WASHINGTON January 14, 2015 — With everyone in the country either preparing for a terrorist attack, condemning religious violence, or waiting for the new Parks and Recreation season to premiere, very few are paying attention to the actions of the 114th Congress. Sworn in only last week, our newly elected and re-elected, leaders have wasted no time stepping into the ring, and they are not pulling punches.
One particular punch that may miss its mark but still awe the crowd is a piece of legislation introduced on January 12, by Rep. Peter King, R-Iowa. The legislation, a proposed constitutional amendment, is simple, and the text awe inspiring.
“The sixteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.”
Simple, to the point, and it does not waste any paper. The purpose of Rep. King’s bill could not be any clearer.
The legislation is sure to stir up trouble in Congress, which has just opened its 114th session. While the nation faces a stagnant economy and a growing political divide over taxes and the best manner to address our financial situation, King believes that this measure will help turn out country around.
“Ronald Reagan once said, ‘What you tax you get less of.’ Right now we tax all productivity. We need to turn that completely around and put the tax on consumption. That is why we need to repeal the 16th Amendment, which authorizes income tax. Replacing the current income tax with a consumption tax will ensure that productivity is not punished in our country, but rewarded.”
If it passes Congress — unlikely, given the enormous political road ahead of it — and then is ratified by the necessary number of states — even more unlikely — the amendment would be the first major reform to taxes since 1986, as well as only the second instance in our nation’s history when one constitutional amendment was used to repeal another, the first being the passage and repeal of the Volstead Act.
First, it has only one co-sponsor, Rep. Rob Woodall from Georgia. With such low support out of the gate, the proposal faces an uphill battle. Second is the sheer amount of revenue the federal government would lose as a result of this law.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal income tax accounted for 47 percent of federal revenue in 2013. With the budget in deficit as it is, many in Congress will fight this measure tooth and nail before seeing funding for their pet projects dry up. A joint resolution for a constitutional amendment needs two-thirds supermajorities in both the House and the Senate; even if every Republican in Congress were on board, they wouldn’t have the votes.
Third, there is still a Democrat in the White House. In the event that the joint resolution got through Congress, the president, who has no formal say in the constitutional amendment process, would use every bit of power and influence at his disposal to stop ratification by the states.
The president has a powerful bully pulpit if he cares and has the skill to use it. The best chance for a joint resolution to pass is for a Republican President to help push it through, which means King’s bill has no chance in the 114th Congress. It could, however, be an effective tool for a Republican candidate to use in the 2016 elections, and a useful tool for voters to use in judging potential nominees.
A candidate might run on repealing the income tax, and promising to work with Congress to put money back into the pockets of the people. With more money to spend and invest, taxpayers could turn the economy around. That turn around would be at the expense of the federal government, which grabs in money like a deranged cookie monster, then spends it like a deranged teen. But this deranged teen is working with sums in the trillions, and can issue itself credit cards when the money runs short.
King’s bill is simultaneously noble, political, and quixotic gesture. His windmills are the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, and the Democrats. If he makes it to the floor of the House, he and his supporters — we trust there will eventually be more than one — will force the Democrats to go on record in opposition. Republicans should get on board with this measure. What better way to show the nation that you are serious about cutting taxes than by getting rid of the biggest one of all?
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