- - Monday, October 24, 2011

I confess, I love Herman Cain. I love the Cain Train. I love his straight talk. I love his style. I love his humor. I even loved his Godfather’s pizzas. And, I love the simplicity of his 9-9-9 tax plan. But there’s one thing I love even more: the Constitution.

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan has become center stage of the Republican presidential nomination race and for good reason. The American tax code has grown into an unwieldy beast. Self-serving politicians hell-bent on controlling you and enriching their cronies have morphed it into a multiheaded Hydra with endless loopholes, exceptions, subsidies, giveaways, penalties and more. Cut off one head and another grows back in its place. This monster can’t be tweaked, massaged or even reformed. It must be killed. And Herman Cain wants to give it a death blow with his straight-forward 9-9-9 plan: a 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax. Good riddance.

Don’t expect me to shed tears for the demise of our current tax system. It is anathema to freedom. It picks and chooses winners. It forces a would-be free citizenry into obedience to the ruling class. Obey their whims to buy electric cars, insulate your house, relocate your business or jump through their hoops, and they reward you by letting you keep just a little more of your own money. Disobey them and they confiscate your property in the name of “fairness.”

Mr. Cain’s rivals are right to have zeroed in on the third 9 but they do so for the wrong reason. They feign concern for the cumulative retail tax when Mr. Cain’s 9 percent federal sales tax is superimposed upon the pre-existing states’ sales taxes. This is disingenuous and is a real disservice to tax reformers. They should drop this detraction immediately because they are playing right into the hands of the Democrats who defend the status quo against real reforms such as the Fair Tax. The Fair Tax, a pure consumption tax that eliminates every other form of federal tax, would be vastly superior to our current system. Unfortunately, Mr. Cain’s 9 percent retail tax and the Fair Tax face a huge hurdle.

Mr. Cain’s 9 percent national sales tax simply isn’t constitutional.

Among the enumerated powers in our Constitution, there is no federal jurisdiction over the purchases you make at your local stores, aside from those involving interstate transactions. Unfortunately, statists throughout our history have tried and succeeded at expanding the federal government’s power over you in this regard. In 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court regrettably ruled that, under the Commerce Clause, an Ohio farmer named Roscoe Filburn needed federal permission to feed his own wheat to his own cows, neither of which left his own farm, let alone crossed state lines.

The current crop of statist Democrats use this same expansive view of the federal government’s power to justify their Obamacare individual mandate. In fact, they go even further. Democrats claim that the Commerce Clause allows Washington to not only regulate your in-state activity but your inactivity as well. They actually claim that your thought process of choosing to not buy health insurance is itself an activity. Catch that? It’s not enough for Democrats to regulate your farm, they want to regulate your thoughts.

Enter Herman Cain and the last 9. Mr. Cain rightly opposes Obamacare and the individual mandate but he supports a view of the Commerce Clause that justifies their existence. So Mr. Cain is now arguing for the simultaneous expansion of and contraction of the Commerce Clause and with it, the federal government’s enormous power over you. The 9-9-9 plan itself may be a great idea - in fact, I think it could be - but violating the Constitution, or at the very least, expanding the federal government to get it, just isn’t worth it.

Manage the situation you face, not the one you want.

For the 9-9-9 plan to achieve constitutional fidelity and to preserve the core principle of limited government, the Constitution must be amended. Otherwise, as Mr. Cain’s detractors have rightly warned, a future Democratic president could simply ratchet up the rates on yet another tax source. That’s also the hurdle for the Fair Tax. So if we’re going to pursue the arduous amendment process that would grant the federal government authority to tax local sales transactions, why stop halfway? Why not go the Fair Tax route, which eliminates the 16th Amendment power to tax incomes? After all, if we’re starting from scratch, the Fair Tax may be the fairest, most effective and stimulative of all tax models.

Until then, let’s play the cards we’re dealt. A low flat tax without loopholes would be an enormous victory for liberty, for our economy and for Americans, and would not violate the Constitution.

Dr. Milton R. Wolf , a Washington Times columnist, is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist and President Obama’s cousin. He blogs at miltonwolf.com.