Government Officials Want You to Know that Your Earnings Belong to ThemBy Robert Higgs, The Beacon
Dec. 30, 2011
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Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, recently created a media flap when she said:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you!Conservatives and libertarians took offense at Warren’s claim that the government has a superior claim to “a hunk” of people’s earnings merely because every individual lives in and benefits from a society to whose creation many other people have contributed.
The critics might well have been grateful for small blessings, however. Warren was prepared, rhetorically at least, to let people keep “a big hunk” of their earnings.
U.S. government officials in earlier times were sometimes unwilling to admit that people had a right to retain any of their earnings, and forthright in their declarations that everything people possessed really belonged to the government.
Striking examples of such views may be found in the recently published book by Burton Folsom and Anita Folsom, FDR Goes to War. There the Folsoms present a meaty discussion of the congressional debate that occurred in 1943 in regard to bills eventually enacted in compromise form as the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943—the statute that, among other things, established income-tax withholding at the source. In that debate, the following statements were made in Congress:
Rep. Emanuel Celler (D-N.Y.)—The government can at any time make income taxes as thumping big as the necessities of war require. Thus, if any plan does not raise enough money, taxes can at any time be increased. (p. 200, emphasis added)So, lighten up, small-government friends. Be grateful that you must contend only with Warren, and not with the likes of Celler, Chandler, and Mills. Maybe there is progress after all.