The Corner

Re: the Fair Tax, A Partial Correction

So I’ve arrived home from UMass Amherst (zoiks) to find a kabillion emails on the Fair Tax. Last night, after post-lecture dinner and drinks with the beleaguered campus Republicans (only with legal-age kids of course) I posted on how the Fair Tax doesn’t require a repeal of the income tax. That’s still basically true. A tax like the fair tax doesn’t require the repeal of the 16th amendment. However, I capitalized the Fair Tax, which is sort of like using the brand name for a specific tax proposal, in this case the  Fair Tax sponsored by Neal Boortz. And, as many readers note, their proposed legislation would not go into effect until the repeal of the 16th amendment. So in effect the specific legislation under discussion does require the repeal. My point was that a consumption tax modeled along the lines of the Fair Tax in no way requires, as a constitutional necessity, the repeal of the income tax.

The Fair Taxers — rightly — don’t want to get stuck with both an income tax and a consumption tax (and, contrary to many emailers assertion, I did in fact say that in my original post). So they demand as a political matter that implementation of the Fair Tax coincide with repeal of the 16th amendment. But there’s nothing that binds Congress from following that guidance. 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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