« PreviousContinue »
Arkansas has one-sixth as many people as New York has, and would under that provision of the Constitution pay onesixth as much direct tax as New York would, but New York has thirty times as much property value as the State of Arkansas has.
The relative situation of people and of States having largely changed, there is no reason why we should longer adhere to that part of the Constitution relative to a head tax and population. Consequently, while Democrats revere the Constitution, they are in favor of amending it so that the swollen fortunes of the land can be justly taxed.
EBENEZER J. HILL [Conn.).—Mr. President and gentlemen of the House of Representatives, I shall vote against this amendment for the following reasons: In the first place, I do not believe that this extra session of Congress was called to completely change and revolutionize the taxation system of the United States. I think that a question of such magnitude should be submitted to the people and discussed in a campaign preparatory to the presentation of so important a matter as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This proposition was found in the Democratic platform and not in the Republican platform on which the presidential campaign of 1908 was won. My understanding is that Congress was called together for the sole purpose of revising the Dingley tariff law on the basis of the difference in the cost of production at home and abroad.
Stop a moment and consider what we are doing in voting to give this Government the power to lay an income tax in time of peace. I know of no better measure of the way in which this burden would fall on the various States in the Union than to judge of it by the inheritance tax laid to meet the expenses of the Spanish-American war.
Of the entire amount collected from the inheritance tax in the whole Union six States paid three-fourths of it.
All told, 35 States paid $31,000 less than the little States of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and yet you come and ask me in time of peace and to pay the ordinary current expenses of this Government to vote now for a constitutional amendment which will enable these 35 States to impose a far greater tax upon my people. But it is claimed that the property in the Eastern States escapes taxation. That is not true. In the State of Connecticut more than 80 per cent. of all the expenses of our State government is now paid by corporations, and during the past ten years no State tax has been laid upon our people, but the whole amount has been met by corporation, inheritance, and other forms of direct taxation imposed by the State. Every corporation in the State is taxed; every legacy under the inheritance-tax law, which we have, pays its fair share.
Is it fair now, after two hundred years of expenditure on our part, that you should come and ask us to vote to tax ourselves in time of peace for a duplication of these things in all of the new and undeveloped States of the Union! It is not because our people desire to avoid taxation, and, as I have shown you, the accumulation of wealth in these Eastern States does not escape a fair and just charge upon it. We are ready to vote for an income tax to meet any emergencies which may arise in this Union and to stand by the Government in time of war; but do not ask us, at least without consultation with our people at home, to put this burden on them in addition to one already severe because of local expenditures, made necessary by our geographical position, but cheerfully assumed for the general good. [Applause.)
OLLIE M. JAMES [Ky.).-Mr. Speaker, I desire to say that the argument of the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Hill] does not appear to me to be one that will stand analysis. He tells us that Connecticut, which has been taxing all the rest of the people of the United States under the protective-tariff system until it has grown so rich, if this taxation upon incomes is placed upon her wealth, would pay more than 30 other States in the Union. Yet the gentleman is so patriotic that he is willing to state that when the poor man is willing to give his blood or his life when the Republic is in peril, when the battle is on, that not until then is he willing that his people shall make any contribution to sustain the Government out of the abundant fortunes they have piled up under the system of the protective tariff.
Here Mr. James dwelt at length on the constitutionality of a tax upon wealth. He quoted the dissenting opinions upon the income tax case of Justice Harlan and Justice Brown, and the arguments for constitutionality given by William J. Bryan in his speech in Madison Square Garden, New York City, in 1896. Of Mr. Bryan's stand on this question Mr. James said in conclusion:
Here we behold, Mr. Speaker, this patriot throwing down the gage of battle in the very citadel of wealth. He was maligned and slandered then, but what a glorious victory he is having upon this question! What a marvelous vindication he is receiving now! The whole nation upon tiptoe now approving his stand on the question of an income tax! And, sir, when those who have maligned him have been forgotten, this man who bore three times with honor and with courage the standard loved by millions of his countrymen, battling for equality of taxation, equality of opportunity, striving for the righteousness a republic owes to its people, obedience to law by the great and small, that the tax gatherer should visit alike the cabin and the palace, the hut, and the mansion, I say, sir, that, when the flunkeys and the adulators shall no longer find favor in their fawning nor pay for their abuse, the principles advocated by William J. Bryan, the lover of men and of the rights of men, will live in the Constitution and shine in the statute laws of the land.
To my mind the income tax is the most equitable of all systems of taxation. It is the ideal way to support the Government. Let those who prosper little pay little, for they are least indebted to the Government; let those who prosper more pay more; let those who prosper most pay most; let those who prosper greatly pay greatly, for certainly they have been most blessed and are therefore most indebted to the Government. What man is so ungrateful to his country that he is unwilling to pay a small tax upon his income above $5,000 to help sustain and perpetuate the Government under which he enjoys such success? Many bills have made such provision, but to meet defeat at the hands of the Republican party, which has always opposed taxing wealth in any degree.
Who is prepared to defend as just a system of taxation that requires a hod carrier, who for eight long hours each day wends his way to the dizzy heights of a lofty building with his load of mortar or brick, to pay as much to support this great Republic as John D. Rockefeller, whose fortune is so great that it staggers the imagination to contemplate it and whose property is in every city and State in the Republic and upon every sea protected by our flag. [Applause on the Democratic side.]
How men can defend a system of taxation in a republic which requires of the poor all of its taxes and exempts the rich absolutely I am totally unable to see. In the everyday walks of life we expect more for church, for charity, for the uplifting of society, and education from those who are most prosperous, most wealthy, most able to give.
I have heard it urged by some gentlemen upon the Republican side that the passage of an income tax law would undermine and at last destroy the protective-tariff system. This, Mr. Speaker, is equivalent to saying that in order to give a few monopolists and manufacturers the right to reach into the pockets of all the people, you have kept the tax gatherer from reaching into the pockets of the few, the fortunate few, the intrenched few, the successful few; but you have driven the tax gatherer to the same pockets which monopolies pillaged under the protective tariff for taxes to sustain the Government. The protective-tariff system is vicious enough in itself without adding to it the iniquity of saying that in order to perpetuate it you must place the taxing burden of the Government upon the masses of the people, who must also bear the heavy burden the protective-tariff system inflicts upon them.
Mr. Speaker, this battle for an income tax will go on. This is the people's Government and the right will prevail. During all these years the mighty rich-an army of millionaires—have been exempted from taxation, but the people are now aroused. There are two lines of battle drawn for this great contest. Under which flag will you stand—the flag of democracy or the flag of plutocracy?
We shall win, for
Still, Truth proclaims this motto
In letters of living light:
Until it is settled right.
[Applause on the Democratic side.]
And I would scorn, Mr. Speaker, a government whose taxing power provides that Lazarus must divide his crumbs with the tax gatherer, but that Dives shall not give of his riches. [Great applause on the Democratic side.]
J. WARREN KEIFER (0.].-If there ever is any necessity for an income tax, of course it is when the nation is at war. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, with the utmost kindness, that so far as history shows the Democratic party has not been in favor of an income tax in time of a great war, and it might well be that it should stand converted now. In the Civil War, in the most trying period of it to the Union, when the question of an income tax was voted upon on this floor, every Democrat present and voting voted against it and denounced it as unconstitutional [Applause on the Republican side.]
Not a single Republican, as the Congressional Record shows, voted against it.
In the Senate of the United States at that time every Democrat voted against an income tax save Mr. McDougal, of California-one only in both Houses. Now I congratulate the Democratic party after these many years on a conversion to the income tax so that it may be levied in time of war.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there is something said about the necessity of an income tax to reach the idle rich; but, if we had only the idle rich, I think I would rather like the program; but there are in this country thousands and tens of thousands of enterprising spirits who have gone forth with energy, industry, and by displaying economy have acquired fortunes, and they are the persons who are to be reached by an income tax; and I am willing that they shall be reached when the trying times come.
While it may be true that those who by their ability and providence amass an estate are secure, an income must bear a proportionately great share of the government taxes; it should not be imposed upon them merely as a punishment.
ADAM M. BYRD (Miss.).—Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that the unanimous passage of this measure through the Senate and the favor with which it is being received in this House by your party are too hopeful of good to be accepted with a full measure of confidence. I am afraid that this is a case of “Greeks bearing gifts.” It was introduced in the Senate for the avowed purpose of defeating the Bailey-Cummins income tax bill, and I am apprehensive that after it shall have been rushed through this House and goes to the States for ratification all the power and influence that can be marshaled against it by sordid wealth and Republican chicanery will be used to compass its defeat. It is necessary to debauch the legislatures of only 12 States to secure its rejection, and the same evil influences that have corrupted and carried so many elections have already started a crusade against its adoption by the States.
We were warned by the gentleman from Connecticut [Mr. Hill], in his speech a few moments ago, what opposition might be expected from New England. He boldly contends that it is unjust to tax the wealth of those favored States for the support of the common country, stating that that section, because of its great prosperity, was now compelled to contribute more than its part of the internal-revenue tax. The inconsistency of such an argument is only excelled by the seeming avarice that prompted it. New England, that has bled the country of its wealth for quite half a century; that has her millionaires by the thousands—made so by virtue of the infamous policy of pro