Using the Power to Destroy us Through Taxation for 200 Years

“Follow the money” is catchphrase popularized by the 1976 motion picture All the President’s Men about the Watergate break-in and cover-up aftermath that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Screenwriter William Goldman attributed the phrase to Deep Throat, the informant who took part in revealing the Watergate Scandal.  Follow the money’s not just about payoffs and bribes; it’s mostly about judicial and governmental tyranny.

Governments are all about power and money. People with power want money, and people with money want power. Almost every political decision that has ever been made can often be reduced to (1) who benefits monetarily and (2) who benefits with more power and authority over other people. That’s why our founders tried to limit the power and taxing authority of the national government with a Constitution.

The Robert’s ruling on Obamacare did not overturn two centuries of fiscal restraint; it continued a long history of fiscal tyranny by finding powers in the Constitution that aren’t there.

A month after the 1819 Dartmouth College v. Woodward decision, the Marshall Court handed down an even more important ruling in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland. The case came about after Maryland had levied a tax upon the Baltimore branch of the Bank of the United States. The two main issues of the case were whether or not Congress had the right to establish a national bank, and whether a state had the power to tax or regulate an institution created by the federal government.

The phrase “the power to tax is the power to destroy” came out of that decision. It was used by Daniel Webster (1782-1852), who in arguing the case said, “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy.” (17 U.S. 327 [1819]). In his decision, Chief Justice Marshall wrote: “That the power of taxing it [the bank] by the States may be exercised so as to destroy it, is too obvious to be denied” (p. 427), and “That the power to tax involves the power to destroy … [is] not to be denied” (p. 431).

Marshall conceded that the Constitution contained no specific authorization to charter a bank. Nevertheless, he claimed that there were “implied powers” which permitted it to carry out the broader objectives for which the nation had been founded. Thus, Marshall’s loose construction of the Constitution gave the national government broad powers as Alexander Hamilton had once argued that it should have, and that Thomas Jefferson had once vigorously opposed.

On the second issue, Marshall stated his famous opinion that the power to tax involves the power to destroy. He asserted that the national government was supreme because the American people “did not design to make their government dependent on the states.” Many Americans, including most living in the South, disagreed. They believed that the Constitution did not take away sovereignty from the states. The debate would intensify over the next four decades until a victory by the Union army in the War Between the States settled the issue in favor of a strong central government at the expense of state sovereignty.

The Robert’s decision should not have surprised us. The courts have been acting contrary to the Constitution that they took an oath to uphold for nearly 200 years.