A Century of Soaking the Rich

... Americans will celebrate - or mourn - the 100th birthday of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. On February 25, 1913, Secretary of State Philander Knox formally certified ratification, establishing once and for all that Congress had the to power to tax Income "from whatever source derived."

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The 1913 income tax exempted every family earning less than $4,000 - about $70,000 in today's dollars. By most estimates, that left about 98 percent of Americans outside the tax man's grasp.

And those poor souls who did have to pay? ... [R]ates started at just 1 percent and topped out at 7 percent.

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The income tax grew quickly during World War I because it struck most people as fair. Which doesn't mean that it was fair, in any timeless or ideal sense. But it seemed fair to the people who mattered: voters and their elected representatives. And it kept seeming fair throughout the Republican 1920s and into the Democratic 1930s. Americans liked the income tax while it was a narrow burden on the rich.

But they also liked it when it became a broader tax on the middle class...

... The income tax is the levy we all love to hate. But there's a reason it's lasted so long: Americans sort of like it.

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