House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp has embarked on a “Tax Reform Tour,” on which he says, “we’re going to be travelling across the country in the coming weeks, meeting with Americans — individuals, families, workers and business owners, big and small. We want to hear how we can make the system fairer and easier to deal with for families across America.” Nothing wrong with the Michigan Republican trying to make the tax system “fairer and easier to deal with,” except for the fact that reforming the IRS isn’t the real issue.
Making the IRS more customer-friendly, making its tax collection more efficient and reducing the red tape generated by its daily operation are like giving aspirin to a dying cancer patient. It may ease the pain ever so slightly for a little while, but the terminal disease keeps eating away at the patient’s body. As former Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes has said, “We can’t tinker with this tax-code monstrosity or try to reform it around the edges. The only thing we can do with this hideous beast is kill it, drive a stake through its heart, bury it and hope that it never rises again to terrorize the American people.”
It’s time to repeal the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the power to levy income taxes, and abolish the IRS. Then, a genuinely equitable tax system can be created that funds the essential operations of the government and encourages economic growth rather than retards it. There was a time when Camp agreed with this approach, too. He introduced in Congress in 1999 a proposal to repeal the 16th Amendment but apparently concluded since then that there was little or no hope of ever succeeding in the effort.
But, as Fair Tax advocate Leo Linbeck III wrote last week in the Washington Examiner, “Americans have done this sort of thing before. Many states used to impose a poll tax. But when it became clear that system was being used in an abusive way, we passed the 24th Amendment prohibiting that tax.” There is also the nation’s unhappy experience with Prohibition, which became law with adoption of the 18th Amendment in 1919 and was repealed by passage of the 21st Amendment in 1933. So claims that “political reality” dooms efforts to repeal the 16th Amendment simply ignore historical fact.
The political reality is that the ground for repeal is becoming more fertile with every new twist in the current IRS scandal. As Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., told Breitbart News, “the information that the IRS has on file on people goes pretty deep into personal lives. It is being leaked out and given to people for very specific political reasons. I think this is something that should be the most chilling thing for Americans to understand.” That is the kind of power no federal agency should have.