Tuesday night’s CNN/New York Times debate of the Democratic presidential candidates was filled with propositions to radicalize American society, from confiscation of law-abiding citizens’ guns to adopting Canada’s single-payer health system but somehow “we’re going to do better than the Canadians do,” as Sen. Bernie Sanders promised without extrapolating, to imprisoning executives of companies that pioneer life-saving medicines.
But, astonishingly, it also showcased casual discussion of the federal government adopting policies that would stab the Constitution of the United States in the heart – in particular those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“Understand,” she said. “Taxing income is not going to get you where you need to be the way taxing wealth does.”
Warren once again would not answer whether or not her version of Medicare For All, likely to cost at least $32 trillion – with a T – over a decade, would require middle class tax increases. Yet at the same time, she isn’t shy about proposing an entirely new frontier in taxation: the government going after not just your paycheck but your bank account and nest egg.
According to Marx, “communism is the positive expression of annulled private property” – annulled because of what Marxists believe property to be: “Private property is the result of alienated labor. Private property is also the means by which labor is alienated.”
“The rich are not like you and me,” Warren said. “The really, really billionaires are making their money off their accumulated wealth, and it just keeps growing. We need a wealth tax in order to make investments in the next generation” – “investments” being a euphemism for lots more government spending. Warren would swipe 2% annually out of fortunes exceeding $50 million, plus 1% on wealth over $1 billion.
Many of her rivals were little better. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, “I’m all for a wealth tax.” Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer bragged, “I was one of the first people on this stage to propose a wealth tax.” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, “It could work. I am open to it.”
Taxing Assets Vs. The Bill Of Rights Protecting Property
It could “work” except for one rather large obstacle standing in its way: that document the Framers forged inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1787, and its Bill of Rights ratified by the states four years later.
The Constitution protects private property from the greedy hand of government. The Fourth Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” – i.e. their property – from search not based on reasonable suspicion of a crime. The Fifth Amendment assures that “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
So when the government builds a highway through your land (because a highway has to go through some unlucky person’s land), it isn’t allowed to steal your land; it has to pay you its fair market value as compensation. Of Warren’s wealth tax, Heritage Foundation research fellow Joel Griffith warns: “seizing this private property without just compensation would clearly violate the Fifth Amendment Takings Clause.”
The Constitution prohibited even an unapportioned direct tax on income until the 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913.
When it was his turn, tech guru Andrew Yang rebutted Warren with the practical point that a wealth tax was “tried in Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, and all those countries ended up repealing it because it had massive implementation problems and did not generate the revenue that they’d projected.”
The Democrats on the Westerville, Ohio, stage complained of “unfettered capitalism” despite a Federal Register exceeding 60,000 pages. Warren calls her Marxist confiscation of private assets “accountable capitalism.”
She can call socialism capitalism as much as she wants. Fortunately for the American people, the Bill of Rights protects property, and as long as we have federal courts left that follow the Constitution as written, a far left president will be prevented from engaging in such outright theft disguised as taxation.
By Thomas McArdle at Issues & Insights — a new site launched by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page.