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Forget IRS - real issue is the power to tax

Horror stories about the outrageous criminal behavior of Internal Revenue Service agents have brought a new debate on taxation, but I think the discussion misses the main issue.

Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, has proposed a broad-based flat tax of 17 percent. Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, has suggested a national sales tax, along with the abolition of the IRS and hopefully repeal of the 16th Amend-ment. Comparing the benefits of the flat tax vs. the national sales tax is really a debate about which is the better way for government to subjugate its citizens.I seriously doubt we'd be having this argument if the federal government was spending what it was historically - 4 percent of the GNP. If that were the case, any method of taxation would be OK, even the current complex code. However, when spending is close to 30 percent of the GNP, as it is today, Americans are in bondage whether we're taxed by a flat income tax or a national sales tax.

To me, the debate is analogous to my being sentenced to crucifixion and given the option, "You can carry the cross on your back to the crucifixion site, or we can spare you the burden by having it set up, waiting for you." Of course, I'd opt for having it ready and waiting.

To think clearly about taxation, we have to recognize what it is. Taxes represent government claims on private property. If taxes were 100 percent, there'd be no private property and we'd be serfs. Government is necessary. For government to do its job, it has to collect taxes.

What's government's job? Our government's job is laid out in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. It grants Congress authority to lay and collect taxes to provide for roughly 19 enumerated functions, like common defense, coinage of money and establishment of post offices and courts. If congressmen obeyed their oath of office and did only what the Constitution permitted, I doubt whether federal spending would be even 10 percent of the GNP.

I'm sure there's an idiot congressman who'd respond, "Williams, you forgot about promoting `the general welfare' clause of the Constitution. That authorizes us to tax and spend for Medicare, food stamps, crop subsidies and other handouts." Balderdash! If the Framers had that vision, they could have spared themselves the contentious debates they had in writing and ratifying the Constitution. They could have simply written, "Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes to provide for all those things Americans would like to have but are unable or unwilling to pay for them."

They didn't do any thing like that. They rightfully understood and feared the oppressive powers of government and sought to limit government threats to liberty by specific enumeration of what Congress can do.

Don't get me wrong. I think that a flat tax or a national sales tax is a major, important improvement over the status quo.

But I think there's a more important debate ripe for congressional hearings, namely: Should one American, or group of Americans, have the right to use Congress to force one American to toil for another's benefit? What Congress is doing violates all principles of moral conduct, not to mention the 13th Amendment, which reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States."