So let me get this straight: Woodrow Wilson as president was so strong and powerful that he reached back in his time machine and got all 40 of those states to ratify, before his inauguration. Do I have that about right?
So how is it that so many conservatives get this so wrong?
It's because the amendment was finalized in 1913, in part. How vacuous is that? Its easy to point to the year and dissemble about the rest.
The real reason why, I suspect, is because any amount of research leads to Theodore Roosevelt. You don't even have to scratch the surface with anything more tough than a piece of balsa wood and TR's name comes popping out. There are a lot of people who want to do something about progressivism, but they become ardent progressivism defenders once the facts get presented. But this one guy, he has a license for big government. It's the strangest contradiction.
Let's get to the history. There were two efforts to get an income tax within a roughly 10 year period, but the first one failed in a court case so I will primarily focus on the second.
With the failure of the first income tax in the 1895 Pollock case, the progressives let a little time pass so as to let people get lulled back to sleep. The progressives will often times do that - they never give up on their ideas because of course progressivism is perfect, they'll just come back again later when you are convinced it is over. Following that 12 year period of time, the first time Roosevelt talked about the income tax that I am aware of was in his 1907 State of the Union address. That's not an obscure speech. He said:
When our tax laws are revised the question of an income tax and an inheritance tax should receive the careful attention of our legislators. In my judgment both of these taxes should be part of our system of Federal taxation.
Interesting. Not only did TR support the income tax, but I just learned something brand new today. Theodore Roosevelt also supported the death tax.
Theodore Roosevelt's presidency concluded in 1908, and hishand picked successor William Howard Taft, continued TR's drive for the income tax by giving a major speech in 1909 which kicked off the move for the 16th amendment. After that, the states started their ratifications in the second half of 1909. During the 1912 presidential campaign and while the states were still individually ratifying the amendment, Roosevelt repeatedly spoke in support for the income tax.
The two most notable moments during the campaign (likely) were the inclusion of the graduated tax in the 1912 progressive party platform, Roosevelt's party, and in what is most likely Roosevelt's best known and perhaps important speech: The New Nationalism.(1912)
So, the point is this: History and the facts force us to blame progressive republicans for the 16th amendment in general and Theodore Roosevelt in particular. He was the first president to push for it, the first former president to push for it, the first presidential candidate to push for it, and it was his hand picked successor who got the ball rolling in congress. Wilson, a guy who doubled down on nearly all of Roosevelt's big government proposals and policies, came into office four days after the entire multi-year cause(1907-1913) would come to a successful end.
Four days. Yeah, it's clearly Wilson's fault. There's no love lost for Wilson around here, check my archives. But we have GOT to get the history correct. Wilson does not own this one, Roosevelt does.