Elizabeth Warren is not proposing a tax; she’s proposing asset forfeiture

Elizabeth Warren is not proposing a tax; she’s proposing asset forfeiture. By Kevin Williamson.

Senator Warren … has proposed to begin seizing a portion of the assets of some wealthy Americans, a course of action that the federal government has no constitutional power to undertake. The seizure of assets is a fundamentally different thing from the taxation of income, which itself took a constitutional amendment to implement. What Warren is proposing is essentially a federal version of the hated asset-forfeiture programs that have been so much abused by law-enforcement agencies — minus the allegation of criminal misconduct and made universal and annual.

The senator is in a bit of a panic: She hadn’t expected to face a challenge from her left in her quest for the Democratic nomination, but as her entire party lurches in a chávista direction, she has been forced to go one step farther lest she fall into the “moderate” class, whose members almost certainly will be slaughtered in the 2020 Democratic primary. And so she proposes this ridiculous and illegal course of action. …

Like many similar proposals, it probably would not raise much revenue and might in fact leave the country as a whole economically worse off. And the people advising Senator Warren on that are perfectly content with that outcome, because, as Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman argue in the case of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to radically increase income taxes, this is to be understood not as an economic question but as a moral one: It is simply morally obligatory to hurt wealthy people. “The point of high top marginal income tax rates is to constrain the immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches,” they write.

And who gets to decide what’s merited and what’s unmerited? What are the chances that, say, Senator Warren’s modest millions or her multimillion-dollar home are deemed “unmerited”? …

Saez and Zucman write hopefully of the prospect that high tax rates would make the class of people with larger incomes “largely disappear.” Representative Ocasio-Cortez declares it “immoral” that we have a “system that allows billionaires to exist.” Marshall Steinbaum, the research director of the progressive Roosevelt Institute, wrote: “It’s increasingly clear that having wealthy people around is a luxury our society can no longer afford.” …

Who are going to be the victims of the new socialism?

We might glean some insight into that from the progressives’ thinking in the recent free-speech debates, which goes something like this: “We’re all in favor of free speech, but Nazis should be chased from the public square, by violence if necessary, and we should harass their employers in order to ruin them financially. Also, everybody who disagrees with me is a Nazi, including children wearing hats that I don’t like.”

You may not feel like a kulak. You may take comfort in hearing that only the “tippy-top” wealthiest people are to be expropriated in the name of social justice. Those children at Covington Catholic probably didn’t think they were Nazis a week ago, either.

Income taxes were introduced in the West in the early 1900s, with promises they were only for the very rich, and started out at rates like 3% or 7%.