Tax time approaches, and Americans are as always paying H & R
Block billions to help them save some of their wealth from their ravenous
government. Pitiful, in a way: it underlines the grim but unacknowledged
fact that the government is their enemy and they have to hire protection
But don’t we enjoy “self-government”? Well, if we
have it, I’d hardly say we enjoy it. True, we aren’t being
taxed by the monarch of Great Britain, but our American-born rulers
claim far more of our wealth than the British monarchs ever did.
The first income tax was imposed during the Civil War under President
Abraham Lincoln — you know, the Great Emancipator. He is known
for abolishing chattel slavery in seceding states; he is less well-known
for introducing tax slavery in all the states. That’s one reason
why the libertarian Lysander Spooner opposed both sides in the war:
he said the South was fighting for chattel slavery, while the North
was fighting for political slavery. Political slavery won.
The government was just getting its foot in the door. The top tax
rate at first was 5 per cent. And that was only on relatively high
The U.S. Supreme Court, which in those days paid some attention to
the Constitution, struck down the income tax several times. So, in
the days of Woodrow Wilson, the Sixteenth Amendment was adopted, giving
Congress the power to impose an income tax.
Again, the first tax rates were low by today’s standards. A
bachelor had to make about $50,000 a year in today’s money before
he paid a 1 per cent tax; the top rate was 7 per cent, and only the
very rich paid it.
But within a few years the country was at war — “the war
to end all wars,” you’ll recall — and the tax rates
were raised very high. Over time, the tax code became enormously complex,
while the debasement of money drove ordinary people into tax brackets
originally aimed at the rich. The government, needless to say, was
impenitent and unapologetic about what looked very much like a bait-and-switch
Along the way, the Federal Government greatly expanded its own powers,
no longer bothering to amend the Constitution. The welfare state, though
flagrantly unconstitutional, created broad political support for usurped
powers. Franklin Roosevelt, a president of multifaceted treachery,
consciously adopted the demagogic strategy of buying votes by soaking
Federal programs, all unconstitutional, have continued to multiply
and expand. We now live in what Hilaire Belloc dubbed “the Servile
State,” in which one part of the population is forced to support
the other. Yet the average American is unaware of the total transformation
and repudiation of the original American Republic. To the extent he
knows of it at all, he has been taught to think of it as “progress.” He
doesn’t realize that most of the taxes he pays are spent for
purposes unauthorized by the Constitution.
Today liberals howl in protest when President Bush proposes to cut
the top tax rate to 33 per cent! One might ask whether there is any
moral limit to what the government can take from us; but the point
is that, under the Sixteenth Amendment, there is no constitutional limit.
That amendment, the welfare state, and shifty “interpretation” of
Congress’s power to regulate commerce have combined to enable
the Federal Government to impose a socialist or fascist system while
feebly pretending to honor the Constitution. It illustrates how tyranny
may creep in under the outward forms of traditional law.
Will Americans ever awaken to what has happened to their country?
Some vigilant souls have seen it all along. Many were aware of it long
before I was. No doubt more are learning every day.
It may seem doubtful that the truth will penetrate enough people to
reverse the trend. Passivity, ignorance, cowardice, venality, and sheer
discouragement will always keep the majority acquiescent. The government’s
greatest strength is the enormous numbers who depend for their income
on its abuse of the taxing power. They sense that a return to constitutional
government would be a disaster for them.
But a vigorous and intelligent minority, if it refuses to surrender,
can do wonders. The good news is that such a minority already exists,
and it is growing.
Copyright © 2012 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on March 5, 2002.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
Learn how to get a tape of his last speech
during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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