By Guy Page
“The proposed Constitutional amendment is very dangerous. It is offered as a means on perpetuating unrestrained abortion, but the Left knows its purpose is much more broad. It would allow for taxation and taking of property to ‘equalize’ treatment of people. This is a cover for Marxism. This may involve only the Vermont Constitution, but is actually implementation of the Sanders/leftist strategy ‘think globally, act locally.’”
Well, that was an eye-opener. I re-read “Section 1: Purpose” of Prop 5. You decide if he’s got a point:
“Chapter I, Article 1 [of the VT Constitution] declares “That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights.” Chapter I, Article 7 states “That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people.”
“The core value reflected in Article 7 is that all people should be afforded all the benefits and protections bestowed by the government, and that the government should not confer special advantages upon the privileged. This amendment would reassert the principles of equality and personal liberty reflected in Articles 1 and 7 and ensure that government does not create or perpetuate the legal, social, or economic inferiority of any class of people.”
Since Vermont joined the United States in 1791, our constitution has enshrined equality for all under the law, promoting economic opportunity and forbidding discrimination. But does our constitution direct law and government to guarantee economic equality, so that no-one should earn or own less than anyone else? Not so much. In fact, not at all.
But that’s just what Prop 5 seems to guarantee. Let’s pare down that last sentence to the part about economic equality: “This amendment would reassert that government does not perpetuate the economic inferiority of any class of people.” A Prop 5 government would see income inequality — for whatever reason, for whatever group of people — as unconstitutional. The only question remaining would be: in its pursuit of eliminating income inequality, to what lengths should government go?
Several income-equality bills now before the Vermont Legislature would presumably get a boost if we Vermonters add Prop 5 to our Constitution. These bills cover many aspects of life in Vermont:
- Housing – To enrich the property transfer tax fund that supports low-income housing, H.168 would tax not just sales of properties, but sales of property-owning businesses.
- Campaign finance – S.47 would eliminate business corporations as eligible to contribute to Vermont political campaigns.
- Crime – H.184 would let low-income people perform community service in lieu of paying civil fines, like traffic tickets.
- Ethnic groups – H.178 would exempt Indian tribe property from property taxes.
- Health care – H.152 would income-sensitize health insurance premiums.
- Minimum wage – in addition to the well-known S.23 guaranteeing an eventual $15/hour, H.137 would require equivalent earnings for salaried, non-hourly workers.
- Income taxes – By taxing income over $500,000, H.136 would increase the Vermont earned income credit popular among low-income renters.
These bills may have merit. But if eradicating economic equality is made a constitutional responsibility of state government, good or bad, for better or worse, they’ll be harder to stop.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.