Does Congress Have the Authority to Tax Americans At Different Rates?

The 16th Amendment gave the Federal Government the authority and power to tax every citizen. Here’s the wording of the Amendment:

“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.”

Please note that there is no provision in this amendment that Congress is given the right to unequally apply this power. In looking over all the Constitution’s amendments, I don’t see an unequal distribution of either a freedom or limitation.

Equality under the law requires that as each of us stands before the courts or the Constitution, no one should be treated in an unequal way. The law applies to every citizen equally, except, it seems, when it comes to apply the 16th Amendment.

Does the First Amendment parcel out its freedoms in percentages? Doesn’t every person have the same right to speak, write, and assemble? Rich people and poor people have the same percentage of these rights — 100 percent. The same is true of religion. In constitutional terms, all religions are to be treated equally.

The same is true of the Second Amendment. Everybody has a right to “keep and bear arms” at the same rate. Rich people and poor people have a right to purchase as many guns as they want. Because the rich can afford more guns does not mean that they have to pay more for those guns.

The quartering of troops is similarly equal in the distribution that “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” No one could argue that because rich people have larger houses that they should be required to open their house to soldiers.

The same is true about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments. Read them over and try to apply the percentage differences to them like Congress and the President do with the 16th Amendment.

The 8th Amendment might apply in the case of increased percentages in taxation because the practice could be considered to be “cruel and unusual punishment.” Liberals regard taxation at ever higher rates as punitive. High taxes are designed to punish the rich. Sen. Rand Paul notes the law of diminishing returns on raising taxes. Taxation is not about increased revenue:

“You may not get any more revenue. You may not get any more economic growth. But you can say, ‘I stuck it to the rich people.’”

A progressive income tax is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

The 14th Amendment could also apply. No State “shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” “Equal protection.” Our government is not permitted to treat people in an unequal manner. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Justice John Marshall Harlan argued the following in his “Great Dissent”:

“[I]n view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful.”

The rich are considered a “class” in American politics. We speak of “class warfare” on a regular basis. Why are the rich classes treated unequally when it comes to legislative law? The taxation of income at unequal levels deprives people of liberty and property.

All we need now is some lawyer or group of lawyers to make this point in the courts. We need to have the same fortitude as those who have worked for decades to overturn capital punishment.



Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles.

Posted in Constitution, First Amendment, Morality, Politics, Second Amendment, Taxes Tagged with: ,
  • Mike Young

    All Confiscation Laws are also just another way of saying theft of private property by the Government.

  • nanblan

    This is a topic I’ve been wondering about for a long time. If the government can target certain groups that they don’t like or agree with (e.g. extremely high taxes on cigarettes) it basically means punishment for that group.
    I absolutely believe that our founding fathers would never have had such intentions. Unfortunately, with this liberal president and his followers, they seem to have no problem “punishing” specific groups of citizens (especially the “wealthy”), while giving others (who are just as wealthy but are his cronies) big tax breaks: G.E., Hollywood, Google, Facebook, Costco, “Green” companies, etc.)
    Although I realize such cronyism is not a new idea in Washington, D.C., I believe Obama has taken extreme advantage of taxpayer dollars in order to reward his supporters, while pushing taxes on others that he has consistently attacked (those who don’t pay their “fair share.)”
    The policies and tactics of this administration are repulsive, and I agree with the author that we need to find attorneys who will really push to shut down such outright disregard for the Constitution and common decency.
    And the sooner the better.

    • Linda C. Dines

      Somehow this is supposed to be a sin tax with the end result of encouraging you to cease the sinful activity of consuming the product, but it would be better to put it toward treatment for the negative result of said consumption, i.e. dry out centers, cancer surgery, other treatment or in the case of various drugs with dreadful results, your tenure in prision.

  • TexasOlTimer

    At some point the federal government decided that it owns everything you earn and is considerate enough to allow you to keep a small portion of it. We have to turn this thinking around.

  • Inluminatuo

    If you cannot discriminate because of race, gender, sexual persuasion or age, just why is it you can discriminate on the basis of income and success? There ought to be a law. No way do you promote the general welfare when you make welfare recipients of one class at the expense of another.

  • Howdy Doody Conservative

    As we were trying to tell the Liberals all along that someone has to pay for their spending”’I hope their happy because EVERYBODYS taxes are going up. Remember MaoBama’s favorite term is “new revenue soures”.

    How tax increases will affect households.

    A temporary social security payroll tax reduction is expiring, hitting nearly every wage earner, and income taxes on the wealthy are going up, too.

    Annual income – Tax Increase

    $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 – $ 297

    $ 30,000 to $ 40,000 – $ 445

    $ 40,000 to $ 50,000 – $ 579

    $ 50,000 to $ 75,000 – $ 822

    $ 75,000 to $ 100,000 – $ 1,206

    $ 100,000 to $ 200,000 – $ 1,784

    $ 200,000 to $ 500,000 – $ 2,711

    $ 500,000 to $ 1 million- $ 14.812

    more than $ 1 million – $ 170.341

    Then when you feel the sting this year go here to rub salt into the wound….

    And then check out his Govt. wastebook……

  • nik

    When you need an idiotic misinterpretation of the constitution you can count on Gary DeMar. And with this gem he’s delivered again. Yes Gary. Congress does have the authority to tax Americsns at different rates. You may also be surprised to learn that it can declare war on individual countries and not all countries-equally. I’m glad I was able to clear that up for you.

  • hg

    I suppose you can argue that Congress CAN not tax Americans at a different rate – but it’s a moot point, since Congress DOES not tax Americans at a different rate. You are exactly right our income tax is progressive. There are currently (2012) six tax brackets. Up to the top of the first, 17,400, everyone is taxed the same, 10%. To the top of the seconnd, 70,700, everyone is taxed the same, 15%, all the way to the top of sixth, 388,350. Income tax is based on what you make, not who you are. So the richest man in the US pays the same on that first 17,400 as the one who makes under 17k. That’s why the “punish sucess” theorey doesn’t hold water. It’s also why no-one is going to stop working because the tax they pay on income over 388,000 goes up 4%.

  • CWO

    This is why the fair tax makes sense when you buy something you pay the tax and go home if you buy a lot of goods you pay more in tax it’s the most honest way that rich or poor they pay the same on purchases If you want to know more about it get the book the fair tax by Neil Boorze. you will be surprized

  • alan backster

    Without bothering to read these children’s comments may I point out that, if I remember correctly, we used to have a graduated scale of federal income taxes – and in the 30’s, for example, the top rate was 91%/ Let’s see what one of you egghead PhDs have to say?

  • alan backster

    And fools talk about “equality” outof one side of their mouths and then demand ZERO percent for the low man on the totem pole and 39% on the top. Let me ask – just when was the federal income tax applied on an equal basis? Guess I’ve been paying the federal tax since 1943 and never, NEVER, did I pay the highest rate, nor did I ever shell out ZERO %. How do you define “equality”?

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