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and the state is forced to take over part of the property, taxed in payment, as is being done in Germany to-day, that we have the confiscation of which much is said. The land tax can be made to produce a larger revenue than is at present obtained in America by the adoption of a modification of the single tax as it prevails in England.
The great difficulty with a capital tax lies in fixing the valuation by means of which the tax is computed, since the tax is estimated as a percentage on the fair, or market, value of the property. Our municipal governments spend many millions every year for assessors whose sole duty is to fix with meticulous care the fair valuation for tax purposes of variously situated and variously used lands. In the case of personal property-that is, all movable property-the problem of valuation becomes almost insurmountable. What is the value of machinery, rapidly depreciating, sometimes idle, often obsolescent? What is the value of stock in trade, merchandise, and partly manufactured products when the market price is fluctuating rapidly? Most of our large personal propertyowners are corporations. Therefore, because of these difficulties, in taxing personal property the tendency has been to try to transfer the tax to the stock of the corporation owning the property, and to fix the valuation of that stock by accepting the market values. Such a tax, when imposed on the corporation, has not produced an adequate revenue, and great efforts have been made to tax securities in the hands of the owners. Yet this has worked out unsatisfactorily, because it is easy to conceal stock and bonds which pass so rapidly from hand to hand that any means of check
ing ownership is almost impossible. Therefore our States, in the last decade or two, have come to despair of a possibility of directly taxing personal property and particularly intangible securities, and finally the tendency, which is clearly manifest in all our States to-day, arose of taxing not the personal property or the intangible security itself, but of placing a tax upon the income of the corporation and also upon the income received by the owners of the corporation's stocks and bonds. The drift has been toward the income tax not because of preference, not because of theory, but because of despairing experience and grim necessity.
The only alternative to the capital tax or the income tax is the privilege or excise tax. The government may impose a charge for certain privileges that are conferred by the government, although they seem so natural that one thinks of them as being inherent rights. Corporations can be taxed for their right to exist as such by a capital stock tax. Theaters and amusements can be charged for their right to carry on business by an admission tax. So, too, the privilege of making sales which are enforceable by law can be taxed in the form of a sales tax. Our luxury taxes are familiar enough. At present a sales tax, or some such privilege tax, is being proposed as something new and magical. In fact, the privilege or excise tax is one of the most ancient forms of taxation. Students of the French Revolution always express horror at the tax on windows, an obvious privilege tax. Luxury taxes are effective if wisely applied. Yet they are not of divine origin. They afford no panacea. They carry with them inherent defects. Privilege taxes, in truth,
always have manifested marked limitations and must be applied sparingly and with deft caution.
In judging a privilege tax, one must first determine what requisites a desirable tax must meet. Of course a legion of desired qualities can be thought of. Yet certain fundamental elements can readily be agreed upon. Probably the three outstanding features of a proper tax are: first, it must, as Jacques Necker vigorously insisted, be collectable, and produce a sizable revenue; secondly, it must not be too grave and dangerous an interference with the processes of business; and third, the tax must be apportionable in some manner in order to be a just tax. That is, the state must be free to make the tax-payer contribute in proportion to his ability to pay.
By these requisites privilege taxes soon manifest distinct limitations as compared with a restrained income tax. Since they are a check or a restraint upon proper business functions, privilege taxes, too high or unwisely applied, will interfere with the proper functioning of business. A general sales tax, for example, would impair severely those businesses which are done upon a small profit. Again, the privilege tax, unless it is very carefully adjusted, takes as large a tax from the poor as from the rich. This consideration in a democracy where unrestrained accumulations of wealth are fraught with danger is of greater significance than commonly admitted. Some of these difficulties can be avoided by the careful adjustment of the form of the privilege tax. Yet when these adjustments are worked out, a far-flung sales tax is so complicated and so in
volved as to be well-nigh uncollectable.
If a small income tax on business is insufficient to meet the needs of government, then we shall have to apply privilege taxes of one form or another to supplement our revenue. The only practical form in which these taxes can be applied is that of isolated tax impositions, each yielding a sizable revenue. A tax on automobiles, a higher tax on tobacco, a tax upon bank-checks, upon postage all these privilege taxes, lumped together, may well produce a helpful revenue. The government, in imposing such taxes, will have to adopt the instincts of a fisherman. It must cast its net not in obedience to any fixed theory, but simply using common sense and drawing out wealth in those channels and streams where it is possible to draw out wealth without undue disturbances of business. The government must play the opportunist. Hard theories or methods, carried out to their logically attractive end, must be avoided.
Fundamentally, therefore, the income tax must remain as the basis of both federal and state revenue. The Federal Government, however, must make the federal income tax generously light in order to give the States a chance of reviving by maintaining and supplementing their revenues. Here state and federal fiscal problems crash into each other, and care must be shown by the Federal Government. In the last few years we have come to appreciate the limitations of the income tax and to understand that it cannot be extended beyond its proper scope. And if the limitations of the income tax are not overlooked and too much is not expected of it, the undeniable fact remains that it is by far the best tax that has yet been devised.
A Thing of Beauty
By ADRIANA SPADONI
Drawings by ELIZABETH OLDS
"But, Becky, mebbe somebody 'll
KIN, princest eat it, not this watch her put it away, and they'll
steal it, like they did the diamond
"Kin she wear it, like she did the hat." For his sister's imagination was golden coat?"
"No, she can't wear it, neither. She can't eat it or wear it or hock it. She can't do nothin' with it except look at it. It's jus' pretty."
"O-oh." Ikey turned his little white face to the window and cleaned a fresh spot on its steamed surface.
For a moment Becky's eyes held the rapt look they always had when she summoned the princess for Ikey. Then, with a sigh, she took a coat from the pile on the floor beside her and began swiftly to sew on the buttons. This was the drawback of telling stories to Ikey. She had to return to the coats and sew that much faster.
chained to earth by experience, and the princess usually lost her beautiful things in the end.
"No; don't I tell you nobody's going to find the thing this time. Every time she goes out she locks it up in a ruby box, and if anybody tries to steal it, the fairy godmother 'll turn 'em into a rat and make 'em live in the royal garbage can."
Ikey shivered with delight.
"But she ain't in the palace all the time. When she goes out to git the cake for dinner-"
"Every time she locks the door and hides the key on the firescape in a-in the sacred bird's nest. So there!"
Before this absolute certainty of
"Becky, does her stepmother know precaution Ikey's pessimism vanished. she has it?"
"No; nobody knows, not one, single man or lady. It's her own, and nobody can't ever see it even if she don't let 'em."
But this time Becky did not stop sewing, for she had promised her mother to have the coats finished by supper, and there were still a dozen. Becky's fingers flew, and her short legs, which escaped the floor by a full twelve inches, wound themselves more tightly in the rungs of the chair.
With a long-drawn breath of relief he turned again to the window.
"She can't eat it-nor wear it-nor hock it. It's jus' pretty," he chanted and beat the arms of his chair to the rhythm. Even his useless little legs quivered with the force of his delight. Becky bent low over the coat, sewing furiously.
From the street below came the cries of hucksters, the incessant pleading to buy, buy, buy, anything from a carpet to a button; the old, old chant
of barter that follows the tribes of Judah around the world, enveloping them like a cloud. Wrapped in shapeless garments against the bitter cold, wigged women and sad-eyed, bearded men whined or shrieked the wonder of their wares. In the narrow space between the rows of carts children played in the black snow, dodging with acrobatic agility the thundering trucks whose roar for a moment drowned the cries of the hucksters. But as soon as these had passed, the children were back again, and once more the cries rose, Isaac's high moaning of his caps, "Fine caps of fur, seal fur, and only thirty-five cents. Thirty-five, thirtyfive." Next to him, like an angry spirit escaping bondage from the depths of innumerable coats, Miriam defied the world to produce better pickles. "Pickles, pickles, fine cucumber pickles, not equaled in Kieff itself."
But Ikey neither heard nor saw. He wandered with the princess before the royal treasure of candy and golden toys and clothes, finer even than "the cobwebs we sweep down before Passover," until he stood before the ruby box that held it, the last creation of Becky's longing-something so beautiful, so useless, so unnecessary that words could not describe it.
"Huh?" Becky came with a jerk from dreams of her own as she jabbed the needle through the last button and threw the coat to one side.
"Becky, I guess we can't never see nothin' so beautiful like it, mebbe?"
For a moment Becky did not answer. Then she kicked the coats and said quietly:
"Some day I 'm going to have a thing even if I got to steal it sohelpmegod!"
"Nothin'," Ikey agreed sadly, and looked down at his useless legs. "Sicknesses, mebbe."
Becky came and stood beside him. Hot with resentment against the ugliness of her world, she pressed her face close to Ikey's, against the glass. She had known nothing else all the ten years of her life, and she loathed it as one can only loathe familiar hatreds: the wailings of Isaac, the purple expanse of Miriam's face, the green and scarlet pickles, the fine caps of fur, the mass of striving, living things that filled every spot of space, that clutched and grabbed and forced their wares into your face, never still or at rest, always beating, striving, fighting for something.
With a shudder Becky turned away
supper to Abraham. As she smoothed each coat with quick, reluctant touch, her lips curled in scorn of the harsh cloth.
"I hate you," she muttered, "and some day I ain't going to do you no more. And when Abraham says, 'How many to-day, Becky?' I 'll jus' turn up my nose and say, 'I ain't taking no more coats, Mr. Epstein,' and walk right straight out of the shop."
So vivid was this triumph that, unconsciously, her head went up, her eyes blazed scornful exultation at the stove, which for the moment, was Abraham Epstein himself. Becky saw as clearly as if he had been there before her the amazement in his small black eyes, the thick, gray beard, the outstretched hands seeking an explanation of this extraordinary proceeding. "BECKY!"
With a bound Becky was beside Ikey; but he was not hurt, only trembling with excitement as he pointed down into the street. Between Isaac and Miriam old Giuseppe, the Gentile, had wedged his cart, and now he stood holding high a small white statue of a
"It's a thing!" Ikey whispered. "It 's-her!" whispered Becky. "O Becky, open the winder!" But the window had been safely nailed at the beginning of winter, and Becky struggled in vain.
"Oh, look! Isaac wants him to git out. He's he 's shovin' him! He don't want him to stay there."
Ikey beat futilely on the pane and commanded Isaac in his most forceful Yiddish to leave the old man alone. But Isaac, abetted by Miriam, was shouting and gesticulating at the Gentile who had dared to usurp the place which custom, aided by the
that she was "a swine," Becky had reached the pavement and was forcing her way through the group of excited children watching, at a safe distance, the strange old man who now stood, his eyes closed, muttering weird words that might well have been a Gentile "witch."
"Holy Mary, Mother of God," old Giuseppe was praying, "forgive me that I bring You to sell among these infidels! But Your blessed body is not perfect, and the sons of the true church will not buy. Sell Yourself, Holy One, that old Giusepp' may give a Christmas to the little ones, like the Christmas of America; also a fine candle of wax for Thy altar!"