Is the Federal Income Tax Even Legal?

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Some years back, in 2006, the late director Aaron Russo put together a piece he entitled, “From Freedom to Fascism.”  The core question Mr. Russo set out to answer in his film centered on the legality of the federal income tax.  I remember when I first viewed his work that my primary response was astonishment at how groomed we have been to accept the government’s confiscation of our private wealth without even considering on what legal grounds the federal government has to seize a portion of the wages that we make via our own labor, and for that matter, even before we gain possession of that wealth ourselves.  The film is somewhat controversial and of course has its critics, but it really makes you think.  So much so that I incorporated it into my college course curriculum — I wanted to get my students to share their thoughts with me regarding their opinion of Mr. Russo’s views on the matter.

Fundamentally, what we earn through our labor is our private property.  The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution outlines the requirements for eminent domain, stating that “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  While this has traditionally been applied to tangible property, should it not also apply to the most fundamental property right there is – the right to keep what one earns through one’s own labor?

Let’s look at the definition of slavery: There are various descriptions in a myriad of dictionaries, but the bottom line is, a slave is someone who is not in control of the value of their own labor.  In other words, slaves were subjected to the confiscation of the value of their labor, against their will, by someone other than themselves, for the use of others.  Is this not what happens when our government, through threat of law or violence against us, forces us to turn over to the government the value of our labor “for public use?”  It appears that the seizure of what we earn by working violates not only the Fifth Amendment, but also the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments as well.  We are required to turn over our own money, before we even see it, without just compensation and without the right to successfully prevent the government from this forced seizure of private property.  Thus the coining (no pun intended) of the moniker, “tax slave.”

We are viewed by our government as sources of revenue to be used at the whims of said government.  What, you say, how else will the government raise money for the military, “entitlements,” roads, schools and other basic services?  Prior to the 16th Amendment, which was passed into law in 1913, there was no income tax, and yet our country grew in wealth and technology more in just over a century after its founding than any civilization in the history of the world.  Russo points out that our roads are paid for through fuel taxes and our schools are funded by property taxes – assuming they aren’t misappropriated for other purposes by the stewards of our wealth.  The contention is that our income taxes go mainly to pay the interest on the overwhelming debt that our “representatives” have amassed over the course of many decades.

Russo also contends that the 16th Amendment was never properly ratified, that it was summarily shoved through into law during the dead of night at Christmastime by corrupt politicians (sound familiar)?

What makes us so subservient to a hostile government that we willingly allow a system whereby our money can be seized?  And the waste and abuse of that money, earned on the backs of taxpayers, is beyond mind-boggling.  If a private bank or investment firm or anyone else that was a steward of your hard-earned dollars mismanaged those precious funds the way that our government does, you can bet there would be severe criminal and civil ramifications.

It’s not unusual for my students to be skeptical about at least some portions of Mr. Russo’s piece.  I honestly have not authenticated every portion of it.  But if you can carve out a couple of hours to watch it, I recommend that you do. If nothing else, it definitely will make you think.

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