Once in the White House, George W. Bush made it clear that he wasn't about to abandon his plan for a massive tax cut. And while the debaters are already sharpening their tongues for the introduction of a tax-cut measure into the House, behind the scenes a drama is playing out which theoretically could cut the income tax all the way to zero.

As I mentioned in my log earlier this month, a lawsuit has been filed against Mike Hunter, Oklahoma's Secretary of State, by one William J. Benson of South Holland, Illinois, who argues that the state's announced ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorizes the Federal income tax, is null and void. Mr Benson's petition points out that a minor change was made in the text of the Amendment as approved by the Oklahoma legislature, and argues that the states cannot do this sort of thing; whatever it was the legislature voted upon, it wasn't the Amendment as proposed by Congress, and therefore the state has not in fact ratified it, and the Secretary of State must duly issue a proclamation to this effect.

A technicality, to be sure, but what is the law, if not a laundry list of technicalities? Mr Benson apparently has looked into the ratification details of all of the states involved, and his conclusion, published in a two-volume set called The Law That Never Was, is that there are enough discrepancies in the ratification process — not just in Oklahoma, but in virtually every state — to prove that the Sixteenth Amendment was never properly ratified at all, and therefore is not actually part of the Constitution. Which means, inevitably, that the entire Federal income tax structure must come tumbling down.

It won't, of course, at least not without a fight; the Establishment's first priority is to remain Established. Toward this end, tax protesters and other soi-disant "patriots" in this country have long been lumped with the sloping skulls on the far right, and, truth be told, some of them clearly belong there. But Mr Benson is steering clear of shilling for muskets and Jesus; he is focusing on the legal details, and he's brought basketfuls of precedents to support his arguments. Doing this one state at at a time is a slow process, but I rather think that if Benson v. Hunter succeeds, other states will reexamine their own contributions to the situation on their own. And if the Amendment is eventually scrapped, I'd love to see it rewritten and resubmitted to the states, just to hear the laughter.

The Vent

#230
25 January 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill