Columnist’s statement was wrong

In a recent Op/Ed column (Leader Herald, Aug. 31, (Saturday/Sunday), page 6A), Judge Andrew Napolitano states, “A tariff is a sales tax that, because it has not been enacted by Congress, as the Constitution requires of all federal taxes, is unconstitutional.” He is wrong.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises.” An Internet search provided the following definitions of these taxes:

Duty, a fee payable to the federal government on the manufacture and import/export of goods.

Excise, any of various taxes levied on the production or sale of certain goods, especially on luxuries, tobacco, alcohol etc.

Impost, a tax, tribute, or duty; particularly, a duty or tax laid by government on goods imported, a customs-duty.

Tariff, a list of duties imposed by a government on imported or exported goods.

Income taxes (16th Amendment) and those listed above are the only taxes that the federal government can collect. However, a sales tax by definition is a local or state tax levied on the retail sale of goods or the sale of services, usually collected by the seller at the time of purchase. So a sales tax is not a tariff.

The Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, a federal law passed in 1917, gives the president the power to oversee or restrict any and all trade between the United States and its enemies in times of war but was expanded to be usable in times of peace via congressional amendment. The Trade Act of 1974 gave the president broad authority to counteract injurious and unfair foreign trade practices. The National Emergencies Act of 1976, ended all previous national emergencies and formalizes the emergency powers of the president. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, authorizes the president to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual and extraordinary threat to the United States which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States.

Last May, President Trump issued an executive order declaring a national emergency targeting trade with China and legally increased tariffs on Chinese imports because it routinely steals American technology, manipulates its currency, commits cyber theft and is a growing military threat.

So Judge Napolitano’s earlier statement is wrong.

Quod erat demonstrandum