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.
Sigh. The birth of the income tax. W. Cleon Skousen wrote a very informative and entertaining “History of the 16th Amendment” which I’m going to paraphrase here. He started his article this way:
“Strange as it may seem, the Sixteenth Amendment (which gave the American people the affliction of confiscatory income taxes) was never supposed to have passed. It was introduced by the Republicans as part of a political scheme to trick the Democrats, but it backfired. “
Well, after that I was hooked! I thought this would be a pretty boring story interpreting the Amendment that burdened us forever more, but this was suddenly looking pretty fascinating!
Our Founding Fathers, having just rebelled against England because of imposed taxes, were not supporters by any means for a federal tax unless it was apportioned by population so the small states wouldn’t have the same burdens as the bigger states (one of the biggest bones of contention in the formation of our government).
This Amendment, and the debates regarding it, is what spawned the “soak the rich” philosophy still present today. Mr. Skousen writes: “In April 1909, Sen. Joseph Bailey, a conservative Democrat from Texas who was opposed to income taxes, decided to embarrass the Republicans by forcing them to openly oppose an income tax bill similar to those which had been introduced in the past – and always shot down by the conservative Republicans (which is how they got labeled “the part of the rich”) He introduced his bill, expecting it to get the usual opposition. However, to his amazement, Teddy Roosevelt and a growing element of liberals in the Republican party came out in favor of the bill and it looked as though it was going to pass.”
The Democrats were astounded and quickly circled the wagons trying to figure out how to kill their own bill. Their ultimate strategy was to try a political end run: they announced they favored an income tax but only if it were an amendment to the Constitution. They were SURE there would be no way it would pass.
The Dems were stunned when President Taft (who worked with them to demolish the original Bailey Bill) came out recommending passage of a Constitutional amendment to legalize the federal income tax legislation! The Republicans, it turned out, already had an amendment written. Democratic Congressman Cordell Hull took the floor to excoriate the Republican leaders for this “political trick”, but the snowball was already rolling down the hill.
“When Republican Congressman Sereno Payne of New York – who had introduced the amendment to the House – saw that this end run was turning into a winning touchdown for the opposition, he was horrified, openly denouncing the bill he had sponsored!
“It turned out that the slogan “soak the rich” automatically aroused Pavlovian salivation among politicians both in Washington and the states. The Senate approved the Sixteenth Amendment with an astonishing unanimity of 77-0! The House approved it by a vote of 318-14. The end run of the Republican leadership did indeed backfire. State after state ratified this “soak the rich” amendment until it went into full force and effect on February 12, 1913.” (W. Cleon Skousen)