“I wish everyone could see how by changing the tax code, more than 95 percent of this country’s problems could be solved,” he added. “We need to vote all Republicans out of office.”
In letter after letter, Hodgkinson derided Republicans for the country’s persistent income inequality, and he called on his fellow Americans to push for a new set of tax brackets that would dramatically increase taxes for millionaires. The Great Depression, he alleged, was caused in part by unfair tax rates, and higher tax rates for the wealthy, he said, helped pull America out of financial ruin.
“If we don’t want another Great Depression, we should re-elect the man who is working for the working man,” he wrote of Obama in 2012.
He yearned to get back “to the good old days” of higher taxes, he often wrote. “My motto is: ‘Tax ’em like 1938,” he wrote that same year.
Hodgkinson described himself as a political independent and praised the Occupy protest movement of 2011. He appeared to idolize Bernie Sanders, whose image was the main photo on what appears to be one of his Facebook pages at the time of the shooting.
“Long live Bernie Sanders,” he wrote at the close of one letter to the newspaper in January 2012.
He also periodically criticized Democrats for doing too little to raise taxes. But he mostly focused on the Republicans, who he blamed for refusing to tax the wealthy out of their own greed and corruption. Republicans harbor “hate” for working class people, he alleged in a few letters, and he said at one point that today’s “crooked politicians” made him “mad.”
“It’s time for the Republican congressmen to grow up. Maybe if they weren’t so full of hate, they could see what they are doing to this country — selling it to the Chinese just so they can keep more of the millions,” he wrote in November 2011.
More recently, Hodgkinson had turned to expressing his political views on social media.
What appears to be his last Facebook post — the day before his shooting rampage — was a cartoon meme about Congress. “How does a bill work?” a boy asks a bill that is slumped against some stairs. “That’s an easy one, Billy,” the bill responds. “Corporations write the bill and then bribe Congress until it becomes a law.” Above the meme was typed: “That’s Exactly How it Works …”
Hodgkinson had taken part in a protest about money and political corruption outside Belleville’s downtown post office in 2012, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Wednesday. But outside of his letters, Hodgkinson was the subject of the newspaper’s reporting just twice in the past 20 years. One was a notation of Hodgkinson’s attendance at a home inspection professional event, and the other was an April 22, 2006 roundup of local arrests, which noted that Hodgkinson had been arrested by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department “on suspicion of battery, domestic battery, criminal damage of property and reckless discharge of a firearm” — charges that were later dismissed.
In his letters, Hodgkinson reiterated his tax reform proposals multiple times, and sparred — generally politely — with other letter-writers who challenged him.
One of those people was Roddy D. Riggs, who went back and forth with Hodgkinson a few times, writing in Dec. 2011: “One thing about letter writer James Hodgkinson, he is persistent.” Riggs could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In a letter to the editor at the end of August 2012, Hodgkinson said Riggs reminded him of “Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly,” but conceded that his letters might sound redundant.
“If I seem to be a broken record, it is because of the simple facts that need to be understood by everyone of voting age,” he wrote.