Magazine article Insight on the News

Amendment Would Put Breaks on Taxes

Magazine article Insight on the News

Amendment Would Put Breaks on Taxes

Article excerpt

A new tax revolt sweeping the land will change forever the relationship between citizens and their government. Unlike earlier tax revolts, which unleashed revolutionary changes in state government, the target this time is Congress.

On April 17, more than 130 congressmen announced the introduction of the comprehensive tax-limitation amendment. Propelled by voter distrust of politicians who break antitax promises, the measure will become a critical issue in the 1996 election campaigns. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has pledged to bring the measure up for a vote by next year's tax-filing deadline.

The Constitution once contained strong protections against unlimited taxes. An income tax was not permitted, and for many years scholars believed that Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution granted Congress only 18 specific powers, such as the ability "to raise and support armies." Adoption of the 16th Amendment in 1913 authorized an income tax without any limitation. Then, in the 1930s, the Supreme Court buried the doctrine of enumerated powers, ruling that the spending power was "not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution."

With the Constitution's original limits stripped away, taxes soared. Tax Freedom Day, the day when workers theoretically finish paying their taxes and start working for themselves, slipped from Jan. 30 in 1913 to May 5 last year. And federal tax collections climbed more than 175,000 percent. (That's not a misprint.)

It's time to correct this fundamental defect, the surrender of effectively unlimited power to the Congress to raise our taxes. The tax-limitation amendment is very much in the spirit of the Bill of Rights, which limits the government to preserve freedom. While a balanced-budget amendment likely will be adopted first and is necessary to protect against unlimited debt, we also must protect the people from excessive taxes.

The tax-limitation amendment would require a three-fifths majority of the membership of each chamber of Congress to approve an increase in any tax. The limit could be waived by a simple majority during a war, but any tax increase approved under such a waiver would expire automatically. This would prevent a temporary war tax from becoming a permanent hike.

Many will claim that the tax-limitation amendment is unnecessary since voters can throw tax-hiking politicians out of office. …

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