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Mehrotra in Bloomberg on the Income Tax and the Fiscal State

Ajay K. Mehrotra, a former Miller Center National Fellow and a professor of law and history at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, Bloomington, has published an op-ed in Bloomberg in which he reflects on the significance of the 100th anniversary of the federal income tax. Mehrotra writes:

As Tennessee Representative Cordell Hull, one of the chief architects of the new law, explained, the goal of the 1913 income tax was to ensure that the rich were paying their fair share of increasing government expenses. “I have no disposition to tax wealth unnecessarily or unjustly,” Hull said on the floor of Congress, “but I do believe that the wealth of the country should bear its just share of the burden of taxation and that it should not be permitted to shirk that duty.” Hull intended the income tax to counterbalance the regressive elements of the existing regime. “Something is needed to restore the equilibrium,” he said, “and that something can scarcely take any form except that of an income tax.”

As we commemorate the centennial of the 16th Amendment and look ahead to looming budgetary battles, we ought to keep in mind that the foundations of our modern fiscal state are rooted not in efforts to radically redistribute wealth, but in attempts to balance fiscal duties and civic responsibilities. The progressives who bequeathed this state to us certainly knew the difference.

Read the full op-ed here.

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