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Friday, November 4, 2011

Prohibition, Income Tax and Pot & What They Have In Common

      Have you ever found something you  had always been told was not true.  It is really scarry when the truth though is harder to believe than the lie.  It happened to me recently. It had always been my understanding that the income tax had been passed by Congress to finance our part in World War I.  Somebody lied to me along the way.  What I discovered was that Taxes, Prohibition and Pot laws all had a common beginning.

      Contrary to what I had been told Income Taxes are covered under the 16th Amendment.  That means not only did Congress pass the law to create taxes but so did at least two thirds of the states.  What were they thinking and how could the American people be finagled into reaching into their own wallets.  My research discovered the power of fanaticism and hypocrisy when manipulated.  They came together in the form of the Prohibition Movement.  Prohibition has deep roots that go clear back to 1657 when the General Court of Massachusetts passed a law making strong liquor illegal.   It did not end with that decision.  In 1789 a group of about 200 Connecticut farmers formed a group called the Temperance Association based on the writings of Benjamin Rush.  His book on "The Effects of the Ardent Spirits on the Human Body and Mind" fueled a movement that in 1826 inspired the formation of the American Temperance Society.  It grew rapidly and ten years later was in most states and had over 1.5 million members.  It started with a pledge to abstain from alcohol, but later it advocated prohibition of any alcohol.  In 1850 the State of Maine voted to become a dry state.  It did not work out and was repealed in 1856.  The battle lines were drawn. After the Civil War the movement had several new groups advocating abolition of alcohol.  The movement was growing when Kansas in 1881 put it in the state Constitution to make Kansas a dry state.  The battle moved on and gathered even more strength.

     They had a problem though.  During the Civil War the government created the requirement to buy a license to make alcohol.  The license cost $20 and the government also put a tax of twenty cents per gallon on alcohol.  By 1862 the alcohol revenues represented 30% of the governments income.  The amount continued to increase after the war and by 1900 the alcohol revenues represented over 70% of the governments income.  This made it really hard for the prohibitionist to push their program.  They realized the only way they could get rid of alcohol was to figure a way to replace the revenue the government would lose.  Over time a plan was hatched and the prohibition movement pushed for a national income tax.  They evidently had great zeal as they managed to get the 16th Amendment passed.  The amendment was proposed in July 2009 and ratified by the states by February 1913 which means it was completely done before World War I had even started.  End if that myth.

     Once the ball got rolling the period of 1910 to 1920 saw four amendments passed.  The 17th Amendment concerned the direct election of Senators.  They had been selected by state legislatures until then.  The 18th was Prohibition.  It was passed by not giving the details of how it would be enforced.  The activists argued it would simply close the bars.  However when the Volsted Act which enacted the amendment was passed, even though it was vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson,  it was much more sweeping and banned all alcohol.  The exceptions were medical and wine for church communion services.  Most Americans know the consequences of the Amendment and that it was eventually repealed.  One irony is that the Income Tax was used to catch one of the biggest criminals of the Prohibition Period.  Eventually America realized that the program was not working and that you could not legislate morality.  In December 1933 the law was repealed and liquor started to flow again.

    So the next time you pay your income taxes you can thank the Prohibitionists that not only bought you the Income Tax, but also got pot banned in America.  It was already illegal before prohibition.  After Prohibition new laws were passed to make it a controlled substance.  I learned this from a conversation I had with my grandfather back in the mid 60's.  He lived through the period and he said smoking pot was very popular during prohibition. In fact it was so popular that after Prohibition ended the alcohol companies were not getting their business back.  Having learned few things from the Prohibitionists the alcohol companies lobbied to get pot made illegal so they could get their business back.  So now you know why you pay taxes and why pot is illegal.

     Just for the record the only winner in the deal was the Federal Government.  They got to keep the Income Tax in effect after Prohibition ended.  They also got the liquour taxes back.   Seems like the average citizen got it from both sides on that little bit of political finagling.  This does not help anybody, but it at least lets those interested know how the system works.  If you want change in the government it can happen, but it takes a lot of work over a lot of time with a lot of focus.  It also proves Americans can be talked into about anything.  I mean, like, why would you vote to tax yourself? DUH!!!!!!!!!

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