Opinion: Taxes paid by Americans

Fmr. Sen. George Nodland, R-Dickinson, shares his take on taxes.

Fmr. Sen. George Nodland, R-Dickinson

Congress and the President are working on an infrastructure bill that would increase federal taxes paid by business and individuals to pay for the increased spending they propose. How far can they go before the people reject the increase in taxes and how much federal debt can our country incur before we become bankrupt?

In looking back on the history of federal taxes in the United States, there are many taxes that were not established in the beginning of our country and some that were increased and decreased over time. The country did not need any federal government programs as the states took care of their own needs. The Constitution gives the power to the Congress to impose taxes to the general public. The first income tax was established during the Civil War. Excise taxes on goods and services were established after the Revolutionary War fought against Great Britain. Corporate income Taxes were enacted in 1909.The federal income tax was enacted in 1913. The estate tax was created in 1916.

Multiple taxes were created in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Most of the federal taxes were created at that time including the estate tax, gift tax, and Social Security tax. This was caused by the Great Depression and the federal government felt it needed to create taxes to get the country out of recession and people back to work and the economy growing again. The alternative minimum tax was created in 1978.

The so-called federal “sin taxes” were created to tax items consumed by the citizens. These taxes were created after the Revolutionary War to pay back the debts of the war. Federal gasoline tax was created in 1932 by President Hoover. (The tax then was one cent per gallon). Capital gains tax was created in 1913 and dividend taxes were created in 1936.

There have also been a few rebellions of taxes. People destroyed three shiploads of British tea because of excessive taxes. In 1773, Alexander Hamilton’s proposed excise tax on alcohol prompted the Whisky Rebellion in Pennsylvania. The Tea Party movement of 2009 was started to lower federal government taxes and reduce the federal government size. The movement had some major impact on the federal government for a few years, but seems to have lost it’s effect in the last few years.


The states also have many different types of taxes together with the federal government. Income tax, sales tax, real estate tax, excise tax and gift tax are just a few. Each county, city, and school district also have taxes added to the states and federal government.

I understand the reason for taxes, as I am a former county commissioner and state senator. We need to provide the basic services such as law enforcement, fire protection, roads and bridges, and water and sewer infrastructure. But, I feel we have gone overboard on taxes. Many of these services are more than we need to sustain the public’s protection and basic needs. The federal government has mandated programs that are not needed and have caused the state, county, schools, and cities to raise taxes to implement the programs. How far will the federal government go before the people revolt and refuse to pay the Piper!

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