Thank you for your response. You probably have a bigger tax burden than you realize. There is of course sales tax (8.5% in SF) on most things you buy. If you own a car, there are vehicle registration fees, parking fees, moving violation fees (all of these used to transfer money from ordinary peoples' pockets to government). If you own property, there is property tax; if you rent, part of the tax is passed along to you in the form of higher rents.
Then there is the major *hidden* tax of inflation, caused by government printing more paper money that is backed by nothing, thereby reducing the value of each dollar currently in circulation. Here is an easy inflation calculator - http://www.tdbanknorth.com/investment/calculators/inflation.html - just type in the figure for your monthly living expenses, and based on an inflation rate of 3.5% (the current official rate is actually closer to 4%, and many people believe the real rate is higher, because administrations fudge the numbers to make things look better than they are), it shows you how much inflation will cost you over time.
Here is an (incomplete) list of some various taxes. Most of these are paid by ordinary people, not just the wealthy! Many of the ones that you aren't paying directly, such as corporate income tax, you are paying indirectly in the form of higher prices or lower wages:
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Hunting License Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Marriage License Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers),
Recreational Vehicle Tax,
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
I realize that lots of home-based businesses currently exist. That is part of my point -- these things are going on now. They aren't something that has to be started from scratch. Unfortunately things like braiding hair, babysitting, and selling CDs on the corner are typically considered illegal. That needs to change. Government should not be allowed to criminalize people for making an honest living, or make them jump through so many time-consuming and expensive hoops that they become discouraged and give up, or fall through the cracks.
The Institute for Justice has been helping entrepreneurs like these in many communities win precisely these kinds of fights. For instance, here is a link to a case where they were able to help an African-American couple get Washington D.C.'s Cosmetology Board off their back and government restrictions on hair-braiding repealed: http://www.ij.org/economic_liberty/dc_hairbraiding/index.html . They are a good resource to be aware of. I'm not sure why the ACLU did not respond to your inquiry. Perhaps simply because they have limited resources and get lots of people seeking their help. But they have been effectively standing up for many civil liberties for a long time. Here is a press release from one of their chapters about the Bell shooting -- http://www.aclu.org/racialjustice/racialprofiling/27566prs20061129.html .
My point in mentioning volunteers cleaning streets, planting trees, etc., had to do with empowerment. If government is coming into a community and doing these kinds of basic things, the community will be less empowered than if neighbors are organizing and doing the things themselves. Government agencies will do it their way, not yours -- and if you live in a poor area, chances are they won't do it very well if at all. Apologies if it came across like I was telling *you* to go out and clean the streets -- I understand that is not a particularly useful suggestion. What I had in mind was long-term action by people in the community cooperating to take back their neighborhoods, not what any one individual should do on her own. As Per Bylund writes (see http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/bylund6.html ), "A neighborhood not dependent on the State for supplies is a neighborhood not easily subdued. Also, such a community is not as easily punished by the government if its independence is discovered and the threat considered real. A community does not suffer from government refusing to supply its services if it isn’t first wholly dependent on such services."
You mention wanting your tax money to go to entitlement programs rather than buying bombs for war. I completely empathize! In fact one libertarian idea I've often mentioned is to let people decide what their tax money goes to fund. Some people talk a lot of smack about libertarians, but don't believe all the stereotypes you hear. Dig a little deeper, find your own path to freedom!
Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))
P.S. - I fully realize that the "welfare queen" is a myth. There is much more corporate welfare than the kind that most people think about when they hear the term, and the largest share of government subsidies -- Social Security, Medicare, homeowner bailouts, college loans, etc. -- go to the middle class, not the poor. Most poor people receiving assistance receive just enough to -- along with restrictions on their economic opportunities -- keep them dependent and helpless. That way their existence can justify the middle and upper level salaries of people in government and government-funded non-profits who are there to "help" them.