Is it Constitutional to tax the citizenry?
The short answer is, yes. Nothing is free, including the blessing of having a government to protect us and our private property. If we want a government equipped to make laws to protect us and our private property, we must expect to pay for it.
And the Constitution gives our federal government the right to make laws about taxation.
“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”
The founders were highly concerned about a lack of funding and financial support for the federal government. Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government couldn’t tax and therefore had little to no power to function. The founders, seeing the chaos and anarchy present without a powerful federal government, wanted to make sure the new federal government was equipped to actually govern effectively. This is why the clause above is the first power listed in the enumerated powers of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Which leads me to the discussion I want to have with you today. How and in what way should we approach tax policy, especially the upcoming tax hikes under the Biden administration?
Tax policy is within the realm of Congressional power. Congress has the Constitution right to lay and collect taxes to don’t they?
But let’s take a closer look. Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes to do… what?
To pay all debts, provide for the defense of the country and provide for the general welfare of the United States. The founders figured a well equipped federal government would be better for the general welfare of the whole country than a weak government. Hence, federal taxation would promote the general welfare by equipping government to be powerful enough to actually do its Constitutional duties. Further, the states were struggling to pay war debts after the Revolutionary War, so the founders wanted the federal government to bear the brunt of this. And, of course, since Congress was given the right to raise and support the army and navy, the founders gave Congress the power to lay and collect taxes to provide for that common defense.
However, the Constitution does not say that Congress can lay and collect taxes to provide for the poor, provide education, provide financial support for the jobless, so on and so forth.
“But…” you may think, “providing for these things is providing for the general welfare and paying debts, right? And isn’t that, then, Constitutional?”.
No. Congressional taxes should be limited to funding the programs Congress is Constitutionally allowed to create under the rest of the enumerated powers. It’s absurd to think that Congress can write an unconstitutional law and then argue that they are allowed to raise taxes to support this unconstitutional law because they are constitutionally equipped to lay and collect taxes in order to pay “all debts” or “provide for the general welfare”. That’s complete distortion and abuse of the Constitutional perimeters given to the government. Government can’t violate their job description and then justify the funding to carry out that violation by arguing that it is Constitutional to do so.
It’s simple logic. It would be like saying that it’s Constitutional to fund a law banning all “hate speech” because the Constitution says Congress can lay and collect taxes to “pay the debt” associated with carrying out this law. Or worse yet, what if Congress passed a law banning all firearms? How absurd would it be if they claimed that funding this law is for the “general welfare” of the people and it’s therefore Constitutional to raise taxes to fund the programs and agencies needed to rid the country of all firearms?
Just because welfare, or education, or social security are now accepted unconstitutional federal laws, doesn’t mean they’re Constitutional. This means, all the taxes necessary to carry out these unconstitutional laws, are also unconstitutional.
This really shouldn’t be hard to understand.
So, if the Biden administration is planning to hike taxes to fund programs that are unconstitutional, it’s not a valid justification to say that such tax hikes are constitutional simply because Congress can lay and collect taxes. It wasn’t constitutional for Congress to do raise taxes to fund unconstitutional programs under the Trump administration either. It doesn’t matter what party is in power. The Constitution must be protected at all costs and that means understanding and realizing when the government is trying to use the Constitution to justify unconstitutional behavior.
Ah, the irony…
…and the tragedy. We fall for it every single time.
I’ll conclude with a quote from Madison and a quote from Jefferson:
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents…” – Madison
“The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public monies.” – Jefferson
The Liberty Belle