What Most Americans Don’t Know About Taxes

I read USA Today because it gives me a quick rundown on popular news. Every so often I find a story that surprises me. Rarely do I agree with its Founder, Al Neuharth. But in his Plain Talk article of February 1, 2013, his article on “How income tax has changed in 100 years” caught my attention:

“If you’re getting ready to file your income tax return, you should be interested to know that what you’re doing started 100 years ago. But what a difference that century has made! Examples:

  • “When Congress passed the income tax law in 1913, a couple making over $4,000 in taxable income after all deductions was subject to a 1% tax rate.
  • “With inflation that $4,000 then is equal to about $93,700 now. But the tax rate now is 25% or more for those in the $100,000-plus salary range.”

So far so good, but Neuharth doesn’t stop here. He goes on to argue that “taxing income may be one of the fairest ways for the government to raise money to pay its bills.” This begs the question. How do we determine what bills the government should have to pay? Where is the constitutional authority, for example, for a Department of Education that confiscates billions of dollars from tax payers and then returns it to some tax payers after paying a bureaucracy to implement the redistribution process? Why not let people keep their own money and make their own educational decisions with it.

Then there’s the history of the continued increase in the amount of tax being taken from us and the call for even more taxes. In 1913, the top tax rate was 7% on incomes above $500,000 ($10 million in 2007 dollars) and a total of $28.3 million was collected. Less than 1% of the population paid federal income tax at the time. The people who voted for the income tax believed that only the “rich” would be paying taxes. Like today, the people who voted for the income tax voted that way because they believed other people would be paying it. Not them.

It’s no wonder that liberals are called Progressives. They are willing to settle on very small gains in legislation at the beginning so over time they can increase its effect. This has happened with every legislative act in our nation’s history. Social Security started as a two-percent tax on income up to $3000 for a total of $60 per year (employee and employer “contribution”). Now it’s more than 12 percent on more than $105,000.

We’ve seen the growth of every government program. The Sixteenth Amendment is made up of only 30 words, but as Neuharth points out, today’s tax code is a massive 73,954 pages and counting.

Will Rogers (1879–1935), humorist and social commentator, with more than a century of congressional foibles to evaluate, said, “The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”

Liberals contend that taxation is all about social justice. A group of philosopher kings are needed to determine what’s just and take our money to make it certain. It didn’t work for ancient Greece and it won’t work today since those in charge don’t have a fixed moral standard to determine what’s just or unjust. In fact, they are so unjust that they pass laws to take money from productive members of society so they can buy votes from the unproductive.

Walter E. Williams says it best: “Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you, and why?”