Only Congress can levy taxes
September 28, 2012 · Updated 3:31 PM
The problem with Mr. Morrow’s lament and quest (Sound Off, July 3) is that even people who might “follow the star” have no idea what it is or where to look for it.
When Washington became a state in 1889, its founders drew up a constitution, just like the nation’s founders did in 1789. Both sets of founders did a lousy job, and many of them knew it at the time, but nobody ever held a meeting to fix the U.S. Constitution or any of the state constitutions.
The main result is that, instead of “united states,” we have a collection of independent states with different, conflicting rules, very much like the European Union that many local Don Quixotes love to ridicule.
No big business could long survive like that, and there are some nationwide non-partisan organizations that suffer from the same problem. (I have been a member of some of them at one time or another.)
The biggest conflict is in the area of taxes, and Washington has the worst state tax code in the country for people with low incomes. Rich people all over the country gripe constantly about their taxes, but they have armies of lobbyists in their state capitals (and D.C.) to work for them. They do okay. Have no doubt about it.
The problem for most of us is that we don’t learn very fast, if at all, and we are divided into 50 squabbling states and many more squabbling counties, which makes it easy for a few, well-organized rich people to have their way.
The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress — and only Congress — to “lay and collect taxes.” It says that in Article I, Section 8. Read it sometime. It says nothing about states having the power to do that. The 16th Amendment adds, “The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states.” Nothing in the Constitution suggests that states need to “lay and collect taxes” separately.
To make a long story short, we would be a lot better off if the President would (1) tell the state governors that they have no business adding to their citizens’ problems with stupid, unconstitutional laws; (2) remind the Congress that it alone has “the power to lay and collect taxes;” and (3) tell the IRS to double the income tax of every citizen and send half of it back to the state and county whence it came.
Seniors on Social Security (having paid taxes while they were working) would pay no federal or state taxes. Many households would pay about what we pay now (low incomes less, high incomes more). Nobody would lose a home for failing to pay property taxes. Business owners would stop griping about the B&O tax. Everyone else would stop trying to avoid sales taxes. Best of all, each board of county commissioners could retrain a few tax assessors (who would no longer need to assess properties) to educate everyone about their responsibility to obey the law and enforce the one tax that everyone pays.
There’s a star worth shooting for. Forward this to everyone you know, and maybe we can score a bullseye.