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The Federal Income Tax


David Jelinek


A taxing burden 

To the Editor: 

Roberto Mantaro Samaniego makes a feeble case for the federal income tax in his April 15 column "Collection Plate Contribution." He argues that certain government bureaucracies "benefit everybody by their mere existence," and that what makes taxes so wonderful is that they enable the government to "encourage certain socially desirable activities." 

The last time I checked, the purpose of government was to protect us from violence, coercion and fraud. Micromanaging our businesses, telling us how to save for retirement, dictating what social activities are are to be encouraged and forcing us to subsidize other people's businesses are not acceptable roles for the government of a free nation. If we are to have personal liberty, then why should the government penalize me for not having children, not taking out a mortgage or for using a legal product such as alcohol? 

Most people do not realize that the income tax was found to be unconstitutional when it was passed by Congress in 1893. Although it was finally enacted in 1913, when the 16th Amendment was passed, most Americans were exempt from it. And for those who weren't, most of them only paid at a 1 percent rate. 

A more pernicious misconception is that the income tax is somehow necessary to keep the federal government running. Personal income taxes typical comprise only 30 to 40 percent of federal government spending, yet spending levels were about 30 percent lower only eight years ago. While some politicians talk about instituting a flat tax or replacing the income tax with a sales tax, they ignore the fact that the income tax could be totally eliminated and not replaced with anything. 

The income tax is a tremendous burden on both our civil liberties and our economic growth. The impact on our civil liberties is perhaps the more obvious of the two. After all, just having to report the amount and sources of your income is a blatant invasion of privacy. And don't forget that the Internal Revenue Service is welcome to audit you, slap you with fines and even imprison you if you misunderstand any part of the seven-million-word tax code. 

But on the economic side, people often ignore the fact that the income tax drives up the price of employing workers, decreases employment levels and decreases disposable income for those who do find work. Politicians have been waging a war on poverty for decades now, but many ignore the fact that the tax burden is a major cause of poverty. Instead of trying to raise revenues to help the poor, politicians should be looking to eliminate taxes in order to remove the economic burdens that stand in the way of free enterprise. 

So before you rally behind political candidates who are all too eager to strip you of your economic and personal liberty, take a moment to consider the real impact of their rhetoric. The income tax has resulted in a loss of privacy, the birth of the oppressive Internal Revenue "Service," and obscene damage to our economy. 

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