December 10, 2018

You Deserve a Tax Break and Your Boss Does Too

taxbreak_mini 3Republicans during the Reagan and Bush administrations had a pretty straightforward fiscal policy: increase federal spending dramatically and cut marginal income tax rates modestly, predicting the resulting economic growth would eventually balance the budget. Both administrations increased spending roughly 80-100 percent, depending upon where you draw the start and end lines, given the government’s fiscal year running October 1 – September 30. Predictably, federal debt exploded during both administrations.

This time around, some things are the same, but some are different. The predictable (and predicted) growth of entitlements and the quasi-religious belief military spending must always increase (the military must be “rebuilt!”) has produced what should be a frightening result: federal debt doubled during a Democratic administration under which federal spending increased a mere 28-33 percent, again depending on where you draw the lines.

It’s All Class Warfare

So, the usual Republican modus operandi is not going to fly this time around. Not only have Republicans run on making government smaller, before again blowing up spending once they got in power, but they’ve railed for eight years against Obama’s debt legacy.

They can’t just ignore deficits as they have in the past and expect to win again in future elections, so they’re left with only one choice: “reform” the tax code so it collects the same or more revenue and sell it as a tax cut.

That’s not to say it’s going to work. Federal tax revenue will likely decrease overall under their plan, despite their efforts to raise taxes on some people while cutting them for others. But Republicans can ignore reality as well as Democrats when they need to. If you doubt that, ask any ten Republicans at random if the government got bigger or smaller while Reagan was president.

Republicans are also virtually identical to Democrats in their Marxist view of society.For Republicans, just like Democrats and communists, it is made up of different “classes” of people, competing with each other in a zero-sum game for pieces of a static, finite “pie.” This is explicit in their rhetoric about “tax cuts for the middle class” or the sublimely obtuse “working class” (doesn’t anyone generating an income, large or small, work?)

While it’s true the idea of classes in society predates Marx, it is his vision which dominates the tax code, most strikingly in its assumption there is some fundamental difference between employees of going concerns and owners.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The absurdities of the income tax

TAMPA, April 15, 2013 – Being a libertarian, I agree that all taxation is theft. I hope that someday the human race “progresses” to the point where coercion, even to purchase “protection” from the official mafia, is held in contempt. But of all of the possible ways to rob us, the income tax is by far the most insidious. Consider some of its absurd stepchildren.

There is some finite cost to defending the borders, running a court system, and administering “justice.” For those who believe that government should do more (like conservatives and liberals), there is likewise a finite cost for building roads, running healthcare programs and taking care of the poor. That cost doesn’t change significantly overnight or even from year to year.

But the income tax doesn’t reflect this. If productivity and therefore incomes double due to some new technology, the amount of money owed to the government doubles, even though there are less poor people, more private sector “infrastructure” projects and less crime (crime goes up during recessions, down during booms). The more productive Americans are, the bigger and more oppressive a government they get.

Talk about a bad incentive.

It also discourages productivity in general and encourages wasteful consumption. Anyone who has had any business success knows that at a certain point, additional income costs you money. You would rather stop producing more than allow the additional income to put you at the low end of a higher tax bracket. So you produce less to keep more.

The flipside of that is frivolous consumption. If you’re showing too much profit near the end of the fiscal year, you look for things to buy that you don’t really need so that you can write them off as business expenses. You’d rather purchase something that you’ll get some use out of rather than give that money to the government. If not for the income tax, you might have reinvested that money in producing even more goods or services and making society richer.

This is in contrast to a consumption tax, which although still a theft, at least provides relatively less perverse incentives. To the extent that it does influence behavior, a consumption tax encourages you to forego unnecessary consumption and, by omission, to produce more, as it does not tax productivity.

Then, there is the strange way in which the tax applies to government employees. In order to ensure “fairness” in the system, government employees must pay income taxes. But 100% of the salaries and benefits of military personnel, regulators and other government workers come from taxes. So, Americans have to pay taxes to support their salaries and benefits and then pay for additional government employees to collect back some of the money back. It is worth asking why government employees are not just paid less, tax free. But that could lead to other problems.

The current rhetoric about “closing loopholes” highlights the worst absurdity resulting from an income tax and the most hostile to liberty. It is the assumption that all wealth produced by individuals actually belongs to the government, which allows those who produced it to keep whatever portion the government doesn’t need. If the whole reason for establishing government is to “surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest,” then it follows that the portion surrendered would be a relatively small percentage. Otherwise, it would make sense to take one’s chances without government at all.

These are only a few of the perverse incentives and absurd outcomes that accompany an income tax. They don’t result from government bureaucrats merely failing to execute an otherwise sound policy effectively. They result from the violation of a fundamental law of nature: the right of every individual to keep the fruits of his labor and dispose of them as he sees fit in pursuit of his own happiness.

Right now, squirrels are more secure in this right than human beings are.

It’s not a coincidence that the positive trends in upward mobility, distribution of wealth, growth of the middle class and quality of life for the poor have all slowed and eventually reversed since the income tax was established.

Yet, a majority of Americans not only comply with the tax but fiercely defend it upon the grounds that civilization would collapse without it, despite the fact that the United States has still only had an income tax for 42% of its existence. Often, income tax apologists cite roads and other government boondoggles that aren’t even underwritten by the income tax as proof of its necessity.

Libertarianism, anyone?

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Mitt Romney did not pay less in taxes than his secretary (and raising capital gains tax will destroy the economy)

TAMPA, December 1, 2012 ― President Obama and the Democrats were successful in 2012 largely on the strength of some rather outlandish demagoguery. “Billionaires pay fewer taxes than their secretaries” was one slogan that was particularly successful.

The Obama campaign successfully made an issue out of Mitt Romney’s taxes, finally getting Romney to admit that he paid around 13% of his earnings in taxes over the past several years. The “fair share” crowd contrasted this with the higher percentage that would have been paid by a secretary in the 28% bracket, for example, who would still pay more than 13% even after deductions.

That Americans bought this specious argument is more worrisome than that the Democrats made it.

Romney’s tax percentage was low because most of earnings came from capital gains, not income. Capital gains are just what they sound like. They are the appreciation in the value of one’s capital. If you buy a stock at $5 per share and its price goes up to $7 dollars per share, you have realized $2 in capital gains. If you sell that stock at a $2 dollar profit, the government wants a percentage.

Right now, Mitt Romney would pay 35% income tax and 15% on capital gains. The average secretary would pay 15% income tax and 15% on capital gains. So, Romney’s tax liability as a percentage of income is more than double the average secretary’s. His tax liability on capital gains is the same. Obviously, Romney’s nominal tax payments in both categories would exceed the secretary’s by orders of magnitude.

That’s how things actually are out here in the real world.

So why is the tax rate on capital gains lower than on income? Because “capital,” by definition, comes from previously taxed income.

Read the rest of the article…

Romney and Republicans live in a dream world

TAMPA, September 20, 2012 – Just when you thought that nothing interesting could come out of this presidential election, Mitt Romney shocked the world. He did the last thing that any rational person could expect.

He told the truth. Of course, his poll numbers immediately plummeted.

“47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So, our message of low taxes doesn’t connect,” said Romney.

What isn’t true is what most Republican voters believe. They believe that electing Romney as president or more Republicans in Congress will result in spending cuts that will justify lower income taxes.

Republicans live in a dream world where the $85 billion Food Stamp program or the $9.6 billion Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program causes $1.3 trillion deficits (that’s one thousand three hundred billion). If only those lazy people would get off welfare and get a job, we’d have that $9.6 billion back and…

While portraying Obama as a socialist for supposedly driving more people into government dependence, Republicans openly campaign for “preserving and protecting” Social Security and Medicare, as if those trillion dollar programs ($1.23 trillion combined in 2011) are somehow different from TANF (a.k.a. “welfare”).

Continue at Communities@ Washington Times…

What is Your Fair Share?

“For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest…”

– Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

There were not many surprises in President Obama’s 2012 state of the union address on Tuesday. He touted what he claims are the accomplishments of his administration and pushed his left-leaning economic agenda. For the president, all economic growth has its roots in some sort of government intervention, including “help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers,” giving “community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers,” or trying to “spur energy innovation with new incentives.” Of course, further expanding a government that already spends about 50% more than it collects in taxes can only be accomplished one way – by collecting a lot more taxes.

To this end, the president resorted to the perennial liberal/progressive mantra that everyone “pay their fair share.” Obama used this term three times during the speech in regard to taxes. As even many of the Republican presidential candidates seem to buy into it, the president was also unable to resist the urge to promote the latest left-wing myth that millionaires like Mitt Romney pay less in taxes than their secretaries. This is complete nonsense, of course, but it is effective in eliciting the appropriate outrage from people who don’t stop to do either some simple math or even a little critical thinking.

For the president, there doesn’t seem to be a ceiling on what anyone’s fair share might be. However, he does have a clearly defined floor. “If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes.” Exactly why that number is “fair” or even the millionaire’s “share” is somewhat difficult to determine. Neither does Obama answer the question that should logically follow. If you make under $1 million per year, what is your fair share in taxes?

Now, in any other situation where a group of people agrees to pool its money to buy something, this is a very easy question to answer. If you and three friends decide to go in on a large pizza, each of you will pay 1/4 of the cost. Assuming it is a typical pie, it will be cut into eight pieces and each of you will eat two. Thus, everyone has received an equal amount of the pizza and each has paid his fair share of the cost.

Of course, before anyone determines your fair share of the cost, you would be asked if you want pizza in the first place. In all such arrangements between human beings, other than government, you have a choice of whether you want to buy or not. Perhaps you’d like to eat something else. Perhaps you’re not hungry. You can always allow the other three to buy pizza and provide for your own meal yourself.

Not so with government. Not only can the other three take a vote and force you to buy part of this pizza, but they add insult to injury by proclaiming that their vote represented your consent to buy it. With this dubious consent in hand, they then decide what your fair share of the cost of the pizza will be, regardless of how the slices are distributed. If you have acquired too much wealth, even honestly, then you might find yourself paying for 3/4 of the pizza and only getting one slice in return. Once voluntary consent is eliminated and force is put in its place, it becomes difficult to use words like “fair” and “equitable” without committing grave offenses against the language.

Putting that aside for the moment, let’s assume that 315 million people have actually all agreed to constitute a government and pool their money to pay for its services. Before determining what anyone’s fair share of the cost would be, we first have to determine what services the government can offer. It would not make any sense for the government to offer services that only benefit one or two people, because all 315 million are paying. No, the only legitimate services that the government could offer would be those that contributed to the “general welfare.”

This widely abused term is not anywhere near as mysterious as it is made out to be. Promoting the general welfare is offering only those services that benefit every member of society equally. For example, if the government devotes resources to a military establishment to protect the nation’s borders, it is promoting the general welfare. Regardless of how effective the service might be, every member of society within the borders is benefitting equally from it. From the Wall Street financier to the general contractor to the grocery clerk to the homeless man, all are receiving equal protection from foreign invaders. Thus, a defensive military establishment is a service that promotes the general welfare and therefore could be offered fairly under such an arrangement.

Similarly, a system of law enforcement and courts would also promote the general welfare. If the person or property of one member of society were invaded by another, then employees of this agency would investigate the incident, determine if a tort or crime had been committed, and make a determination on what penalty or restitution should be paid by the defendant. This, too, would benefit all members of the society equally. Whether you were a Wall Street financier whose partner had embezzled millions or a taxi driver whose modest home had been burglarized, you are equally protected by laws against theft.

Notice also that the cost of providing these services is the same for each member of society. Obviously, it costs no more for an army to defend the financier from an invading army than it does to defend the taxi driver. The army defends against the invader for all within the borders at one cost. Similarly, it costs no more to provide a police officer, a judge, a jury, etc. for the financier than it does for the taxi driver. The only exception is defense attorney, which is provided for a defendant who cannot afford one, but this is a minute percentage of the entire cost.

In short, any defense of life, liberty, and property, whether from foreign invasion or aggression by another member of society, is a service that benefits the general welfare. It benefits all members of society equally and costs relatively the same to provide to all members of society.

Let us now consider some services that the government offers that do not promote the general welfare. Healthcare is obviously one. First, all members of society do not benefit equally when the govenrment provides healthcare. For example, Medicare only benefits people over 65 yeras of age and disabled people under 65. Not only does the program not benefit all members of society equally, but it actually does not benefit those paying for it at all, while those receiving the benefits (those over 65 and the disabled) do not pay at all. Recall the pizza example. Imagine if you had to pay for a whole pizza that your three friends ate, and then had to pay additional monies to provide for your own meal. Medicare, Medicaid, or other government programs for specific groups are really no different.

In addition, government medical care can never cost the same to provide to all members of society, as security services do. Some people will be sicker than others, either through misfortune or their own lifestyle choices. Some will need surgeries or chemotherapy or other expensive care. Some will need relatively little care. It is not an exaggeration to say that there may be 315 million different costs to provide healthcare to 315 million different people.

Education is another service that does not promote the general welfare. When the govenrment provides education, it is of absolutely no benefit to anyone that is not in school or does not have children in school. Neither does it benefit parents who homeschool their children or enroll them in private schools or childless adults who all must pay for government education. Some of the people who benefit do pay part of the expense, but obviously this does not constitute “fairness.” It is no different than if four friends all paid for 1/4 of the pizza, but two of them ate it all. Certainly, the other two had no “fair share” for any of the pizza at all. As with healthcare, the cost of education is also going to be different for different people. An education in medicine has a different cost than an education in engineering or art.

In looking at the federal government’s budget, one can see that the overwhelming majority of the money spent is not spent for the general welfare. Almost all of it is collected from one group of people and spent for the benefit of others. The only services provided by the federal government that truly promote the general welfare are those that concern defense of the borders and defense of person and property related to interstate commerce. At the state level, only defense of person and property within the state promotes the general welfare. All other services represent a forced redistribution of wealth from one person or group to another. When anyone other than the government engages in a “forced redistribution of wealth,” we call it “armed robbery.”

It should also be noted that even the “Defense” portion of the federal budget largely does not promote the general welfare. Only that portion necessary to defend U.S. citizens from aggression by foreign nations does. Those expenditures related to defending people in other countries or which are unnecessary for security not only do not promote the general welfare, they do not benefit anyone within the United States at all – except for those military contractors and financiers that are fortunate enough to profit from these activities.

There is also frequent confusion about government services commonly referred to as “infrastructure.” It is argued by some that if the government builds a road that is accessible to everyone, it promotes the general welfare. However, this argument does not hold up to scrutiny. If federal money is used to build a light rail system in Florida, it is going to benefit people who live or travel frequently in Florida much more than people who do not. Certainly, a citizen in California or Montana is unlikely to ever even see that railroad, much less benefit from it equally. Who would not agree that his fair share of this railroad is zero?

Even at the local level, a road or a bridge does not benefit every member of society equally. The local businessman whose products are more cheaply transported is going to benefit far more than the occasional traveler that might use the road for convenience. Yet, when the government builds the road, both are forced to pay equally. Furthermore, since the businessman is running heavier vehicles over the road with much greater frequency than the occasional traveler, it costs more in maintenance to provide this service to the businessman than to others. Obviously, the road or bridge does not promote the general welfare even at the local level.

So, what is your fair share in taxes? The answer is that you owe an equal share of those services provided by the government that promote the general welfare. Those services benefit you and everyone else equally. However, examination of any government budget, at the federal, state, or local level demonstrates that these services are now a tiny fraction of overall spending. A quick look at Florida’s budget summary reveals that about 8.7% of government spending promotes the general welfare. That $4.9 million in expense should be born by every citizen of Florida equally. The other $51.4 million does not promote the general welfare and should not be provided by the government at all.

An examination of the federal government’s budget for 2012 yields similar results. Once you subtract services that do no promote the general welfare, like education, healthcare, social security, and that part of the defense budget that is devoted to purposes other than protecting U.S. citizens from foreign aggression, you are left with a tiny fraction of overall spending.

For services that promote the general welfare, there is a finite cost. It does not vary depending upon how productive you are, so your fair share of that cost certainly can’t be a percentage of your income. Logically, the way to determine your fair share is to divide the total cost of services that promote the general welfare by the total population. If you have no dependents, then the quotient is your fair share. If you have dependents, then you simply multiply that quotient by the sum of your dependents and you. When you do the math, you’ll find that your fair share in taxes is a very small amount. As Thomas Paine pointed out, it is that tiny portion of your property necessary “to furnish means for the protection of the rest.” It would be easily paid by even a person of modest income. It would not require an income tax, as history before 1913 demonstrates.

For those services that the government provides to other people, your fair share is zero. However, the government routinely forces some people to pay more than their fair share and allows others to pay nothing at all. It generally collects the most in taxes from people who receive the least in benefits, which is the predictable result of offering services that do not promote the general welfare. Now, President Obama wants some people to pay even more. He and the Congress have the power, but that does not make it right. And please, President Obama, don’t insult our intelligence by calling it “fair.”

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

A Modest Proposal for Interposition

So, the Tea Party Congress is seated and the “revolution” is underway. After voting to repeal Obamacare, a largely symbolic gesture that has no hope of passing in the Senate or overturning a presidential veto, the new Congress has outlined its plan to attack the federal deficit. The result: A proposal to cut $100 billion in “non-defense discretionary spending.” While that may sound like a lot of money to someone who hasn’t taken a gander at the federal budget in about 50 years, it amounts to a little under seven percent of this year’s deficit.

That’s right. Seven percent of the deficit, not the budget. In other words, the tea parties, the stormy town hall meetings, the supposed “mandate from the people” to cut the size and scope of the federal government will result in the government spending $1,380 billion more than it collects in taxes this year instead of $1,480 billion more. Worse yet, the same people who “stormed the Bastille” and threw the former bums out will defend this proposal with half-hearted panaceas like “you have to start somewhere.”

However, if history has taught us anything, it is that this isn’t “just the beginning,” with more substantial cuts to follow. This will be the high water mark as far as reduction in government spending is concerned. We should expect that by the time that this proposal goes through the process of back room deals and compromises with special interest-motivated committee members, that the $100 billion number will be reduced by at least half, perhaps more. They may even end up increasing federal spending. Would anyone honestly be surprised?

It has been obvious for at least a century that “throwing the bums out” doesn’t make a lick of difference in the behavior of our elected officials. Now we know that staging protests, waving signs, raising a ruckus at town hall meetings, and then throwing the bums out doesn’t make a difference either. Clearly, it is time to stop doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The nullification movement has been decried by the left as right wing extremism at its most dangerous, despite the fact that it was conceived and introduced by Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Democratic Party. However, I have a proposal that I believe both conservative and liberal Americans would find very reasonable. There is a way to use the idea of state interposition to force the Congress to at least listen to its constituents. Let’s put the idea of interposition together with another of Jefferson’s ideas, drafted by him in a resolution of the Continental Congress in 1775 in response to Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposal.

“That this privilege of giving or of withholding our monies is an important barrier against the undue exertion of prerogative, which if left altogether without our control may be excercised to our great oppression; and all history shews how efficacious is its intercession for redress of greivances and reestablishment of rights, and how improvident it would be to part with so powerful a mediator.”

Let me be clear. As opposed as I am to all taxation, I am not suggesting that one dollar be cut from the existing tax schedule for 2011. What I am suggesting is that the people exercise their right to withhold their taxes until the Congress does what the people have clearly mandated them to do – balance the budget. A seven percent cut in the deficit just isn’t enough and we are running out of time. We can argue later about the role of government and the wars in the Middle East and Social Security and the rest. Right now we have to take away this Congress’ ability to borrow any more money or we’re going to be in the same boat as Greece.

I am not calling upon people to exercise civil disobedience or rebel. The stakes are high in either of those endeavors and we have other options. I am calling upon people to utilize their state legislatures to support them in withholding their taxes until a balanced budget is passed by Congress. As much as I’d personally like to see them withhold their tax money permanently, they would then release the funds to the federal government.

This would be accomplished in the same way as several other recent nullification/interposition efforts. The state legislatures would pass a law indicating that no person or business in their state could be prosecuted or fined by the federal government for failing to file an income tax return or failing to pay their quarterly payroll tax deposits, so long as said filings and payments were made within sixty days of the Congress passing a balanced federal budget. For those who still trust the people less than they do the government, a stipulation could be added that the funds go into escrow and be audited by the states, if necessary.

This would accomplish two things. First, it would reestablish exactly who works for who in this relationship. Obviously, elections have failed to do that. More importantly, it would work. The blind fear that would grip our legislators when they realize that the party is really over would at least scare them sober enough to balance what would still be an over $2 trillion budget. While it wouldn’t solve our long-term problems, that truly would be a start.

Bloated governments are imploding all over the world and ours is poised to do likewise for all of the same reasons. Now that we have seen what “extremism” really looks like in Greece, Egypt, and Tunisia, this proposal should strike any rational person as reasonable and moderate. We do not need a rebellion or violence to balance the federal budget – just a little adult supervision.

Check out Tom Mullen’s hit book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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The Constitution Does Not Protect Our Property

>The U.S. Constitution is widely believed to have been written to limit the powers of the federal government and protect the rights of its citizens. Inexplicably, this belief is held even by those who acknowledge that the constitutional convention was called for the express purpose of expanding the powers of the federal government, supposedly because the government under the Articles of Confederation was too weak. That this was the purpose of the convention is not a disputed fact. Nevertheless, most people who care at all about the Constitution continue to believe and promote the “Constitution as protector of rights” myth.

To the extent that the Constitution enumerates certain powers for the federal government, with all other powers assumed to be excluded, it does set some limits on government. When one includes the first ten amendments of the Constitution, it also protects certain rights. Indeed, the ninth amendment makes the very important point that the specific protections of certain rights does not in any way deny the existence of others, while the tenth amendment makes explicit the implied limitation to enumerated powers in the Constitution itself. At first glance, the so-called “Bill of Rights” seems to confine government power within an airtight bottle, rendering it incapable of becoming a violator of rights instead of protector of them.

However, this theory does not hold up well under closer examination. To begin with, the Constitution itself does not protect a single right other than habeas corpus, and that comes with a built-in exception. What the Constitution does do is grant powers, and not just to a representative body, as the Articles of Confederation did, but to three separate branches. That leaves it up to the Bill of Rights to serve the purpose of protecting our rights. Generally, those ten amendments protect our rights under extraordinary circumstances, but not under ordinary circumstances. More specifically, the Bill of Rights provides protections for the individual during situations of direct conflict with the federal government, such as when one is accused or convicted of a crime, when one is sued, on the occasion of troops being stationed in residential areas, or when one speaks out against the government or petitions it for redress of grievances.

Make no mistake, these protections are vital and have provided protections for the people against government abuse of power many times in U.S. history. However, they have proven ineffective against the slow, deliberate growth of government power under ordinary circumstances, when the specific conditions described in those amendments do not exist. This is primarily due to the absence of protection, either in the Constitution or in any subsequent amendment, of the most important right of all: property.

By “property,” I do not mean exclusively or even primarily land ownership, although land ownership is one form of property. By “property,” I mean all that an individual rightfully owns, including his mind, body, labor, and the fruits of his labor. It is specifically the right to the fruits of one’s labor that the Constitution fails entirely to protect. In fact, it makes no attempt to do so whatsoever.

In the Constitution itself, the word “property” appears only once, and that is in reference to property owned by the federal government (an inauspicious start). Nowhere does it make any mention of property owned by the citizens.

The document does grant the federal government the power to tax “to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and the general welfare of the United States.” This is a strikingly unlimited scope for which the federal government may tax its citizens. Arguments that taxes may only be collected to underwrite the subsequently enumerated powers have been struck down. Sadly, those decisions have probably been correct. While the power of the Congress to pass laws is explicitly limited to those “necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers,” no such language binds the power to tax. The fact that the explicit limitation exists for lawmaking (which Congress ignores anyway) but not for taxation lends further weight to the argument that the Constitution grants Congress unlimited power to tax its citizens.

One can certainly make the argument that in 1789, the term “general welfare” would have been interpreted much differently than it is today. Indeed, one might assume that the term “general welfare” meant the general protection of each individual’s rights. Perhaps that is what many of the founders believed at the convention. However, it is clear that Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists, the driving force behind calling the convention, had far different ideas about what the term “general welfare” meant. Remember that for Hamilton, the purpose of government was not the protection of rights, but the realization of “national greatness.” This could only be achieved at the expense of individual rights, primarily property rights.

So, the Constitution itself grants Congress unlimited power to tax and does not even mention, much less protect, the individual right to keep the fruits of one’s labor. Certainly the Bill of Rights addresses this deficiency, doesn’t it?

It does not. Like the Constitution itself, the Bill of Rights is virtually silent on the central right of property. Out of all ten amendments, the word “property” appears in only one of them:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Unlike the congressional power to tax granted in the Constitution, the constitutional protections codified in the Fifth Amendment are severely limited to specific, extraordinary circumstances. The entire Fifth Amendment is set in the context of criminal law, granting certain protections to the accused and/or convicted. The phrase “due process of law” is a specific legal term that refers to those accused of a crime being given notice of the charges, opportunity to face their accusers, call witnesses in their defense, etc. This was obviously the intent of this protection of property, rather than a general protection of property rights against taxation.

Even if one discards the clear intention of this clause of the Fifth Amendment and interprets “due process of law” more broadly, the amendment offers no more protection of property than if one interprets the clause narrowly. Since the power to tax is an enumerated power, Congress would be following due process of law simply by levying the tax in the first place.

The last clause of the Fifth Amendment, regarding property taken “for public use,” is similarly limited to extraordinary circumstances. This clause undoubtedly refers to eminent domain, which is a grievous abuse of property rights, but certainly not one that affects a large percentage of the population. Even here, no right is protected. The clause merely requires the government to give the victim “just compensation.” There is no mention of the primary component of the right of property, consent.

Furthermore, there is no mention of how “just compensation” is to be determined, although history has shown that the government itself determines what compensation is just arbitrarily. In a free society, the value of property is determined by the price at which the owner is willing to exchange it. However, since there is no requirement here of the owner’s consent, no such price determination can occur.

As for the remaining protections of property in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, there are none. These two phrases, protecting property under only the most extraordinary circumstances are the length and breadth of the Constitution’s involvement with this most fundamental right. It is this deficiency that has allowed the federal government to grow into the monster that it is, concerned with virtually nothing but the redistribution of wealth.

If you believe the official myth about the Constitution, this might seem shocking. After all, the document was drafted by the same people that had seceded from their nation and fought a long and bloody war primarily to defend their right to keep the fruits of their labor. How could they draft a document to recreate their government, which they said only existed to secure their rights, and not only fail to secure the most important right, but actually empower their government to violate it with impunity? Certainly this was history’s most colossal error.

However, when you consider the political platform of the Federalists, which included corporate welfare, monetary inflation, deficit spending, government debt, and militarism, all designed to maintain the wealth and power of a privileged elite at the expense of the rest of the citizenry, the unlimited power to tax and lack of protection of property seem less like error and more like deliberate intention.

Whenever the subject of “constitutional rights” (a problematic term itself) comes up, people reflexively refer to the right of free speech. This is an important right, and one defended across the political spectrum. However, free speech, freedom of the press, and the other rights protected by the Bill of Rights, without property rights, are inconsequential – the mere window dressing of liberty. It is property that enables one to determine the course of one’s own life. Without it, the right to life is no right at all, but rather a privilege granted by those who own your labor.

George W. Bush was an enthusiastic supporter of the right of “free speech.” During a town hall meeting, an average American who opposed Bush’s policies rose and began hurling insults at the president, eliciting boos from the Bush-friendly audience. Bush reprimanded the crowd, reminding them that this man had a right to speak his mind, even if they did not like what he had to say. It was not the only time that he stood up for free speech. This was no accident. A government that has the unlimited power to seize the property of its citizens can afford to be magnanimous when it comes to free speech. Yet, for the citizen who no longer owns the fruits of his own labor, the right to complain makes him no less a slave.

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.