On Congress’ Power To Tax
May 31, 2012 by Bob Livingston
Senate Republicans are softening their “hard-line stance against raising tax revenues to slash the deficit, with a number of Republicans willing to go further than their party’s standard-bearer in the face of a looming showdown over the budget,” Politico reported yesterday.
In English, this means tax increases are on the horizon. This is not surprising. Cutting government and returning it to its Constitutional mandates does not compute for the Washington, D.C., criminal class. So government grows. And to pay for it all, Americans are fed the illusion that they must pay for its growth.
The Founders were very concerned about the prospects of giving Congress the “Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States…”
In fact, the primary opposition to the general welfare clause (which, it turns out, is the most abused clause in the Constitution) came not from the clause itself, but the power given Congress for taxing for the “general welfare.”
Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts was one of many who spoke against it when he said, “The legislature could not be trusted with such a power. It might ruin the country. It might be exercised partially, raising one and depressing another part of it.”
The power was a source of contention during the State ratifying conventions as well. Samuel Spencer of North Carolina said the power was “too extensive, as it embraces all possible powers of taxation and gives up to Congress every possible article of taxation that can ever happen.” Abraham White of Massachusetts said, “In giving this power, we give up every thing; and Congress, with the purse-strings in their hands, will use the sword with a witness.” William Bodman of Massachusetts questioned “whether it was necessary to give Congress the power to do harm, in order to enable them to do good.”
Massachusetts’s Samuel Thompson summed it up thusly: “It has been said that there was no such danger here. I will suppose they were to attempt the experiment, after we have given them all our money, established them in a federal town, given them the power of coining money and raising a standing army, and to establish their arbitrary government; what resources have the people left?”
Supporters of the giving Congress taxing power ridiculed their opponents as fearmongers. During the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention, James Wilson said, “It has been common with the gentlemen on this subject, to present us with frightful pictures. We are told of the hosts of taxgathers that will swarm through the land; and whenever taxes are mentioned, military force seems to be an attending idea. I think I may venture to predict that the taxes of the general government, if any shall be laid, will be more equitable, and much less expensive, than those imposed by state governments.”
Who turned out to be correct?
Source: The Founding Fathers Guide To The Constitution, by Brion McClanahan.