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The Hand in Your Pocket

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Perhaps one of the most monumental frauds in our history is the politicians’ trick of making the ordinary citizen believe that the income tax is a scheme to soak the rich.

The harsh fact is that the so-called “little man” or “common man” on whom the politicians lavish so much affection, is the lad who pays the great mass of the income taxes — not the rich. I do not wish to infer that the unconscionable raid carried on by the government on these citizens who enjoy very large incomes can be defended under any philosophy save that of Karl Marx. I condemn the confiscation of incomes regardless of size. I merely wish to make it clear at the outset that the overwhelming portion of federal income taxes is taken by the federal government from the earnings of citizens in the lower brackets.

Another oily illusion fostered by the politicians is that the “government needs the money.” You will do well to keep in mind that the “government” is merely a collection of rules and regulations and authorizations. It is not a human, living thing you can see or touch with your fingers. In itself it is something you can describe as a tremendous authority — a group of powers. But this authority and these powers are all in the hands of men — politicians. The government is a vast army of politicians equipped by the Constitution with great and dangerous powers. Among these powers the most dangerous is the power of these politicians to put their hands in your pocket or your bank account or your pay check and take away a very sizable chunk of your dollars.

This dangerous grant of powers to the politicians may be said — as I shall show — to be at the bottom of our troubles — our entanglement in the brawls of other nations all over the globe, our own oppressive national debt, the swarms of political hirelings consuming our substance in every part of the country and — most serious of all — the slow but quickening creep of this great free nation into the toils of something called the Collectivist State, which is a pretty name for socialism. It may be well to remind the reader that Karl Marx, the father of modern socialism, put the income tax high up on his blueprint for destroying private enterprise and building the socialist State.

At the very beginning we must recall the nature and the shape of our government. The men who built it were students of government — not just students of politics. They had learned the hard way how dangerous government can be. Remember, government is nothing more nor less than an immense collection of powers over the people. The Founders were not opposed to strong government. But they saw that the only way a free people could risk the oppression inherent in strong government was to break down its powers and put each set of powers into different hands. The greater part of the powers of governing our people was left in the states. The federal government had no powers save those delegated to it by the Constitution. It did not have the authority to just make any law or do anything which the politicians at any given moment might fancy.

Its powers were listed clearly . . . . All the other great powers of government — save the small number delegated in the Constitution — were left in the states, and each state was a sovereign republic. Over all was the federal republic set up to perform a very few functions, very sharply defined, but chiefly to guard and ensure the sovereignty of the 13 little free republics and their citizens. . . .

I do not, of course, mean to infer that it is justifiable or good policy to “soak the rich” — to soak those citizens with larger incomes and leave the little man out. If government must be supported, all should pay. But the government, in all justice, should not possess the right to soak anybody — rich or poor alike.

The soaking of the citizen of large income can be defended only on the theory that he makes a bad use of savings. This, of course, is a preposterous falsehood promoted since Karl Marx wrote his famous Communist Manifesto, and has been used ever since by Communist and Socialist elements. The creation of that great, even majestic, institution of production and distribution — the American system of private enterprise — could have been brought about by no force save the earnings and profits of the American business man. Our growth has come from the man with the capacity to plan, to dream, to visualize the shape of the future, and who has had the money savings and the credit to risk on his dream — to lose his money if he fails, and to keep the profits when he succeeds. It must never be forgotten that men have worked at their visions and their plans for years, building, experimenting, until the losses end and the profits appear.

After all is said and done, who makes the best use of his income? Is it the business man who has dreamed and sweated to produce it and to create more industries and more jobs? Or is it the politician who, under the license of the Income Tax Amendment, grabs the profits of the producer and squanders them on political adventures to keep himself in power? This sets up not merely a heavy charge on productive industry, but puts money in the hands of the politicians to buy great groups of voters to reward their friends, and, as one top-flight politician puts it boldly: “To tax and tax, borrow and borrow, elect and elect.”

A moment’s reflection will reveal to you that the politician by his spending creates no institutions or machinery for creating wealth. By this I mean that the accumulation of resources, processes, productive machinery by private industry creates all the products and practically all the services a prosperous society needs. The politician who now takes shocking billions out of the pay envelopes of the workers and out of them profits of industry uses them to keep himself in power.

Let me repeat the warning that while civilized man must have government, nevertheless Big Government has always been his greatest enemy. Always kings and their ministers have been able to oppress the people by loading them with vast taxes and debts. This — the oldest of rackets — is now palmed off on us as something new. The element to be feared in government is the politician. Behind the White House and the Congress and the government bureaus are the political bosses who call the shots. The biggest weapon they have is taxes. And the worst of these is the income tax — those billions squeezed out of the politician’s beloved charge — the Little Man.

This is a shortened version of a broadcast Flynn made over the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1956. © Copyright 1956 John T. Flynn.

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    John T. Flynn (1883-1964) was one of America's most ardent and uncompromising advocates of freedom. He was the author of several books, including "The Roosevelt Myth", "The Income Tax: Root of All Evil" and "As We Go Marching".