For the first time since abolition, the Constitution of the United States is amended. Taxes, revenues and complexity all grew exponentially, so make sure you are prepared.
The man with dusty boots rose when called, removing his wide brimmed hat and stroking his long mustache. He looked around at the rest of the men present, all with dusty boots and sun weathered faces. It was time. He’d made up his mind and it was time.
“Well, I suppose I vote yes!”
To the north, men in cowboy hats, frontier jackets and denim pants milled about before being herded into the state senate chamber to record their votes. A majority of them also voted “yes.”
And far to the east, a man in a dark suit rose when his name was called. In a clear, commanding voice with a twinge of an urban east coast accent, he said :“I look out of that “winda”, and across the “wooder” and I see a great nation that can do more if it has more to do it with. And so, I vote yes.” It was an exaggeration, he could see nothing out the window and the only water was in the form of snow.
On February 3rd, 1913 three states, Wyoming, New Mexico and Delaware, ratified the first amendment to the United States Constitution in 43 years, making a federal income tax the law of the land. The Amendment was part of a wave of federal and state governmental changes championed by early twentieth century Progressives. While eleven of the Constitution’s first twelve amendments added more restrictions on the federal government than the Constitutional Convention, amendments like the income tax and prohibition began to change the power dynamic in American government, removing barriers to federal action.
The Sixteenth Amendment states: “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.” In essence, the vote removed the obstacle, embedded in the Constitution, that forced direct taxes to be allocated or apportioned by state. Without the amendment, a state with ten percent of the country’s population would contribute 10% of the funds raised by the income tax. At the time, that was thought to be so unwieldy as to be unworkable. Then again, no twentieth century progressive ever got a peek at the thousands of pages in the current tax code to compare unwieldiness. But I digress. Before long, the income tax was to become, by far, the federal government’s largest source of revenue.
Here are a few lessons from the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment:
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