The Sixteenth Amendment

Bert A. Loftman, MD
Article Type: 
Spring 1996
Volume Number: 
Issue Number: 

Thomas Jefferson's vision was that the smallest and most local government would maximize individual freedoms and best serve the public good. In a letter to Tom Pinkney, Jefferson stated: "Both of our political parties, at least the honest part of them, agree conscientiously in the same object --- the public good; but they differ essentially in what they deem the means of promoting that good. One side believes it best done by one composition of the governing powers; the other, by a different one. One fears most the ignorance of the people; the other, the selfishness of the rulers independent of them. Which is right, time and experience will prove."

This vision was embodied in the Constitution and the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. In this century, the power of the federal government has grown enormously because America has been diverted from this vision by changes made in the Constitution.

After the Bill of Rights, the next five amendments dealt primarily with slavery, civil rights, and voting. These increase individual freedoms, which is the antithesis of an increase in the federal government.

The Sixteenth Amendment reads: "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." Before this, the Constitution in Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 4, prohibited any head, individual, or capitation tax. It read: "No Capitation, or other direct Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken." The Sixteenth Amendment, which made the income tax constitutional, caused radical and profound changes.

Agitation for a personal, graduated income tax (as called for in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto of 1848) began again in earnest in the early 1890s. The Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1894. The Sixteenth Amendment was submitted to the States on July 9, 1909, and was declared ratified (improperly, many claim) on February 25, 1913. The pretext used to sell the American people on it was to pay off the national debt of one billiondollars (now at $5 trillion).

The income tax drains money from the labor and capital of the American people. Before 1913, the federal government derived sufficient money to pay for its constitutionally delegated functions from "Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises" as authorized per Article I, Section 8, Paragraph l.

The Sixteenth Amendment allows the income tax to raise vast amounts of revenues to finance the unconstitutional activities of the federal government.

Compassionate Americans are concerned about social problems. When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton replied "because that is where the money is." Likewise, social activists turn to the federal treasury, rather than other avenues, because "that is where the money is." Although the causes may sound good, the Constitution does not authorize (and thus forbids) federal social programs. Besides, time has proven that it is counterproductive for the federal government to administer welfare programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). It is also counterproductive for it to administer farm subsidies, corporate welfare, etc.

The concentration of power and money in Washington not only produces counterproductive programs; it produces unconstitutional programs. It is bad enough that Congress does not debate the constitutionality of its legislation, but it is inexcusable for the Supreme Court to legitimize it. Thomas Jefferson warned about it "...that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping by little and little, the foundation of the constitution." By declaring these programs constitutional, the Supreme Court ignores Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 18 and the Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The latter reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Law by precedent corrupts the U.S. Constitution.

By ignoring the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court clears the way for the unconstitutional proliferation of most federal regulatory agencies. These include many cabinet departments, the FDA, EPA, etc. When our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they made it a living document by allowing for change. At that time, there was very little need for environmental protection. Even now it may be inappropriate. But if so, there should be a constitutional amendment to authorize it rather than controvert the Fifth Amendment, which reads: "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

This concentration of income tax dollars in Washington causes law by precedence to corrupt the Supreme Court. The lower courts follow this lead via judicial activism, which produces the capricious rule of man rather than the just rule of law.

The income tax permits the subtle lure of tax incentives to become a powerful molder of public policy. The interest deduction encourages home mortgages rather than home ownership. Job-based tax exclusions result in employer-controlled health care and retirement. Tax breaks for shelter, health care, and retirement are but some of the major problems. There are countless others.

Time has proved it futile to legislate reactionary laws to "fix" these various problems. Each time our government attempts this, it leads to increased costs and regulations. Our Founding Fathers understood this, which is why they prohibited an income tax in the original Constitution. It concentrates too much power in Washington, which creates a climate where the special interest groups dominate. There is an obvious solution with precedence. The Eighteenth Amendment for prohibition of liquor was counterproductive and was repealed 14 years later by the TwentyFirst Amendment. It reads: "The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed."

The Sixteenth Amendment usurps money and power from individuals, lower governments, and other institutions. It concentrates this in Washington, which leads to counterproductive and unconstitutional federal policies. It corrupts our courts. It decreases individual freedoms.

It is time to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment.

Dr. Loftman is a neurosurgeon in private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, and Director of Citizens for an Alternative Tax System, 1 (800) 767-7577.

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1996;1(1):28-29. Copyright©1996 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)

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