Friday, November 23, 2012
Jill Lepore, Tax Time: Why We Pay, The New Yorker, Nov. 26, 2012:
Both the Sixteenth Amendment, which granted Congress the right to levy an income tax, and the Federal Reserve will be a hundred years old in 2013. Hoopla is not anticipated. Not especially controversial a century ago, the tax and the bank lie at the core of a now popular account of American history in which 1913 was a disaster, the original “fiscal cliff.” ... In 1913, the income tax was introduced, not only to undergird the Treasury with a stable source of revenue, but also to answer populist rage at the growing divide between the rich and the poor. In 1913, the Bureau of Internal Revenue printed its first 1040: the form was three pages, the instructions just one. Taxes have got a lot hairier since then. Writer explains the attempts of business interests to fight back against the income tax. Helped by Andrew W. Mellon, the industrialist and philanthropist, among others, the business lobby succeeded in redefining American citizens as “taxpayers,” and began arguing that high tax rates were stifling the economy. Chronicles attempts by the conservative lobby to pass the Dresser Amendment, which would have capped the income tax rate at 25%; describes the failure of liberals to articulately defend their own tax policy.
(Hat Tip: Dorothy Brown.)