Friday, August 2, 2019

#2222: Robert L. Schulz

Robert Louis Schulz is an engineer by training, Founder and Chairman of We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education and We the People Congress, and “a constitutional activist with a decades-long focus on holding government accountable to the Constitution, through the First Amendment Right to Petition” – or put differently: a tax protester loon and tireless promoter of what might be termed civics woo, a type of woo that is arguably crazier and more likely to cause immediate harm even than most medical woo. Schulz has been credited with “setting the cornerstone for this new era of militias, tax protesters and ‘sovereign citizens’,” and has apparently filed well over one hundred court actions, on a pro se basis, against government actions he asserts are unconstitutional deprivations of individual liberty. His success rate is, predictably, dismal. Like most central characters in the sovereign citizen movement, Schulz has had plenty of opportunities to test out some of his hypotheses in real life settings, but since he is rather poor at assessing the rich data set his experiences have given him, he appears to have learned exactly nothing. For instance, in 2007 he got in trouble (United States v. Schulz, (529 F.Supp.2d 341)) for selling a scheme based on the premise that withholding tax was voluntary; at least the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York was not impressed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the injunction (517 F.3d 606) (the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case).

Schulz had already gained some attention for making similar claims in 2001, with an ad that named three former IRS agents who claimed that most Americans owe no income tax and that the 16th Amendment, which authorizes the U.S. government to levy income taxes, is fraudulent and invalid, and that only employees of foreign-based companies owed income taxes. The campaign won a surprising amount of traction. And of course, Schulz’s arguments, which have been rejected repeatedly by the courts, has predictably been the source of some impressive prison sentences. “Our effort is called ‘Project Toto,’” said one of Schulz’s USA Today ads: “Just as the little dog in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ pulls the curtain back and exposes the truth about the Wizard, our series is intended to ... reveal [that] ... the tax system is founded upon fraud and operates as a giant hoax.”

In 2008, Schulz placed an ad he claimed to be worth “tens of thousands” of dollars in the Chicago Tribune to express his foundation’s belief that Obama was not a US citizen and therefore ineligible for office. Schulz was also a core player in organizing the Jekyll Island Project in 2009 and a subsequent 11-day “continental congress” in St. Charles, which gathered an impressive range of paranoid rightwing extremists and conspiracy theorists, including such fascinating fellows as Tom DeWeese, John Stadtmiller, Robert Crooks, leader of the California nativist group Mountain Minutemen, and Edgar Steele, author for instance of the 2002 essay “It’s the Jews, Stupid!!!”, where he claims that – you guessed it – “Jews are the problem. Jews have been the problem since before they saw to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” Schulz himself was also a speaker at the We Are Change 9/11 conference in 2010. The St. Charles meeting resulted in the creation of an “Articles of Freedom” document that declares that the federal government “now threatens our Life, Liberty and Property through usurpations of the Constitution.”

Diagnosis: Of course, it continues to baffle us that people never stop to consider whether the question “is this going to fly when I am taken to court?” might actually be relatively independent of the question “is this correct at a theoretical level?” even when they are stupid enough to convince themselves that the answer to the latter is, wrongly, “yes”. Whether Schulz asks himself that question is moot, but at least he seems to encourage his listeners not to; and he seems to have quite a number of listeners.

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