100 YEAR ANNIVERSARIES FOR 2013
We have three important anniversaries coming up that were of vital importance in the governing of this country. They were laws that took years of work by politicians over all of the 48 states. People are generally resistant to change, but through the past 100 years a large portion of our population has been grateful for the passing of these laws.
Many may recall learning about the two Constitutional Amendments and the Act mentioned in this piece, but probably not much discussion about them in their years in schools. Usually there is not enough time to explain what they do and why they were needed.
First I will talk about the 16 th Amendment to the Constitution which was the Income Tax. The Socialist Workers had advocated a graduated Income tax in 1887. The Populist Party demanded "graduated income tax" on its platform in 1892. The Democratic Party led by William Jennings Bryan advocated an income tax in 1894.
36 states finished ratifying the Income Tax Amendment on February 3, 1913. Six more ratified after that and two never considered it. After passing Congress it was signed into law by President Wilson. In 1913 about one percent of the population had to pay and that was on only one percent of their income. There were generous exemptions and deductions. Persons thinking they would like to do away with the income tax should think how they would like much more tax on everything they buy or on transactions and services.
The 17 th Amendment transferred Senatorial Elections from State Legislatures to popular election by people of the state. The Senate fiercely resisted the change to the direct elections in 1913. Recently Justice Scalia said that the decline of states' rights can be traced to the Amendment. However, no fewer than 14 seats remained vacant between 1890 and 1900. In 1912 the leading historian, George Haynes, wrote that legislative election of senators "led to assaults, fist fights and threats of organized attack and resistance."
For some thirty years a grass-roots campaign worked to get approval for the direct elections. The Senate refused to approve it in 1910. However, the next Congress (1912) ratified the 17 th Amendment taking less than 11 months (one of the fastest in history). The date was May 31, 1913
As for right-wing objections still around today, some people believe there would be less progressivism if the legislature still appointed the senators to Congress. However, most believe that the state governments do not have a right to control Congress.
The Federal Reserve Act was also passed on December the 23 rd , 1913. It served to stabilize our banking system because all of the banks were absorbed into a national system. Greater flexibility in use of credit and a new type of currency was authorized. This was supposed to serve as a safeguard against speculation.
My suggestions to commemorate the two amendments and the Act passed in 1913. In memory of all those who worked so hard on the 16 th Amendment, I think we should work to get a better and more usable tax code and dedicate it to those who were a part of that action. As for the 17 th Amendment, we should work to honor our previous senators by eliminating all possibility of filibusters in the U.S. Senate.
There was a panic in 1907 which made it necessary to get the Federal Reserve Act together and put it to use. Work on improving the federal money system should be continued by the applicable committees of our governing bodies.
A century ago we were in a period of progressive activism. The churches, schools, newspapers all worked for government reforms and the lessening of corruption in local and national life. Perhaps the recognition of what happened in that era could be looked at by the progressive sides of both political parties. Moving backwards as so many in the Republican party seem to want to do is not an acceptable choice.