Skip to comments.THE INJUSTICE OF INCOME TAX - By Alan Keyes
Posted on 04/15/2002 5:18:26 PM PDT by Uncle Bill
The Injustice of the Income Tax
The American Legion Magazine
By Alan Keyes
March 2, 2002
The income tax usurps privacy, allows the federal government to control income and paves a path to tyranny.
Few issues provide such an enduring occasion for political debate as the question of how to fund the federal government - the question of taxes. In recent years, we have approached national agreement that the current system is deeply and perhaps fatally flawed. Accordingly, politicians have presented various versions of what they call "fundamental reform".
But much of the talk of fundamental reform is really an effort to tinker with the existing tax system in order to help diffuse growing public discomfort and even outrage. Few political leaders are willing to consider the most necessary change because it would involve removing politicians from the gatekeeper role over income and resources of all Americans.
Real reform requires abolishing the income tax and returning to the system our founders intended. This means funding the federal government with tariffs, duties and excise taxes or sales taxes, not with the privacy destroying income tax. We should return to our nation's original tax.
Government controls decisions. Our founders frequently quoted a principle from William Blackstone's Commentaries on the laws of England. " A power over a man's resources is a power over his will." To control the resource base of a decision maker is to control his decisions. But the ultimate decision-maker in American life and politics must be the people. And the people cannot be free without a resource base of material comfort and sustenance free from government domination or control.
A tax system putting government in control of the people's income tends irresistibly to put government in control of political decisions as well. The founders sought to avoid this path to tyranny, so they declared a direct tax on the income of individuals unconstitutional.
The reversal of that wisdom came during the "progressive" era at the beginning of the 20th century. A mentality of class warfare prevailed at the time; a first flush of socialism in American life, and the income tax movement was one of its results. Setting farmers against industrialists, urban folk against rural, poor against rich, everyone was led to expect than an income tax would hit the other group harder. Chiefly, of course, the argument was that the rich would pay a disproportionate share. What they didn't tell us was that in this socialist scheme, everyone with a private dollar is suspected of being too rich.
We ought to have realized that the income tax is utterly incompatible with liberty. It is actually a form of slavery. A slave is someone the fruit of whose labor is controlled by somebody else. A slave is not somebody with nothing. Rather, he has only what the master lets him have.
Under the income tax, the government takes whatever percentage of the earner's income it wants. The income tax, therefore, represents our national surrender to the government of control over all the money we earn. There are, in principle, no restrictions to the pre-emptive claim the government has upon our income.
No American government has seriously pressed this claim on our income to its logical conclusion - the explicit demand that all income be handed over to the government and any private expenditures made subject to government approval. But we are deeply unwise to underestimate the power of the confiscatory principle in the hands of a government determined to pursue its advantage. The federal government could bankrupt the country in short order, merely by deciding to insist more aggressively than it already does on collecting the money we have already agreed it has the right to take. We must insist on the erection of constitutional protection, beyond the reach of any congress or president to override, of the fact that American citizens own the dollars they earn. Without such protection, we hold these dollars merely subject to the government's revocable permission.
The withholding tax system disguises this dangerous loss of control. One of the effects of withholding is that we don't even realize that government money is actually our money. Most of us think that only our net pay - our actual paycheck - is our money, and what is withheld is the government's money. We tend to think this because the government simply grabs part of the money we have earned.
I once heard a caller to a talk radio show object to the proposal that taxpayers cover the savings and loan debacle, demanding instead that the government pay for it, as though the government could pay for anything without using dollars taken from us.
Surrender of Privacy. The income tax threatens our liberty in many ways, but surely the most alarming and outrageous is its requirement that we surrender our privacy by exposing all the sources of our income to the government. One of the prudent protections of liberty is to treat the government, which today seems to be your friend, as if tomorrow it could become your enemy. No army exposes all lines of supply and all resources even to its allies, much less to its potential enemies.
While our government is not our enemy in the traditional sense, our founders were ever mindful that liberty depends upon vigilance against the temptations of tyranny. That's why, if we mean to retain our freedom, it is our duty to maintain material resources for action that the government cannot control and manipulate. But with the income tax, we surrender the ability to maintain economic associations without the knowledge of the government.
It even gets worse. Through government social engineering, such as bestowing a revocable "501-C3" non-profit status on churches, the government is able to manipulate the tax system in order to gain control over our institutions of conscience, character and moral formation. The American Revolution itself would never have happened without the courage of such institutions, particularly churches. The same is true of the abolition of slavery and of all other great movements of conscience in American history. These efforts were decisively motivated by principled private associations, the role once played by these institutions in boldly challenging us to oppose inroads against our liberty has been gutted. As a result of the income tax, we have subjected the entire sector of conscience to the control and manipulation of the government. As a result we have muffled what ought to be the voice of independent faith and conscientious action in our society.
National Sales Tax. We don't need to improve the income tax. We need to get rid of it! Our founding fathers had a simple and clear vision of a citizenry with control over the money it worked to earn and with the corresponding ability and independent judgment to exercise its rightful authority over government.
Whether to save money or spend it was intended to be a matter of the sovereign liberty of citizens, who would decide what to do with every dollar. Under a national sales tax, this is exactly what would happen. Only after we decide what to do with our money can the portion used for purchases in the open marketplace be subject to tax. The sales tax requires no surrender of privacy, no confession to the government of our entire economic life.
Furthermore, a sales tax would make it much harder to avoid paying legitimate federal tax without good reason. Those in criminal enterprises who have never filed a federal tax return would have to pay the national sales tax charged by the merchants who provide his goods and services. When such a person enters the marketplace to make a purchase, he would pay the tax that everyone else is paying. The sales tax is a more equitable system, because the incidence of taxation is more evenly distributed throughout the population.
But under a national sales tax system, equity would not come at the price of giving up control of our money. Rather, a national sales tax would restore to American working people their control over the incidence of taxation. Only the relatively well-off have that opportunity under the present system because they can hire lawyers and accountants to calculate the most advantageous tax strategies and exploit arbitrary technicalities.
The most important goal of tax policy must be reclaiming control over taxation, on which dollars and how much of our income the tax actually falls. Today, taxation is entirely outside of the control of most working Americans because it is determined by politicians and bureaucrats and manipulated by clever lawyers and accountants. The liberating power of a national sales tax system is that it would end their control. Under a sales tax system, individual citizens would again be sovereign in deciding how much of their money will be subject to the tax at any given moment, according to their particular financial circumstances. Such a system will give us back control over our money that we have not had in generations -not since the income tax was imposed.
And that control will be financially crucial to families. When times are tight, instead of praying for politicians to pass a beneficent tax cut, Americans will have the power to give themselves tax cuts just by changing their spending and saving patterns. We already reduce our discretionary expenditures when money becomes tight, and under a sales tax system our tax burden would also become a discretionary expenditure.
Congress will pass a national sales tax only when the people insist on it. To bring this day closer, it will be necessary to turn the attention of grassroots America to the real tax debate. That debate is not only about the rate of taxation and the bloated size of government. It also is about the right to property and the preservation of our liberty. Americans must come to see that the tax reform we so urgently need is not more back room manipulation of the income tax and its ever mutatable rates, schedules and regulations but rather its total replacement with the system our founders intended.
We must remind our fellow citizens that the income tax is less than 100 years old, and that the nation did fine for a long time without it. A national sales tax is not a radical new proposal but is actually a return to the sensible and consistent understanding of liberty that the founders of America established. Returning to a sales tax is sound conservative thinking, which restores the system of taxation that stood the test of time in its proven compatibility with liberties of our people. The republic survived difficult trials in its early years in part because we had a tax system that left the citizenry independent enough to successfully discipline its government.
America was built by people who, rightly and nobly, used the control over their actions and resources that a wise political order secured for them. The income tax expropriates the independence that made possible American prosperity, American character and ultimately American self-government. By keeping the income tax, we are inexorably encouraging moral poverty - the poverty of motivation, of discipline and of responsibility - that we all sense has deepened in the America of recent decades.
By wisely turning back to the wisdom of our founders, we can renew an economic environment of wholesome motivation in which responsibility pays and in which discipline makes a difference. Real tax reform can help us make an historic break with the service and passive habits of recent years and begin a new era of confident liberty. If we still believe we deserve - and have the capacity - to be free, ending the income tax is a duty to ourselves and our posterity.
Alan Keyes, a former Republican presidential candidate, was the 1967 American Legion Boys Nation president and National Oratorical Contest winner. He is the host of Alan Keyes is Making Sense on MSNBC.
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"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery."
Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. (*) ME 1:193, Papers 1:125
well, boy howdy, tinkering is how we ended up with the abortion we call the IRS tax code.
sadly, the left must be conquered to suppress those who would use the tax for the redistribution
of wealth, vote pandering, and furthering the socialist cause to the detriment of enterprise.
the choice is simple. the task is not.
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