Sep

13

"The tariff" - i.e. the principal source of Federal government revenue from 1789 until 1912 - was criticized for being "unfair" and "overly complicated". Believe it or not, one of the arguments in favor of the income tax was that it would make the Federal rules for taxation simpler.

The tariff was complicated precisely because it acknowledged the basic truth of all taxation: even in a time of war, there is a tug of war between the tax payers and the tax collector; and the art of successful political economy is to allow every taxpayer to have some actual influence over how much pull the tax collector has.

The chaos, waste and abuse of the tariff system was precisely its virtue. No one, in the name of "reform", could enact broad legislation that would devastate the profits for particular industries and workers.

It is impossible to go back to that sensible system; the income tax and its withholding is as essential the present system of money, credit and banking as the Federal Reserve wire.

What is possible - even now - is for intelligent people to abandon all ideas about "reform".

An income tax that had more tax rates, not fewer would begin to take us back to an even tug of war between the collectors and taxpayers.

If the income tax and Social Security tax - which are one and the same - had consolidated rates, beginning at 2% (the original Civil War rate) and rising by 1/4% increments to 22%, the revenue would explode - just as it did after Grant (that man again) established the comprehensive tariff.

The key is to eliminate the stair step; one's rate would be flat on all income, regardless of source or type of taxpayer, based solely on the total annual income. The increase in taxation from "making more money" would become a trivial obstacle; there would be no incentive to cheat at the margin. The current wholesale lying about deductions would largely disappear because enforcement would be focused solely on a simple question: how much did you make and did you report it all?


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