When new laws are passed, they supercede previous ones. Historically in American and most laws in the world save for the worst of third-world nations ruled by tin-pot dictators, laws are generally ‘grandfathered’ in, meaning that if a change happens to a law, those who were in a previous state before the law are not affected by the new changes, and they are only responsible for making changes after the law passes. Rarely is a law ‘retroactive’, or that people in a previous state are responsible for past behavior. While there is a place for ‘retroactive’ laws, there are only select cases where they are necessary, and must be used with care.
As the US has turned away from the ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ promised and instead inclines to the behavior that she often criticized in the ‘old world’, there seems to be an increasing trend for ‘retroactive’ laws. One of these trends was just reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said that New York State lawmakers are considering a ‘retroactive’ tax on wealthy New Yorkers.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, told reporters Monday he wants to increase rates during a December session so they can take effect starting in 2021. He is in talks about the matter with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who are also Democrats.
A state official familiar with the negotiations said senators are pushing to make higher rates retroactive to some earlier point in 2020. This would raise revenue to avoid up to $8 billion in unspecified cuts to education and social-service funding that state lawmakers authorized in April as a placeholder in the current $178 billion budget. That spending plan was contingent on additional federal funding that hasn’t materialized.
Ms. Stewart-Cousins’s team is willing to impose new levies on New Yorkers reporting $2 million or more in annual income, the state official said. Another official familiar with the talks said Assembly negotiators are willing to increase taxes on people reporting annual income of at least $1 million.
Just over half of the roughly $50 billion New York collects each year of personal income taxes is paid by 188,000 tax filers—the highest-earning 2% of the state’s tax base, according to the state budget office. (source)
If a retroactive tax is done, it will likely not stop there. Since taxation is a major field which affects all people due to economics and money, it could easily be used to justify retroactive approaches in other cases. The main use I am thinking about right now is with ‘copyright’ laws, since that is currently a hotly debated topic and many people are expecting to see many changes to these laws that potentially jeopardize basic concepts such as the right to ‘freedom of speech’ online.
It would be a disaster, akin to a burning of the libraries of Alexandria, to have a retroactive ‘copyright protection’ measure imposed on the Internet because there is so much that was used, knowingly or not, for so many years by so many people that the only way to enforce a universal ‘copyright’ claim would be to essentially shut down the Internet and rebuild a new one where all people have their information ‘pre-screened’ before going online. Think Chinese social credit system but for the Internet.
This would absolutely kill freedom of speech because people would be terrified to say anything, since the chance they would get reported or prosecuted would be real. Why say anything in that case? It would be a complete, perverse inversion of all that the Internet was meant to be, destroying the great work of billions of people and all in the name of power and control.
Sometimes retroactive laws are needed. Most of the times they are not, and when they are used, they can justify trends that many did not expect to see but still happen, and leave the people who supported them in a worse position than what they were in before.
But as far as New York is concerned, expect the trend of high earners fleeing New York to any other state to continue, and the city to grow poorer, for who wants to continually pay taxes while getting little to nothing in return?