Walter E. Williams

During the legislative debate on the 16th Amendment, congressmen argued that only the rich would ever be liable for income taxes. For that reason, getting the rich, the income tax had widespread American support. In 1917, only one-half of 1 percent of income earners paid income taxes -- of that .5 percent, those earning $250,000 a year in today's dollars paid 1 percent, and those earning $6 million in today's dollars paid 7 percent. Today, most income earners are liable for federal income taxes.

One is tempted to argue that people are stupid to fall for congressional get-the-rich scams. As a good social scientist, I know that stupidity is a poor explanation for human behavior because people are not stupid in the long run. It might be historical ignorance from one generation to another, where one generation has no knowledge of the promises Congress made to the previous generation. That enables Congress to see each generation as new suckers for their get-the-rich scams.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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