Elizabeth Warren Calls Reporter’s Concerns Over A Wealth Tax As A “Bluff”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) was back on the airways this week touting her signature “wealth tax” in a sharp exchange with CNBC’s “Closing Bell” host Sarah Eisen. I have previously written about the constitutional concerns over a true wealth (as opposed to an income) tax, the exchange concerned the impact of a tax on the most wealthy. Warren ridiculed the notion of the wealthy leaving the country as a mere “bluff” meant to deter her and others from forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share.

A wealth tax has long been a rallying cry for Democrats. During the Democratic primary, I wrote about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his “eat the rich” pitch for votes. He pledged to “tax the hell out of the rich.”   Recently, de Blasio added that he viewed the public schools as a tool for wealth redistribution and not just education:  “I’d like to say very bluntly our mission is to redistribute wealth. A lot of people bristle at that phrase. That is, in fact, the phrase we need to use.”

The wealth tax however has been the focus of Warren’s campaigns. She has the support of academics like Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman who assured Warren that such a tax would be constitutional. In a Slate column entitled “Constitutional Critiques of Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax Proposal Are Absurd,” Ackerman dismisses any possible constitutional challenge and made reference to my earlier Washington Post column. As I have previously said, there are good-faith arguments on both sides of this issue and the outcome is likely to be a close vote. However, Ackerman reduction of countervailing arguments to absurdity not only omits key arguments but creates an incomplete account of the case against such a wealth tax. The “absurdity” of such a view is shared by a range of experts and law professors. Erik M. Jensen, the Coleman P. Burke Professor Emeritus of Law at Case Western Reserve University, analyzed the constitutionality of the proposal as concluded “at best, the wealth tax would be constitutional problematic.” Harvard Professor Noah Feldman concluded that it would be close question and would likely come down to Roberts’ vote. Chicago Law Professor Daniel Hemel also thought it would be close with a swing vote likely by Roberts. Michael Graetz, a professor of tax law at Columbia University, concluded “I think a constitutional challenge to an actual tax on wealth is inevitable.That it would fail does not seem to me to be obvious.” Brian Galle, a Georgetown professor at Georgetown Law, noted, as I did, that the absence of a transaction to tax would present a problem in a constitutional challenge. He added that, while he disagreed with earlier rulings of the Court like Pollock, “the Supreme Court doesn’t think that Pollock was wrong.”  He added that Warren’s academic supporters did not reveal the full strength of arguments against such a tax under the Constitution.

The problem is the text of Article I, Section 8 which permits Congress to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises.” However, it requires that these “be uniform throughout the United States.” The next section says that “no capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” A wealth tax by any measure is a “direct tax.” As I noted in my column, there are various contributing factors for this language from the infamous “Three-Fourths compromise” to early forms of taxation to a desire to limit federal tax authority.

Putting aside that interesting and unresolved constitutional question, Warren lashed out at the suggestion that such a tax would influence migration from the United States. Eisen reasonably noted that the tax “might also chase wealthy people out of this country as we’ve seen has happened with, with other wealth taxes. You just said how much we need the economy to be revitalized right now for companies to start adding jobs and not subtracting them anymore.”

Warren responded that “All I’m saying is can we have just, just a little fairness here? A two-cent wealth tax so that we can have universal childcare—”

Eisen interjected that she was “just presenting the counter argument.”  Warren shot back

Well, how about a counter argument though, based on fact? The wealthiest in this country are paying less in taxes than everyone else. Asking them to step up and pay a little more and you’re telling me that they would forfeit their American citizenship, or they had to do that and I’m just calling her bluff on that. I’m sorry that’s not going to happen.” 

Warren may be right that this is not enough to cause a wealth flight, particularly given the constitutional challenges that could be raised.  However, such flight from high taxes have occurred in countries like France.

I am still unclear on how Warren intends to do this constitutionally or logistically, as discussed in my Washington Post column. However, the fastest migration is likely to be into the courts rather than out of the country.

79 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren Calls Reporter’s Concerns Over A Wealth Tax As A “Bluff””

  1. I have not heard from anyone that is proposing a wealth tax as to how it would be enforced.
    What will the government do, send auditors to every household to take inventory of everything to determine how much wealth each person has?
    How would they determine the valus of Uncle Sam’s coin collection, or Aunt Sally’s stamp collection, or cousin Terry’s baseball card collection?

    And how often will they send those auditors out? Will the auditors have the Constitutional right to enter anyone’s home?

  2. We are supposed to believe anything that criminal liar Poke and Haunt Us says? Has she ever paid back the money she fraudulently stole from the real native americans? By the way. I routinely move my money out of the country since I have no trust at all in socialist fascists.

  3. All I’m saying is can we have just, just a little fairness here? A two-cent wealth tax so that we can have universal childcare—”

    Is there any doubt that our government has no idea how to solve problems? All they seem to know how to do is identify a problem, that then needs a solution, that of course needs to come from government. Like when Gov. Cuomo ordered Covid positive elderly people to be admitted into nursing homes. When deaths dramatically rose in these homes, the response was to order more body bags.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/nursing-home-given-body-bags-when-they-accepted-coronavirus-patients-2020-4?op=1

    Theirs is a Goldbergian approach to problem-solving. They take a problem, fail to do a root cause analysis and simply bolt on a solution. When that solution creates another problem, they once again neglect an analysis of how that problem came to be and instead they bolt on another solution. And before you know it, we are $28 trillion in debt, with a massive federal bureaucracy not inspired to do anything that might threaten their kingdom.

    So now Warren and others have identified childcare as a problem to once again be solved by these morons. Of course like every other problem they want to solve, they need taxpayer’s money. Take it from the wealthy, they say. That’s fair. And word comes down that the wealthy say FU, we’re leaving. Oh, but Warren knows they’re bluffing, right? And based on that, she wants to plow forward like an RV that didn’t close the black water valve.

    Root cause analysis? Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem. Ronald Reagan

    1. Good post Olly, but I would like to add some characteristics of the left, in this case Governor Cuomo a Democrat and his handling of Covid.

      Cuomo acted as if he were the adult in the room and knew what he was doing. Years before he was told that he was short on respirators. What did he do? Nothing until the crisis and then he blamed everyone else.

      He acted Godly in front of an obsequious press who lauded how wonderful a leader he was. After all he was a Democrat leading one of the largest states in the country. This led to him getting an Emmy for his performances and the way he handled things. It also gave him a book deal about how great he was handling things.

      He panicked when he had to lead. He did nothing to reduce Covid except close down things in typical Democrat fashion, one shoe fits all. Made proclamations that neither he nor his brother adhered to. That is typical of Democrats. He overestimated the number of ventilators the state would need and was demanding that all the ventilators go to NYS. He was selfish, typical for a Democrat, not caring about any other state in need. He wanted to hoard ventilators because he didn’t bother to see how he could use ventilators that weren’t in use. Ignorant, selfish, unimaginative… a typical Democrat of today.

      The news helped his image of an impossible situation by filming at Elmhurst Hospital, a hospital that has always had chaos and overfilling during difficult flu seasons. There were many hospitals that were in good condition but typical to a Democrat he didn’t know how to use what he had. The only response was that he needed more and more and more from someone else even though he didn’t prepare for what occurred and even though he had been told he needed ventilators along with hospital beds, etc., every he was governor.

      Trump provided a hospital ship and then made it available for Covid patients. Trump also built emergency hospital beds mostly left empty.

      Cuomo played the part of a Democrat grateful when things were flowing in his direction but a nasty politician and liar as soon as the flow was no longer necessary.

      Did Cuomo use those resources taken from others that needed them as well in a reasonable fashion? No. He squandered resources like a true Democrat and instead of putting nursing home patients that were Covid positive into the empty beds provided ty Trump and the rest of the nation, he placed those nursing home patients back in the nursing homes killing thousands.

      How did this despicable Democrat handle things after the death count was discovered by the public? In the usual fashion of a Democrat. He passed a law preventing any claims, whether financial or criminal negligence, against those involved in the killing of so many seniors. Of course that included himself. Typical Democrat, use the law in a hideous manner to protect oneself from crimes committed.

      Time now has passed and what are we hearing. The Democrats fixed the numbers. Lying seems to be a major characteristic of the Democrats of today. We now find that 50% or more nursing home patients died in the nursing homes because of Democrat recklessness and placing Covid positive patients back into the nursing homes.

      All of this is sickening. I blame Republicans as well but to a much lesser extent. We are now watching Democrats doing to our nation what Cuomo did to NY during the Covid crisis. As a former Democrat I advise everyone to give up any support to the party of death, the Democrat Party, and start thinking of the principles one believes in most along with a solid understanding of the trade-offs involved.

      A former Democrat

      1. Well said. I’m a former Republican. I’m a Conservative. I will never again support a political tent. I will never consider good or bad governance by political party.

        I happen to believe cultural transformation is a naturally slow process. And how do you transform a culture unnaturally fast? Make them ignorant, apathetic and dependent on government and then make them believe your party will protect them. Make them believe everyone outside your party is an enemy to fear.

  4. Mr. Turley, the wealth tax and the progressive income tax are both unconstitutional. The only constitutional tax on individuals is a flat tax rate income tax. Equal justice under law. In some future column, I’d like to know how you justify the progressive income tax..

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