Let’s start at the end. The word extorted is spelled with a hammer and sickle in place of the letter x. The hammer and sickle are a well known symbol of Communism. This puzzles me, because in a truly Communist society – as envisioned by Karl Marx – there would be no need to tax anything because the state already owns everything, including all capital. Taxation may occur in modern Communist nations, but taxation is not a Communist idea. This is just another example of somebody using Communism to make an unrelated topic seem un-American. It’s hard to take somebody seriously when they do that.
The meme is clearly referring to the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913, which allows the Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it according to the states’ populations. Let’s say that a state, such as North Carolina, accounts for 3% of the nation’s population. If a tax were apportioned according to North Carolina’s population, then North Carolina would be expected to cough up 3% of the nation’s revenue. Instead, each resident of North Carolina is expected to pay a certain amount of income taxes that are proportional to his or her income. Prior to 1913, there was no provision in the Constitution which allowed for Congress to do this.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t taxes. Of course there were taxes. Despite what tax protestors say, you cannot run a nation without a constant source of revenue, unless your population is content to live as a hunter-gatherer society.
Prior to 1913, the United States gathered money through tariffs (taxes on imports) and excise taxes (sales taxes on specific items, like whiskey). There were also flat taxes levied throughout United States history, perhaps most notably during the Civil War. The problems with these various tax systems were numerous; they took a larger chunk out of poor peoples’ incomes than they did from rich peoples’ incomes, and the poor people from highly populous states might be taxed more than the poor people from the sparser regions. The Sixteenth Amendment allows for progressive taxes; that is, taxes that are (in theory) decided more by what you earn than by where you live. Under this system, a poor person from New York would pay the same amount of taxes as a poor person from North Carolina.
I’m not here to argue that the current US tax system is flawless – far from it – but it’s pure foolishness to think that this nation has ever sustained itself without the financial support of its citizens, nor that it ever will.