IMAGINE THERE NO INCOME TAX
(March 17, 1997)
April is the cruelest month...
T.S. Eliot, The "Waste Land"
Among the numerous reasons given for Bill Clinton's intrusion into the
American Airlines pilots' strike was that a prolonged work stoppage by the
pilots would cause severe economic disruptions.
Imagine that: Bill Clinton doing something to help the economy flow
smoothly! It was not as if he had any Constitutional authority to
intervene in the manner that he did, or that there is a "keep things
humming along" clause in the Preamble to the Constitution. He just
intervened, and no one thought anything of it.
Actually, there is something the president can do to make American life
really flow more smoothly for all of us. He can hasten the arrival
of that day when millions of Americans are freed from the oppressive
burden of the income tax. It is within his constitutional authority. I'll
explain more in just a bit here. First, however, let me explain just a few
things about the income tax.
- In the absence of the income tax, Uncle Sam would still have plenty
of revenue. Only about 38 percent of federal revenues are derived from
the income tax. One only has to go back nine years, to 1988, to a time
when the federal budget was 38 percent smaller than it is now. During
this time, no necessary programs have been added.
- Politicians like to blame the size of the federal deficit on "revenue
shortfalls", i.e. the government's failure to collect enough taxes.
One of the most common statist myths about the 1980s is that cuts in
marginal income tax rates slowed the growth of federal revenues.
Actually, federal revenues more than doubled during this time, while
federal spending almost tripled. Moreover, since 1982, this nation has
withstood the four largest tax increases in its history, and we
still have 12-digit federal deficits.
- I am not making this up: the federal income tax is voluntary. In her "Note
From the Commissioner" in the 1994 federal income tax instructions,
then IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson thanked us "for
making this nation's tax system the most effective system of voluntary
compliance in the world." If you want to find our just how "voluntary"
the federal tax system is, just try to exercise your option of not
paying just one time. In early 1993, liberals were fond of calling taxes
"contributions". In fact, FICA, aka the Social Security tax,
is the acronym for Federal InsuranceContributions Act. One no
more "contributes" to the federal till than a convenience
store clerk "contributes" to a robber. Perhaps we should stop
calling ourselves taxpayers and start calling ourselves tax victims.
- Richardson also wrote in her note to tax victims, that her goal was
for "each person (to pay) what he or she properly owes to support
the vital functions of our government." Less than a quarter of
federal outlays go for such programs as defense and the courts. Most of
the remainder goes toward programs that have no constitutional mandate.
Eliminating the income tax would spark unbelievable private sector
prosperity. Such prosperity would do far more to, as the preamble to the
Constitution states, "promote the general welfare," than the
government ever could.
- How much better of would you, reader, be if you did not have
to pay income tax? How much would your life change if you had that much
more to spend, save, invest, or give away as you saw fit? Would
you send your children to private school? Would you put away more toward
your retirement? Would your spouse be able to quit his or her job to
stay home and raise the family. Would you start your own business? Would
you give more to your favorite church, synagogue, mosque, or charity?
Would you put more away for certain eventualities like sudden illness or
loss of a job? Would you move to a bigger house, or even be able to
afford that first house? Would you take that dream vacation? Would you
switch to that career you really want to pursue because, now, it pays
better? What would you do? How much would this promote your
general welfare? Think about it!
What, then, can the president do, within his constitutional power, to
eliminate the income tax? He cannot singlehandedly pass laws or ratify
amendments. He can, however, under Article II, Section 2, "grant
Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States." He
can, for example, pardon all non-violent tax offenders currently in
Such was a cornerstone of the campaign Harry Browne, the 1996
Libertarian Party candidate for president. Browne explained that after
just a few days of pardoning all inmates currently doing time for
non-violent federal tax offenses, tax prosecutors would realize the
futility of their efforts, and the Internal Revenue Code would cease to
have any teeth. Browne believes that we can pay for the military and
federal court system that we need with the revenue currently
collected from tariffs and excise taxes.
Browne would have replaced the income tax with nothing. That's right. No
flat tax. No consumption tax. Nothing.
One of candidate Clinton's 1992 campaign slogans was "Putting
People First" For years, various oppressed groups have asserted their
inherent humanity by reminding us that they are "people too"
Perhaps representatives of America's largest oppressed group, tax victims,
should stage a march on Washington to remind Bill Clinton that, "Taxpayers
are people too!""
In the meantime, those of us who took the positive step of voting for
Harry Browne last November should keep his constitutional lesson in mind,
and be comforted that our votes for him were not in vain.
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