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Historical Perspectives on the Federal Income Tax

National Debt

They say that money is “the root of all evil” and yet there is only so much money. Perhaps that saying should be changed to: “Unlimited credit produces the evil which money buys”.

From an article in the Congressional Record- Appendix, dated May 4, 1939, Volume 84, part 12, page 1826, by the Honorable Charles A. Halleck of Indiana, entitled “The Collapse of the New Deal”:
“Since coming to office President Roosevelt has spent $47,000,000.000.  No human mind can understand what that much money means.  But it can understand the fact that $47,000,000,000 is $18,000,000,000 more than was spent by the Federal Government from March 4, 1789, under George Washington, to the day we entered the World War.  During those 122 years 26 American Presidents expended only 60% of the money Mr. Roosevelt has spent in 6 years.  With it they paid for the American Revolution, the War of 1812 with England, all of our nineteenth century wars with the American Indians, the Mexican War with our sister Republic to the South; the great and tragic War Between the States, and the Spanish- American War that made us an imperial power.  And, in addition, those 26 Presidents bought the Louisiana Territory, Florida, Alaska, and the Virgin Islands.  They dug the Panama Canal, dredged our rivers and harbors, and spanned this continent with a firm network of highways; paid the wages and pensions of the veterans of the above- mentioned wars; and carried on all the activities of the United States Government for 122 years.  All of that took but $28,729,000,000.  But since March 4, 1933, the Federal Government has spent approximately $47,000,000,000.”

To put this into today’s perspective, our Federal Government is currently spending over $4.5 Billion dollars per day, not per year.   This is more than 360 times the annual yearly budgets of the 1930’s.   The National debt is now approaching six trillion dollars or 133.33 times that of 1939.  All of this is balanced upon the backs of the population which has barely doubled since that time and which has only seen an increase in the labor force of slightly more than double.  The number of individual income tax returns filed in 1994 was over 15 times that of 1939, producing an increase in personal income tax revenues 576 times that of the 1939 level.   In other words, the per-return increase in the tax revenue derived from personal income taxes is 50 times that of 1939, not including social welfare taxes.   Yet, to off set that increased tax burden, the reported per-return taxable income, has only increased 22 times over that of the 1939 level.

“The important question today is this: ‘How long can we continue this folly?’  The people are asking this question because they know the future of our country is in peril, and they know this administration is placing a mortgage upon every boy and girl in this Nation; and they know those who are yet unborn, and who cannot defend themselves against this wild orgy of ruthless spending of money, will find their birthright encumbered by billions of dollars which their voices did not create, but, which debt they must assume and pay, if possible.”  Congressional Record 1939


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