Walter E. Williams

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has called for states to mandate a total ban on cellphone usage while driving. She has also encouraged electronics manufacturers -- via recommendations to the CTIA-The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association -- to develop features that "disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion." That means she wants to be able to turn off your cellphone while you're driving.

With very little evidence, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that there were some 3,092 roadway fatalities last year that involved distracted drivers. Americans ought to totally reject Hersman's agenda. It's the camel's nose into the tent. Down the road, we might expect mandates against talking to passengers while driving or putting on lipstick. They may even mandate the shutdown of drive-in restaurants as a contributory factor to driver distraction through eating while driving. You say, "Come on, Williams, you're paranoid. There are already laws against distracted driving, and it would never come to that!" Let's look at some other camels' noses into tents.

During the legislative debate before enactment of the 16th Amendment, Republican President William Taft and congressional supporters argued that only the rich would ever pay federal income taxes. In fact, in 1913, only one-half of 1 percent of income earners were affected. 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. The 16th Amendment never would have been enacted had Americans not been duped into believing that only the rich would pay income taxes. It was simply a lie to exploit American gullibility and envy.

The fact of the matter is that the founders of our nation so feared the imposition of direct taxes, such as an income tax, that Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution says, "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken." It was not until the Abraham Lincoln administration that an income tax was imposed on Americans. Its stated purpose was to finance the war, but it took until 1872 for it to be repealed. During the Grover Cleveland administration, Congress enacted the Income Tax Act of 1894. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1895. It took the 16th Amendment (1913) to make permanent what the founders feared.


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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