Is Perry Really Backing Away From Sixteenth Amendment Repeal?

One of the centerpieces of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) constitutional vision is repealing the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorizes the federal income tax, and replacing our current tax system with a national sales tax. As ThinkProgress explained earlier today, one of the consequences of this proposal is that millions of American seniors would be taxed again on their savings, despite the fact that they already paid taxes on that money when they earned it as income.

As Greg Sargent reports, however, the Perry campaign is now acknowledging that eliminating the federal government’s most effective way to fund Social Security, Medicare and the military may not be something they can do right away:

The 16th Amendment instituting a federal income tax starting at one percent has exploded into onerous, complex and confusing tax rates and rules for American workers over the last century. The need for job creation in the wake of the explosion of federal debt and costly entitlement programs, mean the best course of action in the near future is a simpler, flatter and broader tax system that unleashes production, creates jobs, and creates more taxpayers. We can’t undo more than 70 years of progressive taxation and worsening debt obligations overnight.

Sargent reads Perry’s statement as “declining to reaffirm his support for repeal of the 16th Amendment or for the so-called ‘Fair Tax’ or the national sales tax,” and suggest that his campaign is now “distancing” itself from Perry’s original plan to simply repeal the amendment and let America’s seniors figure out how to survive with only part of their savings. But it is not at all clear that’s what the Perry campaign is saying here.

The campaign acknowledges — correctly — that a President Perry could not eliminate the backbone of America’s revenue stream “overnight,” but it also never disavows Perry’s original statement that his long term goal remains the same. The campaign was much less circumspect in disavowing Perry’s belief that Social Security violates the Constitution. According to the Wall Street Journal Perry’s campaign said that his previous position on Social Security “is not meant to reflect the governor’s current views on how to fix the program.”

One thing is very clear, however, the Perry campaign has no illusions about how damaging Perry’s constitutional vision is for his candidacy, and they have no interest in making Perry’s recently-published tenther manifesto the focus of his messaging. They have yet to do anything, however, to rebut the obvious conclusion that Perry still believes everything he wrote just nine months ago.