Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Does the IRS know??

A Washington city mayor is in Indian politics up to his head after making the comment that the reason his city is facing a budget shortfall and unable to fight crime is because Yakama Nation tribal members don't pay taxes. This write up details the comments and the outrage expressed by both Indians and non-Indians alike at the mayor's ignorance and blatant bigotry.

First, let's dispel the myth - Indians do pay taxes. Tribal enrollment cards and CDIBs don't automatically make you immune to federal or state income tax, FICA and all the other ways Uncle Sam figures out to nickle and dime you. An Indian nickel is still a nickel and Uncle Sam wants it all the same.

Now, to look at where the myth originates from. It is true that Indian people living on federal trust properties (in other words, tha rez) are usually exempt from paying property tax. It is also true that Indian people may not be required to pay local sales tax when they are on established reservations. Neither of these is true in every circumstance, but they are true enough to create the illusion that Indians don't pay taxes. So let's talk about why these two exemptions exist.

First, in case you missed the first portion of the property tax statement, it said that Indians living on federal trust property usually wouldn't pay a property tax. You know why?? Because they don't own that land, the federal government does! The federal government retains ownership of the land and holds it in trust for the individual and their heirs, but even though the people living on that land may change over time, the ownership of the property doesn't. It always has been and always will be owned by the federal government. Unless at some point in the future the government decides to terminate its trust responsibility and sell the property, to an Indian individual, a non-Indian individual, an Indian-owned business or a non-Indian-owned business, at which point whoever acquires the land - regardless of Indian status - will have to pay property taxes. So the Indians don't get away with not paying property taxes, the federal government does. You want to try and grab a nickel from Uncle Sam, you're pretty much gonna have to pry it from his cold, dead fingers...have a blast.

The second exemption was created because the monies collected from local sales tax are used to maintain local services such as roads and law enforcement. Well, Indian nations are responsible for providing these services on the reservation, not the local governments, so it wouldn't be fair to force Indians - or any people - to pay for a service with their tax money that would not be benefiting them in any way and that they would have to pay for a second time with other monies. So tribal nations, like the Yakama and hundreds of other nations within the United States, are responsible for maintaining their own police force, their own road maintenance crews and all the same services that would be provided by any other city or local government.

Just like it is not the City of Toppenish's responsibility to police or fund the policing of the Yakama Nation, it is not the responsibility of the Yakama Nation or its members to police or fund the policing of the City of Toppenish. To create a budget shortfall for your city and then try and blame someone else just shows very poor management. The mayor and city council knew from day one that they wouldn't receive sales tax income generated on reservation property because they are not responsible for providing services on the reservation. If the city is facing the problem of a budget shortfall then they need to do what every other government in this country does, tribal or non-tribal...hire someone who knows how to manage money.

Ultimately, it has nothing to do with budget shortfalls or local sales taxes, it has to do with institutional racism and flat out bigotry. A group of non-Indian people who have no regard whatsoever for the longstanding legal agreements between tribal nations and the usurpers, decide that they have no more reason to honor those legal agreements because doing so is not in their best financial interests. Well guess what, signing those agreements wasn't in our best financial interests as tribal citizens either, but since we've already paid up our end of the bargain you can bet your ass we're gonna expect you to pay up yours.

Besides, why do you want our money anyway?? You know that any money you have Uncle Sam will find a way to steal away from you in the end. And if you don't know, just ask an Indian...they can tell you the story all-too-well.

Is Dr. Charles W. Grim Really Bush's Secret Identity??

There are 33 Urban Indian Health Projects in the United States that receive funding as such from the Indian Health Service. Last year there were 34, but the IHS decided to take out the Fresno clinic, so now we're down to 33 clinics serving this nation's 2.5+ million urban Indians.

In 2006, good ole George W. sent a budget proposal to congress that completely eliminated the $32.7 million in funding for Urban Indian Health Projects (UIHPs) for fiscal year 2007. The American Indian people of the nation protested and through a lot of hard work and even more "smart work" (ol' Georgie didn't know we had it in us), we got congress to re-appropriate funds for the program. In an attempt to not be outdone, GP (Georgie-Pordgie) repeated his request this year that for fiscal year 2008 the funding for UIHPs be eliminated.

Uproar and outrage!! UIHPs and our urban Indian people and tribal brothers and sisters from all across the country put ole GP in their political sights and steadied their trigger fingers just waiting for an opportunity to take down the man. Republicans all across the nation were decried as bigots (not that I'm saying they aren't, cuz everyone knows I think they are) and the ranks of the White House and the Justice Department were scrutinized as anti-Indian and anti-healthcare. Well duh, like we needed anyone to tell us that George W. Bush is anti-Indian or anti-healthcare. That's like acting shocked when you find out that Snoop Dog has been arrested for marijuana possession.

What is absolutely shocking, though, is how the true culprits have completely eluded any culpability on the part of the Indian community. We are so quick to knock down our Great White Father that we don't even stop to realize that our Great White Father doesn't even know we exist. Do you really think that George Bush woke up one morning and thought to himself, "ya know, I manage a nation of millions and oversee a budget (deficit) of trillions, but I think the answer lies in cutting $32.7 million from the UIHPs - eureka! that'll solve all my problems!!"

George Bush has little to no clue at all about UIHPs and the work they do and the monies they receive from IHS to leverage support from other funding sources. Who does know about this, however, is Dr. Charles W. Grim. As the presidentially-appointed head of the Indian Health Service, he oversees all aspects of Indian health, including the UIHPs. He knows exactly how much money the IHS allocates to these clinics and has plenty of ideas as to how that money could be spent in other areas of the IHS budget or used as the sacrificial lamb when GP calls upon all departments to "tighten their belts and help our nation reduce its deficit by reducing out-of-control spending". hmmm I could see how $32.7 million to provide health services for a population of more than 2.5 million could be seen as out of control when compared to the hundreds of billions being used to finance a war our nation had no business starting, but anyway.

So Dr. Grim says to the prez, yes we will come to the call of our nation and reduce our spending! Not by cutting his administrative budget or closing loopholes that lead to the waste of millions of dollars, but by targeting the UIHPs and the entire urban Indian population. Dr. Grim, as head of IHS, is the person that GP looks to for counsel on matters of Indian health. Ultimately, there is no way the UIHP funding could have ever been targeted if Dr. Grim had stood up and said, "No, this is not an expendable portion of our budget."

When urban Indians needed Dr. Grim to stand for them, all he did was sit. He sat on his ass and collected his fat paycheck while all the UIHPs stood in jeopardy. It wasn't Dr. Grim that got funding restored for 2007 and it isn't Dr. Grim that is leading the fight for 2008. The man who is charged with providing for and promoting the health of Indians throughout this nation has not lived up to his responsibilities. He should be answering to every single Indian person in this nation for the travesty that has been known as the IHS under his administration.

He's not, though, because we're too busy focusing on good ol' Georgie.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Introducing my blogspot...

So this is my blog, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, I am committed to it. Mainly, I will use it to comment on current events that are affecting the Native American community throughout the U.S. and Canada. Yeah, most of the stuff I say here will probably get me into trouble, but I pretty much do that all day long at work anyway - so why not bring my trouble online??