April 15th Wasn’t Always Tax Day

by Anita on April 15, 2011

Tax Day has rolled around again. Actually, this year our tax returns aren’t due until Monday, April 18, but this is the traditional day when Americans feel the bite of state and federal taxes. Have Americans always paid taxes in this way? Of course not. Before Franklin Roosevelt became president, only a small percentage of Americans paid any income tax at all.

During the 1930s, FDR “grew” the federal government by adding agency upon agency. Never mind that his programs by and large did not lower unemployment; instead, the huge expenditures increased the national debt, but he won votes by ladling the money to key districts during election years.

By the spring of 1941, FDR and Congress were also looking for a way to pay for the country’s defense. Roosevelt had skimped on spending for military preparedness during his first two terms, and our fighting men were not equipped for combat. Europe had been at war for about eighteen months, and the U.S. not only needed weapons for its own Army, but we were also sending all kinds of military supplies through Lend-Lease to Great Britain (and eventually China, Russia, and many other countries).

FDR and his Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau were on the prowl for ways to increase tax revenues during 1941. But it would take the national crisis after the country declared war on Japan and then Germany in December 1941 to give FDR the clout to tax additional millions of Americans each year through higher rates on smaller incomes. By the spring of 1942, FDR and Morgenthau had successfully pulled U.S. citizens into paying the first mass tax in our history.

Hollywood is also commemorating this Tax Day by releasing the movie version of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged,” which portrays the problems of economic collapse even while the government expands dramatically. Let’s hope that American citizens are awakening to the dangers of over-taxation, over-regulation, and too much debt. The United States does not have to go the way of Rand’s classic tale. We can still turn this country around through limited government, accountability, and lower taxes.

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