Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on that Repeal

Update: I sent Professor Randy Barnett yesterday's post, and what do you know, he agreed! By e-mail, he informed me that he's modified his proposal so that it doesn't just repeal the 16th Amendment, but specify clearly that Congress cannot impose an income tax. Of course, we still disagree on the policy of it.

And here's one more thought: why would you need to pass a constitutional amendment to repeal the income tax? Congress can repeal the income tax any time. Remember that a constitutional amendment requires an extraordinary supermajority of Americans to sign on: either two-thirds of each house of Congress needs to propose an amendment, or legislatures of two-thirds of the states need to call a ratifying convention (that's Professor Barnett's ambitious plan, even though it's never happened), and then three-quarters of the states need to ratify any proposed amendment. My goodness, if there were sufficient opposition to the income tax to get a constitutional amendment forbidding it through that procedure, why wouldn't Congress just repeal the income tax?

Income tax is not imposed on us by aliens from Mars; it comes from politicians who are responsive to public opinion. There are a lot of impediments to getting anything through Congress, but I find it hard to believe that there could be sufficient public support for a constitutional amendment taking away Congress's power to impose the income tax but not enough support to get a repeal of the income tax through Congress itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Any tax, such as the income tax, paid directly to the federal government, is a direct tax upon the person paying it. They cannot pass it along by adding it to the price of the goods they sell. Federal agents have immediate and direct enforcement powers upon the payer (and non-payer). Simply calling a direct tax something else does not change its character.

These taxes are the ones the the framers realized as a potentially hideous evil of a despotic state, so they made them unimposable unless proportioned to representation.

Although the 16th Amendment, and the tax titles (excepting subtitle C, which unconstitutionally, at least by by 16th Amendment language, taxes wages directly), authorize only taxing of the gains derived from sources such as wages and salaries, not wages and salaries themselves. Legal and regulatory linguistic legerdemain has resulted in taxing the sources themselves as income - the very result forbidden by the Amendment and the direct tax clauses of the Constitution.

It is this devolution of the taxing power that Professor Barnett wants to forever remove from Congress.

Progressiveness of tax rates - the Holy Grail, the shibboleth, of income tax proponents - overlooks the unacceptable costs to economic freedom of direct income taxation.