What Conservatives Don’t Understand About The Constitution and Taxes

bachmann-constitutionIt’s become nearly a daily occurrence on a couple of pages I help run, there will almost inevitably be that one person who goes off on some tangent about food stamps, charity and taxation while screaming about how “TAXATION IS THEFT” and it should be a “voluntary exchange” when it comes to helping the poor or even funding infrastructure. The whole argument really ends up boiling down to how they believe taxes, especially income taxes, are unconstitutional – even though Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constititution clearly states the following:

The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence[note 1]and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;


There are many more enumerated powers given by the Constitution to Congress (mostly dealing with military matters) but the fact remains that while you can complain all you want, taxes are valid under the Constitution (whether you want to argue technicalities on the 16th Amendment or not). As I stated in a previous article:

Taxes are like root canals and death. Nobody really looks forward to those any more than they like receiving that Christmas letter from that over-achieving, smarmy relative who wants to brag about their honor roll student or their fairy tale second honeymoon. But guess what? Taxes are the price we pay for living in a society with navigable roads, schools and even your favorite college football team. (Source)

“But we had a country for over a century without an income tax and we were just fine” is the common retort once it has been explained that the ability to levy taxes is outlined in the Constitution. Well, let’s see. The income tax system we have today was passed in 1909 and ratified in 1913. Prior to that, we had only two major conflicts since the ratification of the Constitution, and both of those were paid for with new taxes or an increase on tariffs (The War of 1812). Back then, we also didn’t have a national telecommunications system, interstate highways, the FAA, the CIA, a large standing army deployed all over the world, NASA, the CDC, or the military industrial complex. And while you may not like some of these entities or improvements, the fact remains that these advances in technology, government and infrastructure weren’t made by the private sector.

Also, the Constitution as it was originally written was not a perfect document. That’s why there have been amendments made to it to allow for things like the freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, the right for women and minorities to vote, etc. But when you point these things out to those who wail loudly about taxation, including the fact that taxes are much lower now than back in the 1950’s, then the subject changes to how the government spends too much and the national debt. Yes, we do spend more than we take in but under President Obama, the deficit has actually shrunk to $492 billion, the lowest since 2009. In other words, we’re still putting ourselves into debt but at a substantial slower pace than we were before. In fact, before the Bush tax cuts, we were actually running a budget surplus which would have stopped and even reversed the increasing debt. Instead, Bush stopped the surplus and promptly started two wars and also introduced Medicare Part D, none of which were paid for by additional taxes. You know, the opposite of what a fiscal conservative would do.

Our government and its role is much larger than it was in the 1700s, but so is our population and its needs. In the 1700s, public infrastructure was nearly non-existent and electricity wouldn’t even be available as an energy source for nearly another century. In 1790, the US population was 3.5 million. Today, it is nearly 320 million. Today, the current life expectancy in the United States is 78.61 years, more than double the average life expectancy in 1790. Back then, we didn’t need Social Security or Medicare because the average person was dead before their 40th birthday. How is it that we get to live more than twice the length of time our great-great-great-great-great grandparents did? Advances in public sanitation, vaccines and other medical science which were brought to you in part by, you guessed it, tax payer funded projects.

So if you’re still deadset against the toll you pay in order to live in a society and refuse to accept the power of the federal government, then please go ahead and drop the whole “I’m a strict Constitutionalist and American patriot” shtick. Of course, we know most of you really enjoy those interstate highways instead of having roll a covered wagon a few hundred miles every time you want go visit grandma in Arizona or not watching your kids die from a smallpox or typhoid outbreak. The thing is, you like all of the perks that come with living in a first world country, you just don’t want to pay for them – and that makes you a freeloader like you accuse the poor of being.


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