Whitt & Wisdom: Death and Taxes

By Jim Whitt Contributing Editor

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes,” said Benjamin Franklin. He made that statement in 1789, not many years after 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. The declaration included a long list of grievances leveled at the King of England, but one probably more than the rest led to the birth of our nation: “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.” There were a series of successive taxes that started in 1765 when The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament to pay for the debt incurred by the British in the French and Indian Wars.

This act levied a tax on a wide range of transactions in the colonies. Up until then, each colony’s government decided what should be taxed and how to collect the taxes. The colonists rioted and none other than Benjamin Franklin convinced the British to rescind The Stamp Act. Parliament then passed the Declaratory Act of 1766, which gave Parliament the same authority to tax the colonies as in Great Britain. The Townshend Acts in 1767 imposed duties on British china, glass, lead, paint, paper and tea imported to the colonies. Tea was the greatest generator of revenue, which resulted in the infamous Boston Tea Party in 1773. The British retaliated with The Coercive Acts of 1774, which resulted in replacing local colonial authority while expanding British authority.

On April 19, 1775, the shot heard round the world was fired and the American Revolution began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. DEATH AND TAXESThe issue of taxes no doubt influenced the form of government our young nation would choose. Federalists favored a strong central government that had power over the states. Anti-Federalists refused to support the Constitution without a bill of rights that included the 10th Amendment, which stated: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The idea of a federal income tax in the United States was a long time coming. Tariffs on imports and sales tax funded the federal government for most of its first hundred years. In 1861, the Revenue Tax was signed into law to finance the Civil War. It imposed a 3 percent tax on annual incomes more than $800. It was repealed in 1871. In 1894, Congress passed a 2 percent tax on incomes more than $4,000. But in an 1895 case, Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company, the Supreme Court ruled that directly taxing Americans’ income was unconstitutional. In 1909 Democrats and progressive Republicans pushed for a new income tax, while GOP leaders strongly opposed.

When the 16th Amendment, which established a permanent individual income tax, was proposed conservatives didn’t oppose it because they believed it would never be ratified by three-fourths of the states to become law. It was sold on the promise that it would soak the rich and spare the poor. Every tax and tax increase since has been sold with the same false promise. The problem with the federal income tax is it takes power from the states and gives it to the federal government.

The 16th Amendment became law in 1913. For several years, only 2 percent of U.S. households paid federal income tax. By 1950, the income tax became the primary source of revenue for the federal government. Now, income tax and payroll taxes that fund social programs account for about 80 percent of all federal revenue. The problem with the federal income tax is it takes power from the states and gives it to the federal government. It is a game of wealth redistribution with Congress determining who wins and who loses. The only say “we the people” have in this process is electing those who redistribute the wealth. Our national debt is more than $30 trillion. The federal government spends in excess of $1.5 trillion more than it takes in annually. It shows no desire to cut spending. So, what do you think they’ll do? With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act this year, the IRS will be doubling in size. They are advertising for special agents who, among other things, “must be willing to use force up to and including the use of deadly force.” The tyranny of taxation was the major catalyst that led to the birth of our nation. It may very well be the death of our nation.