The 16th Amendment – One Hundred Years Is Enough

It’s time to repeal the 16th Amendment. This week for agony of paying our taxes is also when Tax Freedom Day® 2012 arrives, the date Americans work into the year to earn enough money to pay this year’s tax bill. This week also commemorates the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government extremist hoping to spark a revolt against the federal government. And, last year at this time Congress was trying to avert a federal government shutdown.

As predicted when the 16th amendment was ratified in 1913, the income tax has become “a terror and torment to the honest citizen.” It is absurdly complicated, inefficient and intrusive. Overzealous bureaucrats and politicians frequently abuse it. And according to a new study in the Journal of the Medical Association, deadly car crashes jump by 6 percent on tax deadline day. For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate was 5 percent during any weekday!

Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick said that President Obama should speak in front of members of the growing militia movement to calm down rhetoric in the midst of a resurgent anti-government, usually anti-tax, movement. Fundamentally, taxes on income imply a complete denial of private property, which is what socialism is in all its permutations; to the militia,  it rejects man’s absolute and natural right to his property and vests property rights in the political establishment.

This infamous amendment was passed in 1909 by Republicans as the best method to collect government revenue and get around the pesky Supreme Court which ruled that levies on income were unconstitutional. Now, 95% of all Republican Congressmen have signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge to oppose increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate. Lead by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, this pledge was directly responsible for the debt-ceiling standoff that wrecked the nation’s credit rating by leading the nation to the brink of default.

Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” needs a new take on taxes. Why not advocate the repeal of the 16th Amendment instead of enforcing a hard-line position that compels the GOP to protect tax breaks for the rich and billions in federal subsidies for America’s wealthiest corporations?

I believe the current Republican tax argument is embarrassing and this single change would strike at the heart of unlimited federal power and end the costly and intrusive tax code. The 16th provides an almost unlimited ability to fund programs that are properly state matters–crime fighting, education, welfare–and to pressure the states into conforming to a national standard in matters that should reflect regional differentiation, like speed limits and drinking ages. And how many Americans would vote against ending income taxes. Most of the money in America belongs to the middle class. Lacking access to sophisticated shelters, we are easy to tax.

Democrats, since you cannot defeat this populist issue, work together with them; sign with Grover, force this new pledge issue. By pushing Grover Norquist to “be honest”, you control the situation rather than burying your head and waiting for events to spiral out of control. Tax change has merits, so we will consider it — after the 16th Amendment is repealed. Such a strategy, particularly, if the Republican’s flinch, could be big for Obama and the Democrats in all elections.

Repealing the income tax would still leave many areas in which the federal government could collect revenue for its proper functions, like defense, while limiting its ability to overreach. The federal government was meant to collect revenue in other, less intrusive ways (tariffs, excise taxes, consumption taxes) to limit the amount of money it could raise by authority.

Congress could then replace the income tax with a “uniform” national tax (as stated in Article I, section 8) that would be paid by everyone residing in the country as they consumed. Pledge the replacement of our current system of individual and corporate income, capital gains, import and export duties, gift and estate taxes with a single comprehensive “revenue neutral” Automated Payment Transaction tax. This tax levied on all voluntary transactions can be digitally assessed and collected. The total volume of transactions is the broadest conceivable tax base and can be routinely settled through the electronic technology of the bank/payments clearing system with no deductions, exemptions, or exclusions. The proposed “tax” is simple, comprehensible, fair and efficient, with minimal administrative and compliance costs for governments, businesses and individuals and will greatly reduce tax evasion, and promises benefits of nearly $1 trillion annually. There are no forms, no state or local taxes saving them administration costs. This tax could be as low as one tenth of one percent of each transaction and hits stock, commodity and currency gamblers and manipulators. You wouldn’t see it, feel it or know it but it will raise more money than our current system.

Anything that has had one hundred years to prove itself and fails to do so is a failure. The efforts of our great people must be directed toward invention, business and improving life rather than filling tax forms, hiring accountants and fighting the government.

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