There is an old saying that the only certain things in life are “death and taxes.” While that might not be totally true, taxation is accepted as a necessary, albeit unpleasant, part of life by most Americans. Taxes and their proper role in America are an issue of much debate.
The General Welfare Clause of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to collect taxes in order to pay for debts and provide for the general welfare and a common defense. The phrase “general welfare” is the tricky part of the clause. After all, a whole lot of activities could be justified as being necessary (and thus taxpayer funded) for the general welfare of the United States. Unfortunately, the writers of the Constitution did not provide an exact definition, so following generations are left to debate the terms, as is so often the case.
James Madison seemed to argue for a fairly narrow view of this clause. It would seem that the “general welfare” phrase was not meant to give the federal government the power tax in order provide funding to do whatever it wanted, but rather to exercise the powers more specifically spelled out in the rest of Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution. In other words, the General Welfare Clause would need to be read in context to get the proper meaning.
The Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to collect taxes on incomes. This amendment was ratified in 1913. This helped to set the stage for the current state of the government.
Taxes and their role in America are still being debated to the current day. One recent article at Fox Business talked about the various ways that people can legally avoid income taxes. Allegedly, roughly 43 percent of households in the United States do no pay an income tax at the federal level. Besides questions about the morality of taxation in general complexity in the tax system seems to be causing problems. If this statistic is correct it would seem like a large percentage of the American population are benefiting very heavily from productive people.
This is not to say that all of these people avoid taxes altogether. As the Fox Business article points out, there are many other federal taxes that a person would still likely have to pay, not to mention local and state taxes. Still, there are apparently many ways in which both the poor and wealthy can work the system in order to avoid paying an income tax.
Taxes are very much tied to the issue of how big the federal government should be. Of course, drastically lowering taxes would mean that people would have to adapt and learn to live without as much government help. In some cases this would be tricky, yet there may be a number of public services that could be provided in other ways. As of now, most people depend on government in various ways, some more than others. A gradual lessening of dependence coupled with a gradual but significant reduction in taxes would be a good way to move the country forward. Of course, this would not be easy.
The role of taxes in America has long been debated. The whole topic is central to the way in which society functions. A drastic but gradual change in the tax system could be a great help to America in the long run, but it would require a great deal of adjustment.
Opinion by Zach Kirkman