America marked a dubious milestone in its history last year – the 100th anniversary of federal taxes levied “on incomes, from whatever source derived.” Ensconced in the Sixteenth Amendment, the federal tax code totaled 400 pages when the income tax first took effect in 1913. Today this tax code is a staggering 74,608 pages long – and is administered by a bureaucracy of 90,000 employees at a cost of more than $11 billion annually.
According to the latest data from the Tax Foundation, Americans will shell out $3 trillion in federal taxes this year – and another $1.5 trillion in state levies. That’s $4.5 trillion -- a whopping 30.2 percent of income.
Lurking within the code’s monstrous size, myriad complexity and astronomical cost are any number of pernicious evils. And that’s before we take into account the political persecution perpetrated by President Obama's Internal Revenue Service (or the ensuing cover-up and ongoing failure of the Justice Department to prosecute these abuses).
The IRS targeted administration critics in an apparent effort to silence them leading up to the 2012 election – yet the president recently claimed there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” associated with this effort.
Does anyone really believe that?
Even if it were administered ethically and uniformly, the tax code’s complexity is a boon for well-connected special interests that use that complexity to benefit their constituents.
Also, the rules are constantly changing. Within the last ten years alone, tax professionals at CCH estimate there have been more than 5,000 revisions to the code – compounding the unreasonableness and unfairness of the existing system.
At its most basic level the income tax is redistributive – violating the founding wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, who sought to guarantee to all Americans the “free exercise of [their] industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
According to the latest data from the Tax Policy Center, 43 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax at all.
How is that “equal protection” under the law? Also, how is a levy that expressly targets consumer activity, job growth, capital investment and personal savings – all key drivers of prosperity – in any way consistent with advancing the “general welfare” of our country?
Enough is enough. Last November, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) introduced legislation to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment – which he hopes to replace in part with some form of consumption-based tax.
“Viable alternative plans for raising revenue fairly to support constitutionally enumerated functions of the federal government have been proposed,” Rep. Bridenstine said.
However he correctly added, “as long as the Sixteenth Amendment is in place and lobbyists dominate Washington, these alternatives will never be considered.”
Rep. Bridenstine has identified the real problem here. There is currently no incentive for federal lawmakers to scrap our current system because the special interests keeping them in power are profiting from the status quo.
Not only that, there are far too many politicians in Washington who subscribe to the radical redistributive economic ideology at the heart of the income tax – while rejecting common sense solutions aimed at reversing the damage it is doing to our country.
Americans deserve a tax system that is simple and fair – one that incentivizes economic growth as opposed to assaulting our productivity, our prosperity and our liberties.
As we observe this year’s Tax Day (and as we celebrate Tax Freedom Day on April 21) let us resolve to get behind Rep. Bridenstine’s push to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment.
Reforming the IRS is not enough -- if we truly wish to usher in a new era of economic and individual freedom, we must abolish the agency and its oppressive tax code altogether.
Nathan Mehrens is president of Americans for Limited Government.