The toughest question Sen. Elizabeth Warren faced Tuesday night was not from another candidate on stage, but on CNN’s post-debate analysis show when David Axelrod and Van Jones questioned whether her signature wealth tax policy was constitutional.
“I hesitate to say this to an eminent law professor, but my understanding is the argument is about legally how that would … come with some legal issues,” Axelrod said.
Warren insisted her wealth tax proposal, which would impose a 2% annual tax on net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 3% tax on net worth above $1 billion, is “doable” because the United States is a democracy.
“When big majorities want to see this happen, then we ought to be able to make it happen. And if we don’t, it’s because the guys at the top have way too much influence,” she said.
Jones shared Axelrod’s legal concerns. “We are a democracy, but we are a democratic republic, and in a democratic republic there is a constitution, and the Constitution may or may not allow for this. What if your most popular idea is just not constitutional?”
“Oh, come on. You think I didn’t talk to constitutional law folks before? They assure me … I’m confident we can do this,” Warren said.
When Jones reiterated the question about having constitutional authority to take wealth, not income tax, Warren responded, “Sure. We do property taxes all the time.”
During the debate, when former Rep. John Delaney was asked to respond to Warren’s wealth tax, as someone whose wealth would fall in the proposed taxable bracket, Warren was seen gleefully rubbing her hands together.
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“I think the wealth tax will be fought in court forever,” Delaney responded. “It’s arguably unconstitutional, and the countries that have had it have largely abandoned it because it’s impossible to implement.”