Sunday, October 26, 2008

Taxes, Wealth Spreading and the XIIIth Amendment

Obama in his conversation with Joe the Plumber, stated that he wanted to "spread the wealth around." When given a chance to repudiate the comment, The One declined to do so. Obama is basing his tax plan on the populist notion that he will give a tax increase to the top 5% and a tax break to the remaining 95% (which he has subsequently had to amend to the 95% who work, the rest are left out). He is continuing the Orwellian notion that taxes should be "progressive."
What do we mean when we use the word "progressive: with taxes. It is generally understood that the more you make, the more taxes that you pay. This definition is inadequate, because under a flat tax system, if you made more, you would pay more than someone who made less. What we have are a series of steps that increase at arbitrary levels. So, up to a certain level, you pay 10%, then 15% and so on to a maximum rate of 35% for the top earners. Now the $64,000 question: Why?
If the purpose of taxes is to fund the necessary organs of government, why do we have a graduated tax rate? You could do the same thing with a flat tax. Remove all of the deductions, and charge everyone the same 22.5% of all income, and you could fund the government at nearly the same rate that it is today. The advantage to this method is that everyone would have a stake in the efficiency of the government, because everyone would be paying the same rate. Wouldn't matter if you were working as a burger flipper or were the CEO of a corporation, everyone would bear the same burden.
Tie this in with "Tax Freedom Day," the day when you stop working to pay taxes, and start working to provide for your basic needs, and a chance to get ahead and make something more with your life. For all tax payers, it would come on the same day. At 22.5%, assuming 2000 hours per year of work, that time would come at 450 hours, or roughly eleven and a 1\4 weeks, sometime near the end of March, in other words. Everything else for the remainder of the year would be yours, except for those taxes for the state and local governments of course.
But some taxpayers pay nothing in federal income tax (yes, I know that Social Security is a tax, but we are talking about income tax, not payroll tax, so please stick to the topic at hand, we can discuss the morality of the payroll tax at a later date), so their tax freedom day is January 1st. If you throw in the Earned Income Tax Credit, they could almost say that their Tax Freedom Day was sometime in the previous December. For those paying at the 10% rate, their tax freedom day would come at 200 hours, or sometime in the beginning of February. This pattern would continue until the 35% rate, where their federal income tax "Freedom Day" would come at 700 hours, or right around the Middle of May. Obama's plan would push this out to 900 hours, the middle of June. So, the upshot is that if you are in the highest tax rate, you will slave for the government for nearly half of every year.
Which leads me to the third element of the title, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which says:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Why do I bring this in? Think about it, everyone of us is considered to be equal before the law. But when it comes to involuntary servitude, some are more equal than others. Ah, you say, but you don't have to make that much money, and therefore, you would have less involuntary servitude. But wouldn't that just promote and reward sloth and laziness? If you are talented, intelligent and hard working, wouldn't the present scheme make it counterproductive to fully maximize your talents, intelligence and hard work? By doing so, aren't you depriving the general society of new inventions, procedures or techniques that could be generally beneficial as a whole?
But working is not the same as involuntary servitude is it? No, not if we all shared the same burden. But under the present and proposed tax schemes, if you have to work twice as long to pay your tax burden as someone else, is that not involuntary servitude? Sure, no one is making you work hard, but the fact that you have to work longer to begin earning anything for yourself is not much better than working as a sharecropper.
And think about not paying your taxes and what would happen. While in the days of slavery, the overseer with his dogs chasing you through the swamps was certainly terrifying, is it that much less terrifying to receive the letter from the IRS saying that you were being audited? And while the overseer had no legal constrictions on what to do to an escaped slave, if the slave made it to a free state, until Dred Scott, many states would offer sanctuary. Today, we have the IRS with their investigators, prosecutors, judges, courts and jails, so I suppose it is marginally better. Although the end result of a captured slave, or a tax resister is going to be the end of their freedom. If you don't think that the IRS is fully capable of using every form of legal coercion available to it, you have never had to deal with them, have you?
The framers of the Constitution recognized that the right to property was an essential element to the development of the human condition. As a result of that cognizance, they prohibited income taxes, which only came about after the introduction of the XVIth Amendment. The fear of the framers was that if the general populace could vote themselves largesse from the treasury, there would no longer be any reason to have and hold private property, since the government could simply take it from you to satisfy the populist braying of those who have less.
Seems that that day has arrived.

UPDATE: This is illuminating:


Anonymous said...

If the Supreme Court were to intepret the 13th amendment in that way, the entire argument of any kind of "original intent" would be thrown out the window. And nobody on your side would be screaming "activist judges!!!" any more, either. What tripe.

And your plan would put me under the poverty line. But I suppose I deserve that, I certainly haven't worked hard to get where I am.

Steve said...

I disagree with your assessment. The last case to be decided on the issue was from 1913, where the state would impose a levy of labor on the roads. Every able bodied man was required to perform 30 days of service. That differs from this case because everyone had to perform the same (i.e. a flat tax). The analogy to today would be that if you are an African American who could lift over 80 pounds, your assessment would be for 60 days.
This is not activist judges, this is instead application of the law. You do not seem to dispute that higher tax rates require more involuntary servitude than lower tax rates.
As to your being under the poverty rate - ??? You lost me on that one. Are you saying that like me you are a government employee - the only ones who directly benefit from this imposition on labor of others?

Anonymous said...

I do indeed dispute that "higher tax rates require more involuntary servitude than lower tax rates." The idea being that "involuntary servitude" actually SLAVERY. Which is why that amendment was written. But you knew that.

If one were to interpret the amendment that way, well then we'd just have to abolish taxes all together, wouldn't we? Did the Supreme Court set a limit for the amount of involuntary servitude that one can be forced to perform? Did they set a flat rate for slavery across the board?

The reason that this doesn't apply to taxes is because paying taxes is not involuntary servitude. You consent to them by living here, and you do what you can to change them by voting like-minded people into office. That's the point of Democracy.

"This is not activist judges, this is instead application of the law."

Classic right wing double standard, there in all its glory.

Steve said...

"we'd just have to abolish taxes all together," Oh, if only it were so. No, the point of the article that I wrote, and which you may have missed is, that with a flat tax, all would be contributing the same amount of time, it's just the rate of return that would be different, i.e. the 22.5% flat tax rate.
And involuntary servitude is not just comprised of slavery, you also have indentured servitude, another popular form of free labor to the holder of the contract.
I will agree to the idea that you consent to the taxes by living here, but why the differential in rates? Does the guy paying 35% actually get three and a half times more benefit from the government? (Not counting Haliburton, but they are a corporation and that is a whole nother matter).
""This is not activist judges, this is instead application of the law."

Classic right wing double standard, there in all its glory."

Not really, it's more about the original intent that was superseded by the 16th Amendment. But I don't see how this has anything to do with activist judges, since we would not be asking to create a right out of whole cloth. Instead, we would be presenting the argument for the first time relying on the 13th Amendment and its subsequent interpretations.

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Your premise is that taxes = involuntary servitude. That's it... it has nothing to do with any "subsequent interpretations" that have happened anywhere but in the minds of some of you on the far right. And you've agreed to the idea that we consent to taxes by living here... which means there's nothing involuntary about it.

My point is that if one were to accept your premise, than there's no level of taxes that would be acceptable, seeing as how they're all a form of "involuntary servitude." The XIIIth amendment doesn't set a rate of involuntary servitude. It abolishes it. That's it. You can't get around that.

And your last comment was deliberately avoiding that point by instead condensing and restating your original post. I expect much of the same this time around.

Steve said...

Steve, I have enjoyed this discussion but you still haven't addressed the differences in the amount of time worked. The whole point of the "levy" was that all were required to perform the same service, i.e. 30 days of working on the road. I am okay with that, but I am against the idea that some should work for 6 months, while others work only 30 days.
Can you explain why the government should command more time of some individuals than others?