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Repeal the 16th amendment
Repeal the 16th amendment

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1913, February 25th, was a dark day indeed. On this date, the Secretary of State finished counting the votes, and announced to the nation that the Constitution had added its 16th amendment. It was a struggle four years in the offing.

The sixty-first Congress first passed a resolution proposing a federal income tax in July of 1909, and submitted it to the state legislatures. Support was strong in the western states; virulently opposed in the northeast. New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes, who would someday sit on the Supreme Court, believed the power to tax “from whatever source derived” would confer the power to tax state and municipal bonds to the federal government, thus excessively centralizing government power. He was, of course, quite right, but he was also unfortunately in the minority.

All three presidential candidates in 1912 supported an income tax. One state after another voted support for ratification until finally, early in 1913, Secretary of State Knox announced the three-fourths requirement had been met. Whether Mr. Knox (appropriately named Philander) had counted the votes accurately remains a contested issue to this day. An income tax, the Revenue Act of 1913, was promptly passed into law by Congress. We've all been poorer ever since.