Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, producer Aaron Russo began promoting rock ‘n’ roll shows at local theaters while still in high school. He helped launch the careers of many legendary performers, such as Led Zeppelin, and also promoted some of the Sixties’ most successful rock acts, including the Who, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
In 1972, Russo began his seven-year partnership with Bette Midler, who attained superstar status during his management of her career. When Russo turned to producing feature films, his production of The Rose introduced Bette Midler to motion picture audiences. Midler received an Academy Award nomination as best actress for The Rose, which is considered by many to be the classic rock ‘n’ roll film. Russo also produced Trading Places starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, which has become a Christmas classic, and Teachers, starring Nick Nolte, Morgan Freeman and Ralph Macchio.
Russo has received numerous awards for his achievements, including a Grammy, a Tony and an Emmy. To date, his films have been nominated for six Academy Awards, as well as seven Golden Globes. His films have won three Golden Globes, as well as the Image Award.
In January 2004, Russo declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party’s nomination for President of the United States. At the convention in May, Russo won the first two ballots but not a majority. He was defeated on the third and final ballot.
Russo also wrote, produced and directed the 2006 documentary America: Freedom to Fascism. In the film, which is positioned as an expose of the Internal Revenue Service, Russo alleges that there is no law requiring American citizens to pay a direct, unapportioned tax on their labor.
While Russo’s perspective is gaining in popularity, the more classical view, as expressed by Rutherford Institute attorney David Caddell, holds that one of the very purposes of the Sixteenth Amendment was to tax income on wages. And this has been upheld by various courts (see “America: Freedom to Fascism—A Critique”).
Aaron Russo took a few minutes from his busy schedule to speak with oldSpeak about his documentary, America: Freedom to Fascism.
JW: You set out on a journey to make a film about whether there is a law that requires Americans to pay an income tax and whether tax fraud is being perpetrated by the American government. However, you said that the process of discovery brought something much more dangerous and frightening to your attention. What did you find?
AR: The Federal Reserve System.
AR: The Federal Reserve System came into being the same year as the income tax. To get the income tax in place, the Sixteenth Amendment was passed, although, in reality, it was never ratified. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it was. The very same year, the Federal Reserve was established. And the government needed money and had to borrow from the Federal Reserve. Thus, the reason you have the income tax is because the Federal Reserve came into being. There was never an income tax on your labor except for a few years during the Civil War.
JW: But isn’t the Federal Reserve actually part of the American government?
AR: No. It is a private bank that controls the money of America. We have a situation today where we have this private bank printing the money for America and charging interest and fees for it. The truth of the matter is that it’s the government that has the legal authority to make money. Thus, many wonder why we are in so much debt. There should be no debt because the government has the authority to make money interest free. So why does the government borrow from the Federal Reserve? Some will tell you it is because they want to have less inflation. But that is a lie. The inflation rate is huge in America. The actual value of the dollar from the time the Federal Reserve came into being has declined to a worth of approximately two cents. And that is because of massive inflation. The Federal Reserve prints the money in huge quantities. They don’t even tell us, the American citizenry, how much they are printing anymore because it causes massive inflation and massive debt. Since there is no more gold or silver behind the dollar and the Federal Reserve, which is a private bank, prints the money, we have a situation where Americans are deeply indebted to a huge degree. There are also huge unfunded liabilities and massive inflation. For example, in 1954, my father bought a house on Long Island, New York for $27,000. The same house recently sold for $1,200,000. But it’s not because the house went up in value. It’s because the value of the dollar went down.
JW: The value of the dollar went down for what reason?
AR: Because of inflation. The more money you print, the less the money or currency is worth. The more currency you print, the more it creates inflation. And the result of inflation is higher prices. The printing of currency means you are going to get higher prices as a result of the printing. Inflation is the printing of currency, which in turn leads to higher prices because the more money you print, the less it is worth. The less value it has means everything starts costing more. Let’s assume there are a million Mona Lisas in the world. The Mona Lisa would be worth the same thing as if there were only one. But if there are many, it is worth less. The same thing holds true with currency.
JW: And this has to do with the Federal Reserve?
AR: The fact that the Federal Reserve came into being created a situation in this country where the government became indebted. The people became indebted and also gave the Federal Reserve, which is composed of private bankers, the ability to control our government. This is because the Federal Reserve now makes the money for our government. Most Americans and most people in government and Congress don’t know anything about how money works. And if they did, they would probably be up in arms. The Federal Reserve is now in business with all the other central banks in the world.
JW: Of course, most Americans believe that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution allows the government to tax our incomes. But you say that the Sixteenth Amendment wasn’t ratified correctly. You even point out court decisions that state as much. In what way was that amendment not ratified constitutionally? How then has the government gotten away with this?
AR: Although the Sixteenth Amendment was passed in 1913, it was never actually ratified. But again, even if it had been ratified in 1913, in 1916 there were two U.S. Supreme Court cases—Brushaber and Stanton—both of which said that the Sixteenth Amendment did not give the government the authority to tax the wages or labor of the people. And between 1916 and 1923, there were six more cases from the U.S. Supreme Court that all said the same thing.
JW: What was the Sixteenth Amendment intended to do?
AR: Let me continue. That’s why in 1917 they stopped the income tax after those Supreme Court decisions. I interviewed the ex-IRS Commissioner in Washington, D.C., and asked him, “Where does the IRS get the authority to tax the labor of the American people? Where does it come from?” And he said, “It comes from the Sixteenth Amendment.” And I said to him, “What about the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled on many occasions that the Sixteenth Amendment did not give you that authority?” In response to my question, which is in the documentary, he said that the Supreme Court decisions have no bearing on what the IRS does. Let me give you the exact quote: “Supreme Court decisions are ineffable to the IRS.” But we all know that is not true.
JW: Are you saying that the Federal income tax is illegal?
AR: I am saying there is no legal authority for it, and the Supreme Court ruled against it. Now you have to be careful when you say the words “income tax” because the income tax defined by the Supreme Court means a corporate profit or gain. So you can have an income tax on corporations but not on people’s labor and wages.
JW: For example, such as profits from a stock deal?
AR: Corporations are a privilege. People have rights. The Supreme Court has ruled that the government can tax the corporation’s income, but they cannot tax a labor or wage earner’s income. The concept is that each one of us owns our life. Therefore, we own our labor. And when you give your labor to somebody and they give you something in exchange, whether it’s a dollar bill or a meal or whatever you get in exchange, it’s an equal trade. It’s not a gain. It’s not a profit. You are giving of something you own, which is your labor, and you are getting something in return. And it’s not taxable.
JW: Are you implying that if the government can tax your income, you are in essence a slave?
AR: Exactly. Except that people today are not aware of what is going on.
JW: Most everyone believes that the Sixteenth Amendment allows the government to tax their wages.
AR: But it is just not true. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on that on so many occasions. It’s just not true. And as I indicated, the IRS Commissioner said very clearly that the Supreme Court decisions are ineffable for the IRS. They know this is nonsense. But the important factor is that the IRS is just a symptom of a bigger problem. And the bigger problem is the Federal Reserve System, which is not a governmental agency. It’s a private bank, and these private individuals control our government. That is why we are at war in the Middle East. That’s why so many things are happening in this country that we have no control over.
JW: Are you saying our government—Congress, the president and the courts—don’t control what we do?
AR: I believe the bankers control what we do. I’ll tell you a story. I was close friends with the Rockefeller family. Some months before 9/11 happened, someone close to the family told me there was going to be an event. He never said what the event was going to be. The effect of the event, however, was that the American government was going to invade Afghanistan and we were going to go into Iraq, take over the oil fields and establish a base in the Middle East to be part of the New World Order. Then we were going after Chavez in Venezuela to get his oil. He told me that almost a year before 9/11 ever happened. They have succeeded in the first two. They didn’t succeed with Chavez, but they succeeded in Afghanistan and Iraq. The people who control the money in this country control everything. He who makes the money makes the rule.
JW: This would mean that the media is controlled as well.
AR: They control the media. They control the members of Congress and who runs for office. How much money do you need to run for office? You need a fortune. Where does the money come from? It comes from corporations, donations, lobbyists and so on. If you ask people what the largest corporation in America is, most would say Wal-Mart or Microsoft or something like that. But the truth is that the largest corporation in America is the Federal Reserve. And all the other corporations feed off the nipple of the Federal Reserve System because they make all the money.
JW: So we don’t live in a democracy?
AR: We are not supposed to live in a democracy. But the fact is that we live in more of a democracy than we are supposed to. The word “democracy” is not in the Constitution. It is not written into the Bill of Rights. It is not part of the Declaration of Independence. The founding fathers hated the idea of a democracy because in a democracy, 51 percent of the population controls the other 49 percent.
JW: What about when people vote? Isn’t that part and parcel to a democracy?
AR: We are not a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. When you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you don’t pledge to the democracy. You pledge to the republic of the United States. The difference between the two, in my opinion, is that in a democracy, 51 percent of the people control the other 49 percent. In our constitutional republic, as it was founded, 99 percent of the people cannot take away the rights of 1 percent. We have God- given human rights, and the government cannot take them away from you. I can’t take your rights away. You can’t take my rights away. You have human rights that are yours, and no one can take them. But in a democracy, the majority rules. That is not freedom. America was never supposed to be a democracy. As I said, the founders hated the idea of a democracy. I believe it was Ben Franklin who said, “A democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”
JW: What do you say to the people who argue that we couldn’t have any government services, such as interstates, education and a military, without an income tax?
AR: That’s not true. As I show in my documentary, the fact of the matter is that none of your income tax dollars go to anything to do with the infrastructure of the country. They all go to the interest, the debt and to waste. In fact, our roads are paid for by taxes on gasoline, not by the income tax. Schools are paid for by the local property taxes where you live. The defense is to be paid for by corporate taxes. You don’t need an income tax to run this country. It is just part of the propaganda.
JW: Are you a conspiratorialist?
AR: Where is the conspiracy? I am just telling the truth. What’s the conspiracy?
JW: Many are going to say that it is George Bush who really runs the country.
AR: George Bush is a puppet for the banks. So was Bill Clinton, and so is Hillary. They all are. The banks control all these people, and that is the bottom line.
JW: Most people are asleep. They watch CNN. They watch Fox. They don’t really get the news. They get coverage of entertainment items. The television news reporters don’t tell us what is going on in Iraq. They certainly don’t talk about the things you are talking about. So what is your answer to all of this?
AR: Some people are waking up. You have to educate them. That’s why I made the movie, which has had a tremendous effect on people. It recently went to number one in the United Kingdom on Google. It went to number four around the world on Google video. It’s been on Google for three months now. Over 1,700,000 people have watched it. It has a five-star rating, which is the highest rating you can possibly get. When people see the movie, they finally understand what is going on. We live in a matrix in this country. We are lied to all the time. We don’t know what the truth is.
JW: Are you suggesting that we live in an illusion?
AR: Yes, an illusion. I call it a matrix. Call it whatever you will. It is all a fake. The bankers create prosperity out of thin air by printing currency. People have to wake up to the truth. We’re losing the middle class in this country with all this. They’re trying to create a one-world government. Now you have the North American Union, which most people don’t even know about. They’re trying to merge Mexico, Canada and America into one nation. And they’re talking about a new currency called the Amero. This would be like the Euro in Europe. Fortunately, some people are becoming very fed up.
JW: So the idea of a one-world government is a reality?
AR: What we have is globalism. That is what’s happening, and that is what they want. In May 2008, we will have a national ID card with an RFID chip in it where they can track you wherever you go. What is this? This is not being an American. This is a disgrace.
JW: I’ve written extensively on the emerging American surveillance state. We’re moving into a police state. Do you think it is intentional that we are moving in this direction?
AR: I know it’s intentional. It is all coming from the people behind the Federal Reserve. They’re trying to create a one-world government where people all over the world will be chipped and identified. And you have to go along with their wishes. They don’t want to follow our Constitution. If you believe in the Constitution, you are considered a terrorist in some places. They just don’t want it. It is all because of the Federal Reserve System. They are behind this whole deal, and it is because they make a lot of money. They control so many of our politicians, and they push for these things.
JW: Such as the National ID card?
AR: Yes. And it’s no different than the marks that the Nazis put on the Jews in the Nazi concentration camps. But it’s worse now because they can track you with the RFID chip.
JW: Some states are challenging the National ID card. Maine is one state that is refusing to comply with the law.
AR: Maine has come out publicly. There are several other states that are talking about not complying, and I want to encourage that.
JW: In the next election, there will be two people to vote for. You seem to believe they are chosen by the bankers. If so, why should people even bother to vote?
AR: Because there is another man running named Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas.
JW: I’ve interviewed Ron Paul (see “Setting a Brush Fire for Freedom”).
AR: He is a great man. People should get behind his campaign and support him. That is why they should vote.
JW: Do you really believe that the powers-that-be would let that happen? If the scenario, as you say, is that they would use violence to stop anybody who is a threat to them? There are, for example, many who claim that was one of the reasons John F. Kennedy was shot.
AR: I can’t answer that question. I don’t know what they are going to do. I do think that is why John Kennedy was shot. It was because he printed Treasury notes instead of Federal Reserve notes. He was killed a short time later.
JW: Is there any hope?
AR: The hope for us is to bring our constitutional republic back into being and restore the freedom of the individual. The government’s job is to protect our freedoms, not dictate how we live our lives. We should be able to live our lives as we choose. The government’s job is to make sure we can make that choice. So long as you don’t hurt other people, commit violence, theft or fraud, as long as we don’t do that to other people, it is the government’s job to protect our freedoms.