Taxes Part I: How Income Tax Began

The history of taxation in American has a long and infamous history. Since the imposition of the very first tax --- The Navigation Tax of 1651 --- taxes have been wildly unpopular in America. When the Constitution was written and ratified, the only taxes allowed were to pay the debt and provide for the common defense and general welfare. At times, taxation was implemented during wars to fund the government and the war effort, with no intention of becoming permanent. However, since 1913, the United States of America has adhered to a communist plank second only to the abolition of all private property: a progressive or graduated income tax.

What purpose does an income tax serve? In our four-part series on taxes, we'll explore its history in America and how a tax once promised to never climb above seven percent has, at times, ballooned to 77 percent at the hands of an out-of-control government.

Part I: How Income Tax Began

When the Constitution was written and ratified, the only taxes allowed by America's founding document were to pay the debt and provide for the common defense and general welfare. "Welfare" meant the general well-being of the people, not government handouts to people who didn't work for a living.

During the War of 1812, Congress imposed America's first sales tax. But even then, just on gold, silverware and jewelry. Amazingly, in 1817, several years after the war of 1812 had been won, Congress ended all internal taxation on Americans, including sales tax, relying solely on tariffs on imported goods to fund the government.

It wasn't until the Civil War of 1862, in order to pay for the increasingly high cost of the war that the United States Congress adopted America's first income tax --- three percent for wage earners between $600 and $10,000, and higher for those making over $10,000. Sales and excise taxes were imposed, as well as the nation's first inheritance tax. The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Office was created and granted the power to levy and collect taxes, a power the Constitution had given solely to the United States Congress. In 1872, with the Civil War long over, Congress eliminated the income tax.

Then came the era of progressivism.

After progressive Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected president in 1912, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax permanent in 1913. The amendment gave Congress the legal authority to tax income --- of both individuals and corporations. Advocates promised the highest tax rate would never climb above seven percent, but just two years later, it was already at 15 percent.

With the onslaught of World War I, the federal government made the case that tax rates must be raised to finance the war effort. In 1916, the top rate leapt from 15 to 67 percent, and the next year to 77 percent. Two constitutional presidents --- Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge --- fought and succeeded in cutting spending by 50 percent and lowering income tax rates. By 1925, the tax rate had been slashed from 77 percent to 25 percent.

Throughout our nation's history, the wealthy have been punished with egregious taxes, but nothing could compare to the unbelievable burden placed on the most successful Americans in 1944, when the federal government raised the top tax rate to 94 percent of every dollar earned over $200,000. It's difficult to believe that any American would find it right and moral for a government to confiscate all but six to 10 percent of a person's income.

The highest rate fell from 70 to 50 percent in 1981 and then to 28 percent in 1986.

It should be noticed that the second plank of the Communist Manifesto, right after the abolition of all private property, is a progressive or graduated income tax. The United States of America has adhered to that communist plank since 1913. The nation that first instituted communism --- Russia --- abandoned the progressive or graduated income tax in 1998 for a flat tax of 13 percent, growing the country's revenue by 28 percent.

Listen to the Full Series on Taxes

Part I: How Income Tax Began

Part II: What Is a 'Fair' Income Tax Rate?

Part III: The Reagan Years

Part IV: The 2016 Candidates

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!