Home > Uncategorized > Things You Might Not Know are in the Constitution: Taxes

Things You Might Not Know are in the Constitution: Taxes

Today is the day we pay our taxes if we are horrible procrastinators.  If not, it’s the day we take to the streets to complain about the taxes we paid months ago.  Since I couldn’t make it to a tea party today, I can’t resist the temptation to post some thoughts on the current tax system.  For starters, did you know that in article 1, section 9 of the constitution it says: “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, [unless in proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken]?”  If you are thinking to yourself “wait a minute, doesn’t that make our tax code unconstitutional?” the answer is no.  “Why not” you ask?  Because the 16th amendment says “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” 

Between 1913 and 1920 there were four amendments to the constitution (and only one good one).  This shouldn’t be surprising since this was the height of the progressive movement. This movement sees the constitution as an obstacle to their grand designs and made a lot of progress in distorting it to allow for their idea of progress before FDR solved the problem altogether by strong arming the supreme court into a ridiculous interpretation of the commerce clause.  But the thing people seem to have overlooked at that time and need to realize now is that these obstacles were put into the constitution for a reason.  The reason being that their progress leads to serfdom.  Here is what Hamilton (who, remember started the Federalist Party and was one of the biggest supporters of big government among the founding fathers) says in Federalist Paper number 36.

Let it be recollected that the proportion of these taxes is not to be left to the discretion of the national legislature, but is to be determined by the numbers of each State, as described in the second section of the first article.  An actual census or enumeration of the people must furnish the rule, a circumstance which effectually shuts the door to partiality or oppression.  The abuse of this power of taxation seems to have been provided against with guarded circumspection.  In addition to the precaution just mentioned, there is a provision that “all duties, imposts and excises shall be UNIFORM throughout the United States.”

When they were proposing the 16th amendment do you think the pitch was “it’s time to open the door to partiality and oppression?”  Or is it a little more likely that they just assumed people wouldn’t pay attention to why the constitution said what it said?  Benjamin Franklin is widely believed to have remarked that “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”  Now we have about half the population paying no income taxes and enjoying a vast array of services provided at the expense of the other half.  Could it be that this isn’t just about competing ideas regarding what is a “fair” distribution of wealth?  Could there be a real danger of losing our liberty associated with all this progressivism?  Could the door be open?  The founding fathers thought about these things a lot.  I don’t think the people in the teens thought about it enough.  Which one are we going to emulate?

P.S. It also says in the same Federalist Paper “A small land-tax will answer the purpose of the States, and will be their most simple ans most fit resource.”  Hopefully you will get a chuckle out of that on this April 15th (or more likely sometime in the next couple days since I’m writing this at 9:15 PM).

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