John Delaney slams 2020 Democrats' wealth tax proposals as unconstitutional

Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney took aim at the constitutionality of proposed wealth taxes endorsed by progressive 2020 candidates, calling it an “impossible promise.”

“The reason I’m not in favor is because I don’t think it’s constitutional,” the former Maryland congressman told FOX Business’ David Asman on Tuesday. “And the countries that have had it have largely backed away from it, because it’s almost impossible to implement and enforce.”

In January, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, unveiled a plan to tax wealth: a 2 percent tax on fortunes worth more than $50 million, and a 3 percent for those with assets worth more than $1 billion. Warren maintains that it would apply to about 0.1 percent of the population, or 75,000 families.

When Warren released her plan, she came prepared for accusations that it might be unconstitutional: She released two letters from groups of prominent legal academics saying her plan passed muster.

However, the plan, if she were elected, would likely result in a legal challenge. That’s because Warren is proposing an “actual tax on wealth” — rather than a tax on income from wealth, which is a clearly mandated Congressional power under Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution. Federal direct taxes are prohibited under the Constitution, barring the income tax. The 16th Amendment, expanded taxing power, giving Congress the authority to “lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.”

Essentially, it’s unclear how exactly a wealth tax should be defined, leaving space open for legal pushback.

“I don’t think it’s a practical solution for raising more revenues for the treasuries,” Delaney said. “It’s one of these impossible promises that I like to talk about.”

It’s not the first time that Delaney has attacked one of his fellow Democrats in the run-up to the primary next year.

During the second Democratic debate in Detroit two weeks ago, Delaney — who has continuously polled under 1 percent — sparred, repeatedly, with Warren over issues ranging from trade to health care. He called some of her plans, particularly her endorsement of Medicare for All, “fairy tale economics.”

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for. I don’t get it,” Warren shot back.