The Unconstitutionality of Progressive Income Taxes – It is Time to Force the Supreme Court to Rule to Stop a Revolution in the Wings

by Martin Armstrong, Armstrong Economics:

How is it possible that we can have legalized class warfare and politicians run on extorting the rich at gun point with threat of imprisonment if they do not pay their “fair share” which is somehow a higher percentage than everyone else and this miraculously does not violate Equal Protection and Justice for All? The Supreme Court dances around this issue that clearly is unconstitutional and is a Communist idea championed by Karl Marx, which is the cornerstone of leftist politics. Yet, when we peal back the veneer and we look at the same principle in other contexts, we suddenly see a conflict of law. For example. Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, in which nonunion California state employees whose wages and benefits were nonetheless set through the collective bargaining process of SEIU — the state’s largest union — sued the local to get back a special dues assessment it levied in 2005 to fight two ballot measures. The union’s normal practice was to allow nonmembers to opt out of paying the roughly 44% of dues that went to matters not directly related to collective bargaining, such as election campaigns. In this instance, however, no such opt-out was allowed.

The issue before the court was whether mandating the collection of the special assessment from nonmembers violated their constitutional rights to free speech. Alito and the four other conservative justices ruled that it did, and liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed in a concurring opinion. The decision also made it clear that allowing nonmembers to opt out of paying dues toward union functions outside collective bargaining was unconstitutional and held that the unions “may not exact any funds from nonmembers without their affirmative consent.” In other words, unions would have to ask for nonmembers’ permission to collect political assessments and, possibly, any dues at all. “Individuals should not be compelled to subsidize private groups or private speech.” You could not charge them fees first for things they did not participate in and return them only if they complained. A distinction was made between a union that directly imposes fees on an individual for a political agenda yet in in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the court ruled that corporations could directly spend their resources on political campaigns. Shareholders have the right to sell their shares if they disagree where union member do not and are often mandated to be in unions or they are denied work.

The very idea that a person should pay a progressively higher percentage of their income based upon their God given skills flies in the face of certainly the Fifth Amendment Taking Clause, which reads:“[n]o person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Nowhere in the Constitution is there any hint that equal justice applies for all except if you make more than your neighbor. Progressive taxation also violated the Freedom of Religion under the First Amendment for one of the Ten Commandments is very clear on the subject;


The Supreme Court has disposed of all constitutional questions about progression and had done so with remarkably little discussion during an era when Karl Marx was hail a major thinker before the Russian Communist Revolution in 1917 when it became known in practice far from the idealistic world it weaved. As is well known, the climax of the constitutional controversy in the United States over a federal income tax came in 1895 in the celebrated  Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., 157 U.S. 429 (1895). An income tax with explicitly graduated rates, enacted during the Civil War, was held to be constitutional in Springer v. United States, 102 U.S. 586 (i88o), however, the progressive feature of that tax was not in controversy during that case so it was not actually decided. What is usually remembered about these cases is that the Supreme Court adopted the views of taxpayers’ counsel that a tax on the income from real and personal property is a direct tax within the constitutional requirement that direct taxes be apportioned among the states, and that since these aspects of the tax were not separable the whole tax, the result was that the tax was patently unconstitutional. Nonetheless, lift the rug and we discover the origin of progressive taxation. The tax in question in 1894, had a flat rate of 2% on income but allowed each individual taxpayer an exemption of $4,ooo. Therefore, anyone earning more than $4,000 were discriminated against creating progressiveness which the public cheered as to be expected. That is the argument against democracy for it allows the majority to treat any minority unfairly.

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