The History of the 16th Amendment is Crazy!

The U.S. Constitution in Article I, Section 9 states, “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

“A direct tax is one imposed upon an individual person or on property as distinct from a tax imposed upon a transaction. Indirect taxes such as a sales tax or a value added tax (VAT) are imposed only if and when a taxable transaction occurs; people have the freedom to engage in or refrain from such transactions; whereas a direct tax is imposed upon a person, typically in an unconditional manner, such as a poll-tax or head-tax, which is imposed on the basis of the person’s very life or existence, or a property tax which is imposed upon the owner by virtue of ownership, rather than commercial use” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_tax#General_meaning

In 1909 the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provided a legal pathway for the Government of the United States to levy a direct tax on our income. Although such a tax was clearly forbidden, and similar taxes had been found unconstitutional prior, the 16th Amendment passed the house and senate with only 14 out of 409 Congressmen voting Nay. It was ratified by the necessary majority of the states on February 3, 1913.

Not only did this bill violate the Constitution, it also destroyed our protection against unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Such taxes are/were clearly prohibited in our Constitution so how did this all come to be?

“Strange as it may seem, the Sixteenth Amendment (which gave the American people the affliction of confiscatory income taxes) was never supposed to have passed. It was introduced by the Republicans as part of a political scheme to trick the Democrats, but it backfired.

Background

The Founding Fathers had rejected income taxes (or any other direct taxes) unless they were apportioned to each state according to population. Nevertheless, an income tax was levied during the Civil War and upheld by the Supreme Court on somewhat tenuous reasoning. When another income tax was enacted in 1893, the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. In connection with the two Pollock cases reviewed in 1895, the Court declared that the act violated Article I, section 9 of the Constitution.

During the following decade, however, the complexion of the Court changed somewhat, and so did public sentiment. There was great social unrest and the idea of a tax to “soak the rich” began to take root among liberals in both major parties. Several times the Democrats introduced bills to provide a tax on higher incomes but each time the conservative branch of the Republican party killed it in the Senate. The Democrats used this as evidence that the Republicans were the “party of the rich” and should be thrown out of power, forcing President William Howard Taft to acknowledge in political speeches that income taxes might be all right “in principle”, but it was well known among close associates that he was strongly opposed to such a tax.

The Bailey Bill

In April 1909, Senator Joseph W. Bailey, a conservative Democrat from Texas who was also opposed to income taxes, decided to further embarrass the Republicans by forcing them to openly oppose an income tax bill similar to those which had been introduced in the past. He introduced his bill expecting it to get the usual opposition. However, to his amazement, Teddy Roosevelt and a growing element of liberals in the Republican party came out in favor of the bill and it looked as though it was going to pass.

Not only was Bailey surprised, but Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island, the Republican floor leader, frantically met with Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts and President Taft to work out a strategy to demolish the Bailey tax bill. Their own party was split too widely to permit a direct confrontation, so the strategy was to pull a political end run. They announced that they favored an income tax but only if it were an amendment to the Constitution. Within their own circle, they discussed how it might get approval of the House and the Senate, but they were quite certain that it could be defeated in the more conservative states-three-fourths of which were required in order to ratify the amendment.

Thus, the Democrats were off guard when President Taft unexpectedly sent a message to Congress on June 16th, 1909, recommending the passage of a constitutional amendment to legalize federal income tax legislation.

The strategy threw the liberals into an uproar. At the very moment when their Bailey bill was about to pass, the Republicans were coming out for an amendment to the Constitution which would probably be defeated by the states.

Reaction to the Amendment

Congressman Cordell Hull (D-Tenn., and later Secretary of State under FDR) saw exactly what was happening. He took the floor to excoriate the Republican leaders. Said he:

“No person at all familiar with the present trend of national legislation will seriously insist that these same Republican leaders are over-anxious to see the country adopt an income tax…What powerful influence, what new light and deep-seated motive suddenly moves these political veterans to ‘about face’ and pretend to warmly embrace this doctrine which they have heretofore uniformly denounced?” {1}

He went on to expose what he considered to be a political trick. He needn’t have been so concerned. The slogan of “soak the rich” automatically aroused Pavlovian salivation among politicians both in Washington and the states. The Senate approved the Sixteenth Amendment with an astonishing unanimity of 77-0! The House approved it by a vote of 318-14.

When Republican Congressman Sereno E. Payne of New York, who had introduced the amendment in the House, saw that this end run was turning into a winning touchdown for the opposition, he was horrified. He went to the floor and openly denounced the bill he had sponsored. Said he:

“As to the general policy of an income tax, I am utterly opposed to it. I believe with Gladstone that it tends to make a nation of liars. I believe it is the most easily concealed of any tax that can be laid, the most difficult of enforcement, and the hardest to collect; that it is, in a word, a tax upon the income of honest men and an exemption, to a greater or lesser extent, of the income of rascals; and so I am opposed to any income tax in time of peace…I hope that if the Constitution is amended in this way the time will not come when the American people will ever want to enact an income tax except in time of war.” {2}

The end run of the Republican leadership did indeed backfire. State after state ratified this “soak the rich” amendment until it went into full force and effect on February 12, 1913.

Did it Soak the Rich?

Continue reading “History of the 16th Amendment” by W. Cleon Skousen.

If you don’t want to read the entire article please continue reading. This is the ending which you don’t want to miss.

T. Coleman Andrews served as commissioner of IRS for nearly 3 years during the early 1950s. Following his resignation, he made the following statement:

“Congress [in implementing the Sixteenth Amendment] went beyond merely enacting an income tax law and repealed Article IV of the Bill of Rights, by empowering the tax collector to do the very things from which that article says we were to be secure. It opened up our homes, our papers and our effects to the prying eyes of government agents and set the stage for searches of our books and vaults and for inquiries into our private affairs whenever the tax men might decide, even though there might not be any justification beyond mere cynical suspicion.”

“The income tax is bad because it has robbed you and me of the guarantee of privacy and the respect for our property that were given to us in Article IV of the Bill of Rights. This invasion is absolute and complete as far as the amount of tax that can be assessed is concerned. Please remember that under the Sixteenth Amendment, Congress can take 100% of our income anytime it wants to. As a matter of fact, right now it is imposing a tax as high as 91%. This is downright confiscation and cannot be defended on any other grounds.”

“The income tax is bad because it was conceived in class hatred, is an instrument of vengeance and plays right into the hands of the communists. It employs the vicious communist principle of taking from each according to his accumulation of the fruits of his labor and giving to others according to their needs, regardless of whether those needs are the result of indolence or lack of pride, self-respect, personal dignity or other attributes of men.”

“The income tax is fulfilling the Marxist prophecy that the surest way to destroy a capitalist society is by steeply graduated taxes on income and heavy levies upon the estates of people when they die.”

“The income tax is bad because it is oppressive to all and discriminates particularly against those people who prove themselves most adept at keeping the wheels of business turning and creating maximum employment and a high standard of living for their fellow men.”

“I believe that a better way to raise revenue not only can be found but must be found because I am convinced that the present system is leading us right back to the very tyranny from which those, who established this land of freedom, risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to forever free themselves…”

Wow! Right?

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