Americans deserve the IRS
Individually, Americans do not deserve to be subservient to such a fear-mongering, intimidating and powerful agency as the Internal Revenue Service; but collectively, we do. Let's look at it.
From the 1791 ratification of our Constitution until well into the 1920s, federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product never exceeded 5 percent, except during war. Today federal spending is 25 percent of our GDP. State and local government spending is about 15 percent of GDP. That means government spends more than 40 cents of each dollar we earn. If we add government's regulatory burden, which is simply a disguised form of taxation, the government take is more than 50 percent of what we produce.
In order to squeeze out of us half of what we produce, a government tax collection agency must be ruthless and able to put the fear of God into its citizens. The IRS has mastered that task. Congress has given it powers that would be deemed criminal if used by others. For example, the Constitution's Fifth Amendment protects Americans against self-incrimination and being forced to bear witness against oneself. That's precisely what one does when he is compelled to sign his income tax form. However, a Fifth Amendment argument can't be used as a defense in a court of law. The IRS will counter that you voluntarily provided the information on your tax return.
If you're in debt to a private creditor, for it to garnishee your wages as a means of collecting debt, it must first get a court order. By contrast, the IRS can garnishee your wages without getting a court order first.
Our Founding Fathers feared the emergence of an agency such as the IRS and its potential for abuse. That's why they gave us Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which reads: “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” A capitation is a tax placed directly on an individual. That's what an income tax is. The Founders feared the abuse and the government power inherent in a direct tax. In Section 8 of Article 1, they added, “But all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” These protections the Founders gave us were undone by the Progressive era's 16th Amendment, which reads, “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.”
If federal spending were only 5 percent of our GDP ($750 billion) — instead of 25 percent ($3.8 trillion) — there would be no need for today's oppressive and complicated tax system. You might ask, “How could we be a great nation without all the government spending?”
When our Constitution was ratified in 1791, we were a weak and poor nation. One hundred forty years later, with federal spending a mere pittance of what it is today, we became the world's richest and most powerful nation. No small part of this miracle was limited and unintrusive government.
The bottom line is that members of Congress need such a ruthless tax collection agency as the IRS because of the charge we Americans have given them. We want what the IRS does — namely, to take the earnings of one American so Congress can create a benefit for some other American. Don't get angry with IRS agents. They are just following orders.
Walter Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police chase ends with shooting in Bell Township
- FBI, federal marshals join manhunt for survivalist accused of ambushing troopers
- NFL notebook: Cardinals RB Dwyer arrested on assault charges
- Rossi: At start, are Pens already finished?
- Starkey: Two amazing Pirates fans
- Donegal Township families fight driller to get clean water
- Steelers notebook: Former lineman Kemoeatu receives kidney from brother
- Steelers remain confident in ground game
- Panthers defensive end Hardy placed on exempt list
- Butler County man arrested on sex charges
- Pirates notebook: Castillo’s debut underscores challenges in Cuban market