to provide services, such as sales taxes and income taxes, would be an option. But all in all, I think most people would prefer to fund local administration with property taxes.

In the case of Delaware County, Indiana, property appreciation is most assuredly NOT an issue.

What point am I missing? I can only respond to what you write, not what you think. In your concluding paragraph, you state levels of government feel “entitled” to money, and constantly demand more. They certainly are not raising their demands in any unreasonable way in Delaware County, Indiana. Is there an issue in that county with mismanagement/inefficiency?

Libertarianism v Communism? Wow. Are those the only choices?

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2007 2:31 AM
Comment #229895

I think Malchow’s chosen form of “protest” is at best infantile. I’ve generally found that “letters to the editor”, attendance at city council and county commission meetings, letters to elected representatives, whether State, County, or local, etc. sometimes truly effect outcomes.

I can just imagine being one of the unlucky souls who had to wait, and wait, and wait because of this boob. If I lived there I’d boycott his business and influence my friends to do likewise.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 19, 2007 2:50 AM
Comment #229896

Good article, I grew up about 45 minutes from there. I’ve heard, from men more intelligent than myself, that there are ways to possibly prove that property taxes are illegal, is that true?
I know that my brother has 5 kids that all go to private catholic schools and it straps him finacially pretty hard. But the county he lives in has been popping out public schools like…well a lot and his property taxes have gone through the roof, don’t seem right to me.
Leave it to some to come to the governments side though after all where would I be without them…nevermind let me dream.

Posted by: andy at August 19, 2007 2:57 AM
Comment #229897

Why dream about places without government, public education, and odious taxation, when there are places in the world right now where there are none. No taxes! Imagine that! Oh, and none of the things that taxes proveide, either, places like Somalia and Iraq and Afghanistan. They are called “failed states,” and they are versions of veritable Libertarian dreams.
Or nightmares.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2007 3:06 AM
Comment #229898

When these failed “public schools” are turning out drop-outs and…well…public school products yeah I see inefficiency and no need for my money to fund the crap.
And as far as Somalia, what they wouldn’t give to be able to bitch about our horrendous housing market which is brought about by free market.

Posted by: andy at August 19, 2007 3:22 AM
Comment #229899

I’m sorry I thought you posted over on Jack’s article but you didn’t. What I’m saying is Somalia would love to be in the position to bitch about our (actually the left’s) made up problems. Relax man, isn’t that a left saying, things aint that bad here no need to feel guilty.

Posted by: andy at August 19, 2007 3:33 AM
Comment #229900

But of course, catholic schools provide a fine alternative which we should all be willing to fund. Pope Benedict states that anyone who does not belong to the Catholic Church will go hell.

Sounds reasonable.

And, by the way, catholic schools teach a course on “what is wrong with other religions.” Too bad for hell-bound Protestants. And, unlike public schools, no need for the “wrong” people to seek admission.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2007 3:36 AM
Comment #229901

No phx8 please never fund catholic school system please I beg you stay out. The day liberals get there hands in our business…well you all will probably have quite the celebration. We feel it to be a privilege to sacrafice for our kids maybe an alien thought I don’t know. By the way I love your ignorant beliefs about my religion and the Pope disagrees with our being in Iraq.

Posted by: andy at August 19, 2007 3:53 AM
Comment #229902

Doug said: “If you want to debate libertarianism vs communism, then let’s…”

In this statement you sound more like a anarchist than a libertarian. Since you seem to be suggesting all public funds and all government is automatically communism. Thus I ask you if you think that public education in it’s essence is communistic and thus horrorific to you, as you bring a two side argument in your comment. Do you believe that only those with enough money should have their kids educated?

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 19, 2007 4:05 AM
Comment #229903

By the way I feel my religion was attacked in your last post so I’m going to respond.

My mother was one of the first from America to visit Medjugorje and presently takes groups over there and other Catholic shrines around 6-8 times a year. She was knighted in the Catholic religion a few years ago, kind of a big deal. While I’m not the most spiritual of people myself, I know the religion and have had the priviledge to speak with many great men and woman who have chosen it to be thier vocation. If you want to talk global warming then you have the advantage of knowing more soundbites, but on the Catholic religion your dead wrong and out of your league. I just spoke with a priest 2 weeks ago about things and he told me, which I already knew, that Muslims (and all people who try to do good to the best of thier ability and knowledge) go to Heaven. So take your propoganda to the confused cause I know my religion.

Posted by: andy at August 19, 2007 4:25 AM
Comment #229917

Wow… Richard, I see you were up late… and I see you thought I was calling you, personally, a communist… and I see likened me to an anarchist…

I never called you a commie… I merely inferred, through obvious exaggeration, that the thought process by which taxes are continually raised without thought to those that are governed is a pinko trait. And this line of thinking is in no way anarchist.

Before property, or any other taxes, are raised… let’s make sure the money already taxed is used much more efficiently than it currently is. I am pretty sure most would agree on that… except maybe a pinko commie, that is… ;-)

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 19, 2007 12:02 PM
Comment #229924

Fair enough, my comments were over the top.

We investigated sending my daughter to the local catholic school. She was a brilliant student, and we were hoping the school could offer her a more accelerated path. As it turned out, their curriculum was actually behind the honors classes for the public high school, and the catholic school did included a course with the subtitle: “what is wrong with other religions.” But it is important to point out that we went to them- they did not come to us. It is their school, and they are absolutely entitled to teach what they want.

Pope Benedict re-enunciated the Doctrine of Primacy, and “set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the “means of salvation.”

But it did come off as an attack, and for that I apologize.

I found your article thought provoking, comrade, and appreciate the way you advocate the withering away of the state. The bourgeois property owner who forced a minimum wage clerk with arthritic hands to count his $12000 payment of ill gotten gains, dollar by excruciating dollar, classicly illustrates the brutal exploitation of the lowly worker by the capitalist. I look forward to your revolution, comrade. Truly, Indiana is red.

Posted by: phx8 at August 19, 2007 1:22 PM
Comment #229929

phx8… now that is humor I can appreciate… it truly was brutal exploitation and Marx is probably rolling over in his grave.

My whole point is this… an American citizen found a way to protest a government policy which he found (right or wrong… right, in my opnion) to be unfair, and he did so in a legal, non-violent, and, above all, creative way that garnered the publicity for which he was looking. Kansasdem… the way he did it may have annoyed you personally, but he did succeed in drawing more attention to this citizen’s perceived problem than if he had simply written a letter to the editor of the Star Press, as you would advocate. And further, if you were one of the unlucky souls in line behind him, well, making you wait and observe the counting of the $12,000+ was exactly what Malchow was going for. You could have gone back at another time or simply mailed in your payment.

This guy was simply trying to make the point that he felt property taxes had reached the point of being too high… again… good for him. Very creative.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 19, 2007 2:47 PM
Comment #229938

This story lacks some very important details: the value of the property being taxed and the tax rate. Without those details, this story is meaningless.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 19, 2007 5:20 PM
Comment #229939

I heard about this on the radio the other day and cheered for Cary Malchow. The radio also said that the county couldn’t make it’s deposit on time and lost something like $11,000 because of it.
I wish I’d have thought of that myself when I forked over my property tax earlier this year. I think I would have got the same reaction from the tax collector here as Cary got in Indiana. But it’s legal tender and they do have to except it.


Personally, I think that property taxes should be completely abolished on primary residences that are appraised below a level that might be considered a luxury home.

I agree that property tax should be completely abolished. But not just on residences below a certain price. But on ALL property regardless of price.
The owners have bought the property and the government has no right to tell them that they have to pay it for the privilege to live on their own property. The property owners have paid for the property and have the right to live on it without any government charging them for it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 19, 2007 5:27 PM
Comment #229953

Gerrold… nope, you are incorrect. The story is not meaningless because of the lack of financial specifics. The story is one about a citizen protesting property tax rates. It wouldn’t matter if those tax rates were $1/year or $1,000,000/year. That part of the story would be meaningles…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 19, 2007 7:39 PM
Comment #229961


If some average home owner had paid his property taxes in dollar bills, the amount would have been far less impressive. My own property taxes are about $500. Therefore, the drama/comedy/statement/ whatever your guy engaged in was possible only because he owns extremely valuable property. Exactly how is that irrelevant? His stated purpose was to demonstrate how high his taxes were. In the stories I read, he doesn’t appear to be against property taxes in general. Information on property value and tax rates are important for context.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 19, 2007 11:14 PM
Comment #229978

I agree with Ron Brown’s comments concerning abolition of property taxes. In areas where there are property taxes, you don’t own your property - you rent it from the government. If you don’t believe that, try not paying the taxes. There has to be a better way to collect the needed funds. I had a neighbor who had to move from a paid for house when his elderly mother died and he lost the homestead exemption/property valuation cap on the house. He couldn’t pay the $8000+ annual taxes on the property. I’m in favor of consumption taxes - if you want lower taxes, buy a six year old car rather than the new Mercedes.

Posted by: Mike in Tampa at August 20, 2007 10:21 AM
Comment #230154

owning a million dollar house does not make you wealthy, just look at property values, and what they get you in different parts of the country. to allow local gov’t to raise property taxes at will ignores the fact that many have owned there homes for years, in some cases all thier lives. they aren’t rich. we went through this in the 70s in california, people were priced out of thier homes by greedy politicians.

you should be able to afford the taxes on the house when you move in, but the increases should be capped so that hardworking people don’t lose thier homes to greedy spendthrift politicians who can’t keep thier hands out of other peoples pockets.

prop 13 has worked well here, and would work well for others around the country. local political hacks hate it. what other proof do you need?

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 4:17 PM
Comment #230192


It’s a lot easier to effect change at the local level. If you think property taxes are too high in your community, organize a movement to get them lowered. Local politicians are relatively responsive to the voices of the people. Now, it may turn out that most citizens don’t agree with you, but that’s democracy.

Posted by: Gerrold at August 21, 2007 9:39 PM
Comment #230342


actually thats one of the few things in california i can’t bitch about. prop 13 has kept our property taxes under control for almost 30 yrs. now. if you can afford em when you move in you’ll probably be alright as state const. does allow for an increase of more than 2% a year. if you owned your home before 1977, you keep that tax base permanently.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 7:37 PM
Comment #230355

Good on him! With that money in Uncle Sams’s pocket, we can fund the Iraq war for precisely 12 seconds!!

Posted by: Jon Rice at August 22, 2007 9:06 PM
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