In recent years, a growing number of people – largely conservatives and libertarians – have arisen in support of the FairTax initiative. Put simply, the FairTax, if implemented, would do away with federal income tax and replace it with a federal sales tax and a monthly household “prebate” to compensate for the taxes paid on bare essentials. Having previously familiarized myself with the Constitution Party to some degree, I had assumed that these people, essentially super-Republicans, would be very bullish about the FairTax. Therefore, you can understand my surprise when I recently stumbled upon a page on the Constitution Party website dedicated to criticisms of the FairTax initiative. As the page says:
Why replace one unconstitutional tax system with another unconstitutional tax system?
After my initial amazement stemming from the realization that the Constitution Party’s position on the matter was exactly the opposite of what I had expected, I mused a bit more about something I realized a while ago: The Constitution Party does not believe in the Constitution of the United States. Seriously. At least, they do not know what words like “constitutional” and “unconstitutional” mean. A glaring example of this fact would be the aforementioned quotation. By saying that federal income tax is unconstitutional, they are saying that the 16th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is unconstitutional. Similarly, any constitutional amendment establishing the FairTax system would also be unconstitutional. The problem with this line of thought, though, is that any constitutional amendment is constitutional by definition. That’s why it’s called a constitutional amendment. If the framers of the Constitution had not wanted us to be able to amend the Constitution, they would not have included a mechanism for doing just that.
Of course, one could say that, by “unconstitutional”, what they mean is “not in the 1787 Constitution”. It becomes clear that this is what was meant once one reads on the Constitution Party’s website that the FairTax “is not authorized by the 1787 Constitution”. Just to be clear, no constitutional amendments were part of the 1787 Constitution. Thus, by this logic, all of the following are also unconstitutional:
- The Bill of Rights.
- Sovereign immunity (which protects states from lawsuits by foreigners).
- Universal suffrage.
- Election of U.S. senators by popular vote.
- Presidential term limits.
It is worth noting that the Bill of Rights was, in fact, something that the framers intended to add later. However, such is not the case for the other items mentioned.
One could say that some of these amendments do not depart from the “intent” of the 1787 document, but merely enhance it. I wonder if the Constitution Party thinks we should count black people as 3/5 of a person instead of 5/5. Because that is how the Constitution was originally drafted, right? After all, unlike little details such as women’s suffrage, this seems to have been something they considered pretty carefully.
I believe that the Constitution of the United States is and was an inspired document. I think its drafting was a huge step forward for humanity. However, it was never a perfect document, and those who feel that it ever was would have been laughed out of the 1787 Constitutional Convention.