Civilized life is not possible without adequate government. Yet government itself can be the greatest of social evils. The historic struggle of man to be free has been essentially an effort to subdue the State.
His first notable success came with establishment of the United States of America — a decentralized republican form of government under a Constitution designed to protect the rights of the people, a system so arranged that its powers could not be used to exploit or enslave them.
It was undoubtedly the greatest political advance in the history of the world. and the Republic so founded — for a century and a half — was a model of freedom for the world, and a haven of opportunity for its citizens.
It seems incredible that a people so blessed should allow either the word or the spirit of that great Constitution to be debauched or destroyed. But, if we face the truth, we must admit that attempts to destroy it are gaining force while the majority of the people stand idly by, either in apathy or frustration.
Samuel B. Pettengill, former Indiana congressman who addressed two civic groups in the Palm Beaches recently, raised the vital question of whether the American people were not, in fact, facing the "twilight" of their Republic. And he offered documented evidence to indicate that they are.
Why? Simply because the American people have abandoned the system of government which made their nation outstanding. They have allowed themselves to be led, bribed, conned, frightened, cajoled, and pushed away from a system of individual initiative and free enterprise into the wasting disease that is the "welfare state."
Some also call it the "nursemaid state," but both terms are synonymous with socialism — the gospel of Karl Marx.
It Has Happened Here!
Socialism in America? It can’t happen here! — we have been told, and are still being told, by many of our political leaders. But, says Mr. Pettengill, it not only can happen here — it HAS happened!
Government ownership of industry is socialism. And when the federal government of the United States takes 52 per cent of the profits of a corporation in the form of income taxes, it "owns" — in effect — 52 per cent of the shares of that corporation. It need not actually own the cow, if it gets the milk — and it does.
If you have any income, the government owns a "share" of you, too. Depending on the amount of your earnings, the federal government will demand from 20 per cent to 91 per cent of it to finance its ever-expanding operations.
This income tax not only is evidence of the existence of socialism in America; it is the crack in the Constitution through which socialism slithered into the "land of the free," and it is the trough at which "big government" swells and grows fat.
History may record that the "twilight" of the American Republic began in 1913 when the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, authorizing the federal government to levy an income tax, "from whatever source derived without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
That amendment was the first grant of unlimited power ever conferred on the federal government. There is nothing now in "the law of the land" to prevent its being used to legally confiscate ALL of incomes over a certain amount —or, for that matter, ALL incomes.
Enforcement procedures of this law have reversed the basic American principle that man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Anyone suspected of evading payment of federal income taxes is presumed to be guilty, until he can prove his innocence — if he can.
And perhaps even more important, in its effect on the American system of government, the income tax law has provided the weapon by which all Constitutional limits on the powers of the central government may be wiped out.
It is axiomatic that "the power to tax is the power to destroy." Marx recognized it. In his Communist Manifesto he advocated the steeply graduated income tax as an instrument for social revolution.
The Great Tax Swindle
It is being used as such an instrument in these United States. Says Mr. Pettengill: "Modern governments… tax away the earnings of their people, and then dole some of it back to them in subsidies, gifts, grants in aid, and the award of huge government contracts. By this process they become the masters of men, and cease to be their servants."
The historic relationship is reversed. Instead of government coming to the people for its support, the people come to the government for their support. The great "power of the purse," by which representatives of this nation’s taxpayers once held the executive branch in check, has passed into the hands of a political Santa Claus. And this Santa Claus does not carry a bag — the taxpayers are left holding it.
The more money a government has to spend, the more it spends; and the more it needs — to consolidate its power over those who must come to it as beggars. In the name of "emergency" and under increased demands for more and more "benefits," the government lives beyond even its swollen income, amasses an enormous debt. And, imbued with the philosophy of the Welfare State, the government tends to become of, by, and for pressure groups.
The promise of cradle-to-grave security weakens economic incentive, tends to make men financially irresponsible and reduce them to the moral level of dependent children. Why should a man struggle to provide for himself, to lay something by for a "rainy day" to protect his family from want, when a paternal state promises to do those things for him?
The desire for "security" replaces the desire for opportunity, which is the mark of a vigorous. liberty-loving people. But even though the citizens of a Welfare State give up their liberties one by one for the protection of a paternalistic government, where is their security?
The Death of Security
The tax-and-spend program of such a government is inevitably accompanied by its twin — inflation. And inflation is the death of security.
Escalator clauses in labor union contracts give a worker a certain precarious security during his productive years. But what happens to his life insurance policies, his government bonds, his bank savings, his pension, his social "security" benefits — on which he must depend to provide for the sunset years?
A big chunk of them are stolen by inflation — stolen by a government whose policies breed and foster inflation. It has been estimated that during the period from 1945-1951, inflation caused purchasing power losses of $123 billion on savings bonds, time deposits in banks, and life insurance policies alone. That is approximately 65 times the losses incurred by depositors in banks in the years 1921-1933.
One of the surest ways of wrecking a nation’s economy, Mr. Pettengill pointed out, is to debauch its currency. History is replete with instances of this tragedy. For a government to embark on a course which will rob the thrifty, the aged pensioner, the widow, and the orphan by planned inflation is just as immoral as armed robbery on a dark street.
That is what happens when taxation and government spending get out of control, as they obviously have in the United States today. The trend has gone so far that neither Congress nor the people know the full truth about our fiscal affairs. And neither Congress nor the people have control of them. This function has been taken over by the Washington bureaucrats who now wield more power — through their control of where and for what tax monies will be spent — than either our elected representatives or the President.
"Night" Need Not Fall
Certainly all of this sounds like the "twilight" of our Constitutional Republic. But "night" need not fall if Americans awaken to their duties and responsibilities.
Through a program of education, the something-for-nothing philosophy that has been spreading its blight over this nation since the days of the "New Deal" can be shown in its true light, and the principles which made America what it is brought back to respectability.
Our youth — yes, and many of their elders — must be taught the meaning of the Constitution; they must be taught American history; and they must be taught basic economics. In short, they must be taught Americanism, instead of the foreign "isms" that have already made such dangerous inroads.
It CAN happen here!
It can happen that our great Charter of Freedom, the Constitution of the United States of America, be restored to its original purity and strength. And it can happen that freedom and opportunity will be thus reborn to bless our children, and their posterity.
But it can happen only if many Americans, like Mr. Pettengill, refuse to "give up the ship."
Editorial from The Palm Beach Post-Times, April 13, 1958.