National Taxing and Spending Power
A GOVERNMENT, like its individual citizens, must have regular income to pay bills and maintain credit. In addition, a government must have coercive power to collect taxes. No government can carry on if it has to depend, as did the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, on requisitions and voluntary contribution.
Indeed, the principal weakness of the central government under the Articles of Confederation was its lack of power to levy taxes. National expenditures were defrayed out of a common treasury, supplied by the states in proportion to the occupied land in each state, and upon requisition of Congress. The states reserved the right to levy taxes for this purpose and were, in fact, very delinquent in making payments.
Therefore, it is not surprising that although members of the Federal Convention were sharply divided on many issues, they were almost unanimous in their agreement that Congress should have broad power to tax. Heading the list of enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8 stands the provision that Congress shall have 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."
It would be difficult to fashion more sweeping language to describe this power, in the exercise of which the national government acts directly on individual citizens and their property, acts as directly as though there were no states. Nor are there any limits (apart from those imposed on Congress at the ballot box) on the amount Congress may attempt to collect through taxation. The only limitations on taxing power are those the Constitution specifically provides in Article I, Section 9, and those the Supreme Court has established through its various decisions. Article I, Section 9 specifically prohibits the national government from granting a preference to one state's ports over another's, and forbids a tax on exports (a concession made in 1787 to Southern exporters). These provisions have occasioned no difficulties.
In addition to these express limitations the Supreme Court has de-