Walter E. Williams, on the federal income tax:
During the legislative debate before enactment of the 16th Amendment, Republican President William Taft and congressional supporters argued that only the rich would ever pay federal income taxes. In fact, in 1913, only one-half of 1 percent of income earners were affected. Those earning $250,000 a year in today's dollars paid 1 percent, and those earning $6 million in today's dollars paid 7 percent. The 16th Amendment never would have been enacted had Americans not been duped into believing that only the rich would pay income taxes. It was simply a lie to exploit American gullibility and envy.
I believe it was either last year, or possibly in the spring of this year, when conservatives got their panties in a knot over how 49% of all taxpayers paid no income taxes (though, funnily enough, all taxpayers still paid their FICA and other payroll taxes). The theory was that there would arise a class of professional voters, who would simply elect officials to pay take money from the rich and give it to the more-deserving poor, of which said professional voters just so happened to be a part.
The reality appears to be a bit different, at least historically speaking. When the income tax was first enacted, it only applied to the rich, who comprised 0.5% of the population. Thus, the percentage of the population paying the income tax increased 100-fold over 98 years to 51%. If the theory of professional voters were true, the percentage of taxpayers should have at least remained stable (or even decreased) while the tax rates should have remained stable or increased. Reality, as it were, is markedly different.
In spite of all the attempts at class warfare in the last one hundred or so years, the poor still get screwed over by the rich. This is probably because there is a strong correlation between a general form of stupidity and poverty,* as well as a strong correlation between wealth and general intelligence. In essence, the wealthy are generally intelligent enough to figure out how to make things work to their advantage (hence their wealth). If one is cunning enough to convince people to buy something they don’t need, it seems plausible that one could also sell someone a political policy that works to their disadvantage.
The historical norm has been that poor people pay quite a bit in taxes, and the wealthy are often the beneficiaries of those taxes (think of the feudal system as a general model of this). The idea that those who are intelligent enough to become quite wealthy won’t also be intelligent enough to protect their wealth is, quite frankly, absurd, and the idea that somehow the poor will manage to “reappropriate” wealth from the rich is even more absurd.
* Two quick notes: a lack of education generally correlates to stupidity, which in turn correlates to lower income (as evidence by the myriad statistics showing that high school dropouts earn less than those with a high school diploma, bachelor’s degree, etc.) Also, shorter time horizons also correlate to stupidity as well.