Power to tax and destroy

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Congress and whoever occupies the White House goes through the reform kabuki dance every generation with grand promises of doing your taxes on a form that fits on a postcard and the like, while an entire lobbying industry gently undercuts these efforts to ensure that their breaks are sustained.

Truth be told, it is on some levels a good thing that different interests lobby and inform Congress about the benefits of their relative interests so legislators gain some understanding about how the private sector economy actually works.  

But the tax-industrial complex in our nation’s capital is one of the most pernicious influences stopping any real reform of the tax system as lobbyists scramble for competitive advantages for their clients, using the tax code as their weapon.

This corporate rent-seeking is pervasive, as Big Wind and other renewable-energy lobbyists urge Congress to subsidize their industries through tax credits, investment-firm lobbyists push back and forth on whether the capital gains tax rate should differ for real estate and equities, and even charities demand that the tax code subsidize gifts.

This wash, rinse, repeat cycle of tax reform is nothing more than a battle between interests for special advantage with Congress and the president picking the winners and losers, all the while garnering significant campaign cash for their efforts.

It is time for a new way.

It is time for bold action.

It is time to repeal the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, ending the income tax entirely and forcing Congress to collect revenue in other ways.

One hundred years ago, the income tax constitutional amendment was an experiment that America has long since learned has done nothing except increase the coercive power of the federal government. As has been seen in recent months, that power has been used to attack and stifle political speech, and there has been nothing done to prevent this abuse from continuing to occur.

In 1819, Daniel Webster, one of America’s great orators, argued in the landmark McCollough v. Maryland case that, “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy.”

Webster’s admonition is no less true today than it was almost 200 years ago.

The federal government will always maintain the power to tax; however, repealing its power to tax income will, for a while, diminish its power to destroy those who oppose the politically connected.

In the months and years ahead, our nation’s survival depends upon ripping the D.C. culture of corruption out by its roots. Repealing the 16th Amendment would be a very good start.

Manning (@rmanning957) is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.