One of the questions that has plagued me most of my adult life is about the concept of a progressive income tax. It has always bothered me that a person who works hard and prospers is required to turn over to the state a larger portion of the fruits of that labor than the slothful person who drifts through life putting forth as little effort as possible.
The moral justification for a progressive income tax is based on the idea that the more wealth a person has the more he or she should contribute to the benefit of society. I have no problem with that concept. It is grounded firmly in both history and religion. One of the earliest records of taxes is found in the Bible, Genesis 14:20 which records Abraham paying a tithe (10%) to Melchizedek, King of Salem. Under the Theocracy of ancient Israel, everyone was required to pay a tithe to support the Temple and the government. That practice is still followed today in many Christian religions.
Under that system if a man’s flock increased by ten sheep one of those sheep was given as a tithe. If his flock increased by a hundred sheep he was required to contribute only ten. By any standard, this is a fair and equitable sharing of the burden in support of government. However, exempting the man with only ten sheep from having to pay any tithe at all, while requiring the man with a hundred sheep to contribute twenty to make up the difference may be charitable, but it could never be called fair.
With the exception of a short time during the Civil War, income was not taxed in America. In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution which authorizes the government to tax incomes “from whatever source derived”. That amendment seems to be universally accepted as the constitutional justification for a progressive income tax. I have always considered it just another breach of the Constitution by the socialist element in Congress that has existed since the late eighteen hundreds.
However, yesterday Mark Levin, founder and director of the Landmark Legal Foundation, author of a best selling book on the Supreme Court, “Men In Black” and host of a nationally syndicated radio show, seemed to express the same view with a caller. I consider Mark to be one of the foremost Constitutional Scholars of today; therefore, I have to take into account his opinions. For that reason, I got out my copy of the Constitution and reread the Sixteenth Amendment which 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.”
I am not trained in law; however, I do have formal training in hermeneutics, “the science and methodology of interpreting texts”. Try as I might, I cannot find justification for a progressive income tax in the Sixteenth Amendment. I find it in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto where he calls for “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”. I find it in the platform of the Socialist Party U.S.A, and in the platform of the Communist Party U.S.A, but I do not find it in the Constitution.
Article I, Section 8 grants Congress the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; But all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;” ” The remainder of Section 8, specifies the particulars for which Congress may appropriate taxes to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare”.
Article I, Section 9 provides that, “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” The Sixteenth Amendment amends Section 9 to allow for taxation “without regard to any census or enumeration.” It does not authorize a graduated or progressive tax, however. In practice, the only purpose of a progressive, graduated income tax is for social engineering and redistributing wealth. Using the tax code to control or manipulate the business, social and personal lives of citizens violates both the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
In considering the socialist takeover of our government, it is apparent that it never could have succeeded without the help of our tax code. Few actions of Congress have been more detrimental to the welfare of America than the progressive tax code. When we take back the government from the socialists and return it to a Constitutional Republic, one of the first orders of business should be to reform or repeal the tax code so that it applies equally to all citizens at whatever station in life.