The federal income tax celebrates its 100th birthday this month. With so few fans of the tax in and outside Washington, few are likely to celebrate.
But maybe we should.
The income tax was once quite popular. In fact, it was farmers in the South and the West, small-business owners and middle-class consumers — people who might belong to the tea party today — who put the income tax on the national agenda.
After the Civil War, the federal government relied on a combination of consumption taxes and high tariffs to raise revenue. Both bore most heavily on regular people while doing little to tap the fortunes of the Gilded Age’s robber barons.