Republicans Toy with a Misguided Tax on the First Amendment
Unsure how to pay for meaningful, lasting reform, GOP policymakers weigh levy on advertising
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The First Amendment is supposed to apply to all Americans, not just those who can afford to pay a federal tax on it. Leading constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein made this clear in a recent Huffington Post article:
“Commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment. In overturning a prohibition on legal advertising in Bates v. State Bar of Arizona (1977), the Supreme Court reaffirmed that free speech includes paid advertisements or solicitations to pay or to contribute money. The court elaborated on the consumer benefits of commercial advertising:
"'The listener's interest is substantial: the consumer's concern for the free flow of commercial speech often may be far keener than his concern for urgent political dialogue. Moreover, significant societal interests are served by such speech. Advertising, though entirely commercial, may often carry information of import to significant issues of the day. And commercial speech serves to inform the public of the availability, nature, and prices of products and services, and thus performs an indispensable role in the allocation of resources in a free-enterprise system. In short, such speech serves individual and societal interests in assuring informed and reliable decision-making.'"
The Civil War — a time of great revenue need — was the only time in American history that an advertising tax was put into place.
Today, we are not in the middle of a critical war, nor are we in a time of great revenue need. If Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and the rest of the Ways and Means Committee want to make sure that an unconstitutional can of worms — in effect, a constitutional loophole — is not opened, then they need to ensure that this anti-American provision does not make it anywhere near their final tax-reform proposal. Our forefathers risked their lives in the Revolution over 230 years ago to protect our God-given rights and liberty — let's not throw them away so carelessly.
Edward Woodson is a lawyer and now host of the nationally syndicated "Edward Woodson Show," which airs daily from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST on gcnlive.com.