The Grotesque and Immoral Income Tax

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
November 29, 2021

Robbery occurs when one party uses intimidation, force, or threats of force to steal from another party. Most would agree that stealing is immoral, even if what was stolen was “for the greater good.” The same should be considered when talking of income taxes.

Americans first encountered an income tax in 1861 to pay for Civil War costs, demanding 3% on incomes above $800. It was replaced a year later and again in 1864 with even more progressive rates, but the acts were ultimately allowed to expire and mainly viewed as emergency measures for wartime situations.

Congress then readdressed tax laws, eventually passing the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894, making it the first peace-time income tax. A 2% flat tax on incomes over $4,000 was to make up for revenue that would be lost by ongoing tariff reductions.

The Supreme Court ruled the tax unconstitutional on grounds of the 10th Amendment because it was not apportioned correctly amongst each state’s population, as then required with direct taxes. A shift from the individual rights of the Founders to the collective rights of the Progressives was a watershed transition in American thought at the turn of the 20th Century, which made the Court’s decision unpopular.

Proponents of a nationwide annual income tax argued it would force the so-called “robber barons” to pay taxes – It wasn’t supposed to provide a mechanism for Washington to reach into most Americans’ pockets. For example, the highest rate in the proposed legislation, greater than $500,000 (equivalent to $13,854,040 today), was only 7%. The average income for a single individual around the time was only $800 (equivalent to $22,166 today), plus there was an individual $3,000 exemption. So, yes, the initial rates, despite being progressive, appeared not all that burdensome. And it is easy to understand the frustration of the average American with monopolies and other forms of cronyism, but the collecting of taxes based off of one’s income would prove to be dangerous. The Federal Income Tax was finally solidified with the ratification of the 16th Amendment in 1913 (Mississippi was the fifth state to do so in 1910), allowing Congress to levy one without apportioning it upon the states’ populations.

Fast forward to 2021, and the highest rate on the bracket starts at an income of over $523,600 for a single filer, and they’re taxed at 37%, meaning they would have $329,868 left. The average income today, for a single Mississippian is $45,081 (the lowest in the nation) and is taxed at 22%, leaving them $35,163 and not taking into account the state’s income tax, sales taxes, property taxes, and any other levies. This goes to show that if you give the federal government an inch, it will take a mile, and often for the worse.

While there is plenty of room for an argument criticizing the harsh economic and fiscal implications income taxes have, a much simpler one is how immoral they are.

Just the thought of taxing someone based on how hard they work and how much they earn is depraved and selfish in nature. People have a right to the fruits of their labor. Everyone should be treated equally under the law, including taxation, and contribute the same as every other citizen for the upkeep of the society in which they live. The inherent idea that you must give up a determined amount of money to a government based on your income – or face severe consequences – is ludicrous. To quote Dr. Ron Paul: “If you concede the principle of the income tax, you concede the principle that the government owns your wages and permits you to keep a certain percentage of it.” The income tax, for the lack of a better word, is theft. Theft, as we should have learned as children, is wrong.

In taking someone’s income, the government then adds it to its funds for different programs, deeming itself a wiser steward of finances than who they took it from. The government believes that it can put someone’s money to better use than the original owner ever could and shows it is not truly concerned with the individuals’ specific needs, but only the general populace. The government has no interest in you or your loved ones’ prerogatives – Just y’all’s money.

While Mississippi can’t do much to fix its past sin of ratifying the 16th Amendment, what it can do is lessen the burden on workers by repealing its own income tax. It is the least it can do.

The Magnolia State’s income tax is a graduated one, with the first $2,000 of taxable income not taxed at all, the next $3,000 taxed at 3%, the next $5,000 at 4%, and anything over $10,000 is at 5%. This means that a worker earning over $10,000 will therefore be paying $1 in state income taxes out of every $20 they earn over $10,000. According to the Governor’s executive budget recommendations, an individual with a taxable income of $40,000 would be $1,850 better off if the income tax was eliminated. This leaves the individual more of their money and gives them the choice to spend it on their priorities.

The Mississippi Center for Public Policy is making the case for the abolition of the state income tax, and you can read more about it here.


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