What Happened to My Country? Part Two

The Progressive Era

In the past 218 years since ratification of the Bill of Rights, only seventeen amendments have been added to our Constitution.  Except for the Civil War Amendments involving the rights of former slaves and a few other issues growing out of the war, most are minor adjustments to the various articles of the Constitution.  However, two of the four Amendments ratified during the Progressive Era (1896-1932) have proven by experience to be disastrous to the structure of Government established by the Framers, and leads directly to the current attempted statists takeover of the Government by President Barack Obama and his socialist supporters.  Both were proposed during the term of Republican President William Howard Taft and ratified in1913 during the administration of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson.

Sixteenth Amendment—Income Tax

“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.” Amendment 16, Ratified February 3, 1913

The Progressive Era was one of the high points in the advancement of the socialist movement in America; this in spite of the fact that the socialists parties never garnered more than nine percent of the vote in presidential elections.  Since Marx’s Communist Manifesto, a goal of socialism had always been the establishment of a graduated, progressive income tax for the redistribution of wealth.  The Sixteenth Amendment provided the opportunity to realize that goal.

Although the Socialist Parties themselves were never able to muster a significant amount of support at the polls, their ideas permeated much of society at the turn of the twentieth century.  It was during the Progressive Era that we got the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Trade Commission, the Hepburn Act strengthening the ICC, four constitutional amendments and the Federal Reserve Bank.  In the Presidential Elections of 1912, all four presidential candidates—Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Republican William Howard Taft, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt, and Socialist Eugene Debs—supported the income tax.

When the income tax first came into force, the rate was 7% on the wealthiest earners.  Four years later the top marginal rate was 77%, an eleven-fold increase.  The tax code today is over 40,000 pages and is used as much for social engineering and wealth redistribution as it is for the constitutional purpose of funding the essential functions of government.

The Sixteenth Amendment repeals Article One, section nine, clause four of the Constitution.  It does not repeal clause one in section eight which limits taxes to paying the public debt and funding the enumerated functions of government.  Nowhere does the Constitution authorize a progressive income tax.  In fact, it could be argued that a progressive tax violates the principle of uniformity called for in Article One, section eight, clause one.

Seventeenth Amendment—Election of Senators

Socialists, liberals, and progressives habitually use language in a cynical and misleading way to promote their agenda. One of their favorites is “the people”. However, when they speak of the people they are usually talking about the people in mass, not as individuals.  The masses are easily controlled and generally follow the leadership of demigods in herd-like fashion.  On the other hand, when conservatives speak of “the people” they are referring to a consensus of individuals each acting in their own self-interest.

Because the masses are so easily influenced by populist rhetoric, progressives cloak their agenda in appeals to democracy and democratic ideals, overlooking the fact that the Constitution was constructed as it is specifically to guard against the fickle whims of the uninformed or misinformed masses.  This accounts for the continued attempts to eliminate the Electoral College.  It also provided the impetus for the popularity of the Seventeenth Amendment providing for the popular election of Senators.

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote…”  Amendment Seventeen, Ratified April 8, 1913

There is no denying the popular appeal of the idea of electing members of the Senate by the popular vote of the people rather than by the State Legislatures.  However, this change in the structure of government, more than any other, is responsible for the transformation from a federal to a national government abolishing the sovereignty of the states.

After ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment the accountability of Senators shifted from State Legislatures to the people and ultimately to the political parties.  One of the last important changes of the Progressive Era was the formalization of authority, in 1925, in the office of the Senate Majority Leader replacing the constitutional authority of the President of the Senate held by the Vice President for the first 135 years of our existence as a Constitutional Republic.  This change cemented the loyalty of Senators to their party leadership rather than the interest of their states or the country.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, one of the consequences of the Seventeenth Amendment was the shift of power from the state legislatures to the Congress in Washington, in effect, nullifying the Tenth Amendment.  For more than a century, the Senate had been the guardian of the Tenth Amendment.  As representatives of the state legislatures, Senators were sensitive to efforts by Congress to usurp the authority of the states and succeeded, for the most part, in preventing the federal government from establishing a tyranny over the lives of the people.

The doctrine that facilitated the eventual decline in state power and the increase in federal power was “supremacy of federal law”.  Constitutionally that supremacy is limited.  The doctrine is found in Article VI of the Constitution which reads:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme law of the land.”  Article VI, Clause 2.

Just as the proponents of big government overlook the phrase “foregoing powers” in the so-called “elastic clause” of Article One, here they overlook the phrase “in pursuance thereof”.  Federal law is supreme only when the law is in pursuance to the requirements and limitations of the Constitution.  A countering doctrine to the supremacy of federal law is one that appears often in the writings of the founders and in opinions handed down by early Supreme Courts.

That doctrine holds that unconstitutional acts of Congress are null and void and should not be binding on the states or citizens of the states. In Marbury vs. Madison, for example, Justice John Marshall wrote in the Majority Opinion, “Laws repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.”  While the federal government has the police power to enforce adherence to unconstitutional laws, that does not make them constitutional or legal.

The abuse of these two amendments has done more to promote the federal tyranny we are experiencing today under the Obama administration than any other, with the possible exception of the exploitation of the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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3 responses to “What Happened to My Country? Part Two

  1. You said: “The Sixteenth Amendment repeals Article One, section nine, clause four of the Constitution. ”

    Actually, it did not, according to a number of U.S. Supreme Court cases. The 16th Amendment created no new taxing powers and modified or repeals no sections of the U.S. Constitution.

    The purpose of the Amendment, according to the Supreme Court, was to clarify two things. First, that the so-called income tax was not a tax on income (a direct tax on property) but an indirect tax on activities or privileges. The second was that a tax on “income” as defined in law was not a tax on paychecks but a tax on profits and gains.

    The Amendment stated this itself – “…tax income from whatever source derived.” At this time, the word income was defined in law only one time, and that was in the Corporation Excise Tax Act of 1909. In that Act, income was defined as revenues less costs less expenses. The Amendment clarified that the income tax taxed income and not paychecks in its phrase concerning income from whatever source derived. Income was revenue less costs less expenses. And income resulted from capital (paychecks).

    The Amendment clarified that Congress could tax income (profits) but not sources of income (paychecks).

    “The income tax is, therefore, not a tax on income as such. It is an excise tax with respect to certain activities and privileges which is measured by reference to the income which they produce. The income is not the subject of the tax: it is the basis for determining the amount of the tax.
    (House Congressional Record, March 27, 1943, page 2580)

    • You seem to make your arguments based on opinions of the Supreme Court which are just that; opinions. The common misconception that the opinions of the Court are the “Supreme Law of the Land” is not based on the Constitution. It’s authority in interpreting the Constitution is based on its own contention, not anything written in the Constitution. Article VI declares the Constitution itself to be the Supreme Law of the Land not the Supreme Court. In other words, the Court does not dictate to the Constitution. Rather, the Constitution dictates to the Court. (that’s why it was written in English so we could understand it)

      Accepting your references to the Court, however, they are for the most part, dealing with the Corporation Excise Act of 1909, not the Sixteenth Amendment of 1913.

      Also, it is important to note that the Courts do not determine the meaning of words in the English language. However the Court may define “income”, the dictionary, common usage, and common sense says that “income” refers to any new or additional wealth or money that comes into one’s possession and under his or her control. The Sixteenth Amendment authorizes the government to tax that income whatever its source.

      • In your hurry to dismiss all US Supreme Court rulings, you miss important facts that should shape your response.

        First, you seem to have responded to an issue I did not post. I never suggested that the Supreme Court can “dictate to the Constitution.” You are correct that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land and all public and private entities and individuals are subject to it. On the other hand, where there are disparities between parties and their various understandings of the Constitution, in some circumstances those parties may petition the Supreme Court to “interpret” or judge how to apply the Constitution. So what the Supreme Court says about the so-called income tax and the 16th Amendment is LAW until it is overturned by itself or the law is changed through new legislation. This is not dictating to the Constitution, it is explaining what the Constitution means and how it applies in certain specific circumstances.

        And am not sure what you are meaning when you say “they are for the most part, dealing with the Corporation Excise Act of 1909, not the Sixteenth Amendment of 1913.” There are at least a dozen US Supreme Court cases from around that time. Some of them deal directly with the Corporation Excise Tax Act of 1909, but most deal with the so-called personal income tax as confused by the 16th Amendment.

        Further, common sense does not say what you claim at all, nor does common sense define the issue in the least in this case. If Congress passes legislation, it has the option to provide definitions. If it does so, then those definitions become law. It is worded something like “For purposes of this Title…” or “For purposes of this section…” If it does not, then the common meaning in use at the time remains the definition.

        Since the Corporation Excise Tax Act of 1909 defines income relative to income taxes, then that definition applies in all income tax issues. Further, it was and still is the common meaning of the word. Look it up in the dictionary. Or look in the Wall Street Journal — “XYZ Corporation earned so much income on so much revenue.” Income is profits, generally corporate profits, in tax law, US Supreme Court decisions, the dictionary, and in financial reporting.

        However, the IRS has worked very hard for the last couple of generations to deceive all of us. The IRS has redefined the word income to mean “all that comes in.” The IRS has pretty much engineered the definition that you proposed above. But that definition is not the legal definition. If you use the definition offered by the IRS and by you, then all your paychecks are subject to income taxes. If you use the legal definition supported by the US Supreme Court, then little if any of your paycheck is subject to income taxes. According to the Supreme Court, Congress can tax (and has taxed) profits, but cannot tax (and has not taxed) the SOURCE of that profit. The SOURCE of profits is capital, which is personal property and includes paychecks, and the SOURCE cannot be, nor has it been, taxed.

        Personally, I like the Supreme Court definition better than your definition.

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