Michael Schaus

The worst amendment to the Constitution is also one of the vaguest. The right to keep and bear arms might be simplistic, but at least it is direct. Our first amendment is mildly long winded and grotesquely misunderstood. However, the 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, stands as one of the most viscous deteriorations of the American Experiment. Stating simply “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” the amendment grants to the Federal government powers typically reserved for serfdom or British ruled colonies.

It’s not that tax collection is inherently evil, or that a personal income tax of some nature is abhorrent to Constitutional values, but the 16th Amendment marked the beginnings of progressive dominance in political discourse. Direct taxation (which was expressly prohibited in the Constitution) endangers personal property, privacy and anonymity.

In 1894 Democrat President Grover Cleveland – with support from Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress – declared a 2 percent tax on those evil “one percenters.” (It turns out Grover might be a good mascot for the Occupy Wall street crowd. Just a thought.) However pathetic a 2 percent tax on Mitt Romney might seem by today’s debate standards, the tax was contentious and immediately challenged in court. As any good historian would note, the US Constitution only allows for certain types of taxation. . . And any “direct” tax, such as incometaxes, are explicitly prohibited. Of course, even in 1894, few progressives allowed that pesky founding document to get in their way.

Republican President William Howard Taft – influenced heavily by the “progressive” wing of the Republican Party and Theodore Roosevelt – pushed for a change to our constitution. By the end of his term, with help from Progressive Republicans (who supported things like gun control, Keynesian economics, and even fascism) and Democrats in congress, the 16th Amendment was ratified. Horrifically, the Democrat controlled houses of Congress, and the new Progressive President Woodrow Wilson, immediately passed a progressive income tax.


Michael Schaus

Michael Schaus is the Associate Editor for Townhall Finance, and the Executive Producer for Ransom Notes Radio. He is a former talk show host and political activist. Having worked in fields ranging from construction to financial investment, his perspectives and world views are forged with a deep understanding of what it means to be an American.
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