Today, 04:06 PM
FRIEND, ALL YOUR LIFE YOU’VE BEEN TOLD THAT THE 16TH AMENDMENT was a transformational event in the history of the United States Constitution by which an unapportioned direct federal tax on "all that comes in" was authorized. You’ve been told that the amendment reversed the preceding 137-year-old Constitutional tax structure prohibiting such taxes-- under which the American people had grown to be the freest, most prosperous, and most optimistic people in the history of the world-- in favor of a radically-different structure under which the scandal-ridden and deeply-distrusted denizens of Washington, DC were granted carte blanche to reach directly into every wallet, be it that of a Wall Street tycoon or that of the average working stiff.
Explanations as to why the rich and happy Americans of the early 20th Century would do such a thing to themselves have always been vague-- they typically amount to something about a populist or progressive impulse that swept the country in favor of sticking it to the “Robber Barons”. Missing is any reason why such an impulse would embrace a universal tax reaching not just the robber barons, but their alleged victims in the working class, as well (along with every little shopkeeper, every mid-level success-story working out the American dream, and everyone else, too).
Also missing from these stories is any explanation of why the several states would ratify such a tax, under which they would inevitably lose power and significance in favor of their federal competitor. Further, these stories leave out the fact that there already WAS an income tax on the books and still in force at the time of the 16th Amendment, which had been successfully deployed over the preceding 52 years without Constitutional problem, save for a single instance in which the US Supreme Court had taken issue with its application to merely two single varieties of realized income.
These stories don’t mention that, in fact, huge portions of our modern body of income tax law pre-date the 16th Amendment, even though this is plainly stated in the preamble to the 1939 Internal Revenue Code, and even though Congress publishes a comprehensive derivation table explicitly identifying the pre-16th-origins of these still-current statutes. (See a little video presentation on this subject here.)
The fact is, an awful lot is left out of these stories purporting to explain the seemingly inexplicable decision of the prosperous American people of the early 20th Century to chuck a system that had served them so well for so long-- because they’re just stories. They’re fiction, so they don’t have to make sense. Those telling these stories want you to believe otherwise for reasons of their own, but the truth is, the 16th Amendment did nothing these story-tellers want you to imagine it did. Instead, the amendment merely overruled a Supreme Court decision that had briefly interrupted the application of the already-long-standing tax (the twice-heard case of Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan & Trust, 157 U.S. 429, and 158 U.S. 601, (both 1895)), while making no changes to its pre-amendment nature.