Bankrupt tax protester gets own bailout

Corporate bailouts. Troubled assets. Bank rescues. Federal stimulus. While the Bush and Obama administrations were scrambling to put spins on what they labeled "economic recovery" programs, angry taxpayers had a more simple description: increased government spending.

Increasingly frustrated that their voices were not being heard, they banded together to form organized groups that they called "Tea Parties," a reference to the infamous 1773 Boston Tea Party which sparked the American Revolution.

Beginning on Tax Day, April 15, 2009, Tea Party activists organized a number of protests across the country, speaking out against what they view as wasteful government spending at taxpayers' expense. Many have called for a tax revolution, evoking imagery from the American Revolution and taking as their slogan "Taxed Enough Already."

In the midst of it all is Jenny Beth Martin. Martin is credited with co-founding the national organization, Tea Party Patriots, which has, as a main priority of the organization, to bring attention to and oppose massive government spending. Speaking just before a Sept. 12 protest in Washington, D.C., Martin explained that she, like many Americans "don't want to bailout things and organizations and individuals who haven't been fiscally responsible."

Martin may know a little bit about not being fiscally responsible. She filed bankruptcy along with her husband in August 2008, having racked up debt including more than $71,000 to Ford Motor Co. Martin also lost her home.

Martin and her husband have made no secret of their financial woes, even talking about it on appearances on Fox News' Fox & Friends. She told Fox: "We've been hit by the financial crisis and the recession, and we are like everyday Americans."

Fair enough. Only there was one aspect of her financial situation that she failed to disclose during her Fox appearance: Martin owed the IRS $510,000 in unpaid taxes just to prior to her bankruptcy. In other words, she got her own bailout.

Martin claims that the recession -- and problems with a business partner -- led to the failure of her husband's business. That failure, she claims, led to her bankruptcy and her tax situation. She says those woes make her an "everyday American." But here's the thing: "everyday Americans" don't rack up $510,000 federal tax bills.

As a tax attorney, I work with a number of people who find themselves in tax trouble. Bankruptcy and tax delinquencies happen. I understand that. Bad things happen to good people.

But half million dollar federal tax bills don't just happen. They take some time to amass. And you know they're coming.

While Martin tries to paint what she did as noble, noting that her husband chose to pay his employees instead of the IRS, it's anything but noble. That $510,000 in lost revenue to the IRS could have been used to pay for equipment in a VA hospital, provide funds for homeland security or maybe even buy a Kevlar vest or two for our military personnel.

I'm all about protesting wasteful spending. I don't understand why we need to spend millions of dollars on the "search for extraterrestrial intelligence" or why it's necessary to fund commissions to study whether we need a committee to study an issue (does that even make sense?). And as Americans, we're fortunate that we're allowed to stand up and say what we believe in. But let's call things what they are.

Martin and her husband didn't pay their taxes. A LOT of taxes. That doesn't make them noble. It doesn't make them martyrs. And it doesn't make them "everyday Americans." It makes them hypocrites.
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