The dreaded Johnson Amendment is back in the news again after President Trump’s remarks at the recent National Prayer Breakfast. He reminded everyone that he had committed to overturn it as one of his campaign promises. Now, his intention is to follow through with that promise.
Since I have previously explained what the Johnson Amendment is, I won’t plow the same ground twice. The article is available here.
I pointed out that despite candidate Trump’s rhetoric, he really has no authority to repeal the Johnson Amendment on his own. It was part of a bill passed by Congress and signed into law back in the 1950s.
The only thing President Trump can do about the bill is wait for Congress to approve its repeal and then sign it into law. Until then, it is out of his hands.
The problems with the Johnson Amendment go far deeper than 1st Amendment issues, however. They go to the heart of the present government’s philosophy of controlling taxation.
A far better and comprehensive solution to the underlying problems of the Johnson Amendment has already been offered. I discussed it in my book – Yes! We Still Can Turn This Nation Around!:
The surest, quickest way to economic stability and growth is to repeal income and business taxes and replace them with a simple flat, or national sales tax. (I agree with Dr. Walter Williams’ concern in that we must first repeal the income tax amendment or we are in danger of the government having double taxing vehicles.) By taxing consumption rather than production, it brings everyone into the tax system fairly. Rich people will still pay far more in taxes because they buy more stuff than poor people.
Businesses will prosper because the emphasis will be on production rather than avoiding tax liability and regulation compliance. More jobs will be created by this move than all of the combined government jobs’ programs in the entire history of our country! And, best of all, it completely takes the government out of the loop as to which businesses succeed or fail. No more special tax breaks for Senator Smith’s pet projects. No more punitive taxes on businesses that are politically incorrect. No more government bailouts for companies that are run inefficiently. No more government loans to phony green energy companies. No more IRS intimidation of businesses that are on someone’s “enemies’ list.” . . . Yes, putting We The People back in charge of consumption and taxation rather than corrupt entrenched politicians will transform this nation for the better. Think of how much money would be available for all citizens if the government wasn’t this all-consuming fiscal vampire, sucking the life out of us!
But, it requires a complete change in thinking about government spending. Instead of the government deciding how much it wants to spend and taxing us accordingly; we will consume as much as we want and provide the government with the tax money we want it to have. We will decide how big the government can get, not the politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers. They will have to live within our budget, not have us become slaves to theirs! (Hepler. 2016. pp. 158-160)
That’s right. The whole problem of the Johnson Amendment goes away completely if we scrap the income tax and rely on a national sales tax to fund government. There would be no need for IRS supervision of charitable organizations and how they spend their money.
All American consumers would help fund the government with their spending without government interference and political preferences. Churches would pay the same for goods and services as every other consumer in the nation. And, in turn, the government would have no say in how churches raise or spend their money (except for cases of criminal fraud, of course).
Now, some may argue that this will lead to the very abuse the Johnson Amendment was designed to prevent – churches engaging in political activity. Listen, the reality is that many churches today (especially urban minority churches) are already active in Democrat Party politics. Given the 1st Amendment’s guaranteed rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly, in addition to Freedom of Religion, the government has no Constitutional authority to dictate what happens within churches.
If a congregation wishes to become politically active, that should be their right. If people are opposed to doing so, then they can exercise their rights to disavow, disassemble, and/or simply close their pocket books if they disagree what a particular church is doing with its time and their money.
Yes, repealing the income tax and abolishing the IRS and its politically charged draconian enforcement mechanisms would benefit all Americans.
Since most businesses already collect and pay in state sales taxes, adding a federal sales tax and sending it in to Washington will be far less hassle for businesses than all of the current federal tax requirements piled on them today. And, consumers will see absolutely no increase in the price we pay for goods and services.
If businesses can provide goods and services far more cheaply with the government off their backs, the law of supply and demand in an open marketplace will keep prices low. It is a win for all Americans (except for the politicians and lobbyists in Washington, of course!).
Additionally, it will guarantee that all churches and pastors will be free to say whatever they want from their pulpits without ever having to fear government “storm troopers” crashing down doors and hauling off offenders to the “pc” code. The people attending will decide if they like or dislike what they are hearing – again, a self-correcting mechanism that preserves freedom and eliminates most problems.
So, if President Trump really wants to “go big and bold” and drain Washington’s swamp, why doesn’t he get behind the effort to abolish the income tax and the IRS and advocate a national sales tax instead? This really would “make America great again”!