The American Revolution wasn't fought over a tax on tea. King George III sought to impose a 3-5% income tax on the Colonists. Americans refused to pay the taxes so he sent an army to enforce his will. For eight years the Americans and British fought each other killing, maiming, destroying property, sinking ships...just over a 3-5% tax! Over the intervening years, someone has found a bloodless way to accomplish what King George couldn't.
When you volunteer to pay your taxes each year (and each paycheck), you can thank Walt Disney and his duck, Donald. The US Government used them to convince people that they were taxpayers, even though the law did not make them so. Once upon a time, there was virtually no income tax. Only nonresident aliens and US citizens not living in one of the States had to pay taxes and then only after they had earned over $20,000, the equivalent of nearly $350,000 in 2002. The tax rate was only 1% up to 7% on incomes above $500,000 ($6 million or so today). Very few people were subject to the tax in the first place -- only about 1% of the wealthiest Americans were originally required to file. In 1942 things changed even though the law and the Constitution hadn't.
Following Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war the US government needed additional revenue to pay for the war effort. Congress had given away much of the government's usual means of financing itself, printing its own money, when it created the Federal Reserve in 1913. For 29 years Americans had paid taxes voluntarily, but for Constitutional reasons that prohibited a direct tax on the people, not even 11 percent of us had to pay the income tax at that time. So Congress had enacted into law the Victory Tax Act of 1942, which included automatic withholding from wages. This was a direct tax on income that ran counter to Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, wherein it requires that direct taxes be apportioned to the several states, not citizens directly. Therefore it was unconstitutional. The Roosevelt Administration tried to legitimize these new laws by citing Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 of the Constitution: "To support Armies but no apportionment for money to that use shall be a longer term than 2 years." The Supreme Court had already been ruled that the 16th Amendment had not changed the Constitution regarding taxation.
This new legislation gave Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau two voluntary income taxes for which he needed to obtain the voluntary compliance of US citizens. In December 1942, Morgenthau decided to use a propaganda film to encourage Americans to volunteer to pay the Victory Tax by making the income tax a patriotic duty. Walt Disney was called.
In those days there was no television for entertainment. The only propaganda medium the government could use to reach the public were films at movie theaters. Going to the movies was big back then and people usually went to the movies nearly every week. Disney was told that the Roosevelt Administration wanted him to "help us sell people on paying the income tax." Walt questioned why the government didn't simply prosecute the people who did not pay the income tax. He was told, "Walt, we want people to be enthusiastic about paying their taxes." Disney didn't realize that being unconstitutional the income tax could not be used to jail American citizens for non-payment. That was then. [Sigh!]
Walt returned to Hollywood with a six-week deadline to make a short animated film and get it into the theaters by February 1943.
Before nearly every movie throughout WW II, the Disney cartoon was shown before the feature. The story line begins with Donald Duck reluctant to pay income taxes. Listening to a radio broadcast about taxes, Donald came to understand that paying "his" income tax would help win the war. With his mind newly programmed, Donald quickly fills out his tax return, and races to Washington to deliver his tax return himself.
Disney's Donald Duck cartoon feature, The New Spirit, was approved, and Disney rushed to get it ready for distribution in four weeks.
Donald's declaration of "Taxes to beat the Axis" trumpeted the patriotic sloganeering to pay taxes as a responsible American. By the end of the war, the US Treasury estimated that nearly half of the US population had seen the film, and a Gallup Poll claimed that voluntary participation in the income tax increased 37 percent.
Although this unconstitutional law was renewed in 1944 and was to expire at the end of the war, it still remains in effect today in the Internal Revenue Code, section 3402, subtitle C - Wage and Employment Tax, not the "Income" Tax. The constitutionality of this direct tax on income has never been challenged by Americans. The powerful propaganda developed in the imagery and appeal to civic duty to fight an evil and powerful enemy made it impossible to question the tax without being branded a traitor.
Americans have become complacent about the Constitution and our freedom from government oppression because we were flim-flammed by cartoons! Or our parents were flim-flammed. They were simply told that it was for our own good. Most people only become taxpayers by volunteering to file a tax report or withholding form. The IRS won't tell you the truth. It's not their job. They work for a private corporation that benefits by our ignorance.
So as you volunteer to struggle with your taxes to pay for the bailout of the bankers and brokers on Wall Street, remember that Donald Duck talked you or your parents into volunteering to pay for it all. The idea of convincing you and other Americans to volunteer to pay taxes for which you are not required by law to pay is subtle and effective. You've been flim-flammed by a 'toon!