The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article I.8.1: "The people of the states hereby delegate to the federal Congress the power to collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises."
This provision gave Congress the power to collect general taxes for the first time from either the states or the people. It also gave Congress the power to collect duties on imports, exports, or manufactured items, imposts or a tax similar to duties, and an excise tax or federal sales tax. Taxes consist of both indirect and direct taxes: "direct taxes are levied directly against individuals and their personal property and cannot be passed on to anyone else" while indirect taxes "are much less painful to collect" because they "can be passed on to the person who is the final purchaser of the goods." (See W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America - The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p 372.)
According to Skousen, the Founders expected that the federal government would be able to operate during ordinary times on the import duties, but they also realized that war or other emergency would require direct taxes from the people and their property. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson were the two Presidents who were most successful in handling the power to tax. Jefferson was able to operate the federal government on the import revenue. He repealed excise taxes, abolished the internal revenue system, and sold public lands. Jefferson was able to pay off half the enormous debt from the Revolutionary War during his eight years in office. Andrew Jackson sold public lands in order to pay off the total national debt and have a surplus. He "returned $28 million to the states."
This information is especially interesting at this time because the conservatives in the House of Representatives are currently in a budget battle with the liberals/progressives in the Senate and White House about cutting spending and lessening debt. Wouldn't it be nice if we could find another Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson in our day?
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