When the United States Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare’s individual mandate as lawful exercise of the Congress’ taxing power last summer, Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion in effect said there is no limit to what Congress can do to regulate personal behavior as long as that regulation is fashioned as a tax. When the decision came down, AHEC was very critical of the decision even going so far as to call Robert’s decision a freedom tax (See here and here).
Tag Archives: Supreme Court
According to informaiton form a recent Gallup Poll, “Americans are more likely to say the 2010 healthcare law upheld by the Supreme Court last week will hurt the national economy (46%) rather than help it (37%), while 18% say they don’t know or that it will have no effect.”
According to a poll of public opinion conducted by Rasmussen Reports: “public opinion of the Supreme Court has grown more negative since the highly publicized ruling on the president’s health care law was released. A growing number now believe that the high court is too liberal and that justices pursue their own agenda rather than acting impartially.”
On Monday, AHEC publised our commentary on the potential impact of Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert’s decision. At Forbes, Robert Book writes more on this subject. He writes:
“But no matter how many conservatives console themselves with the commerce clause victory, the fact remains that this decision endorses a huge expansion of federal government power in a way that is even more limitless than the most expansive interpretation of the commerce clause….”“The constitution gives the federal government to tax imports and exports, selling or manufacturing specific commodities (excise taxes) and incomes, and to impose user fees for government services. It doesn’t say they can tax anything, and the power to tax has always been understood to be limited to those types of taxes the constitution specifically allows. That’s why a constitutional amendment – the 16th – was required to implement an income tax a century ago.”
I completely disagree with those who are trying to spin the Court’s decision as a “win” for the American people, for the Constitution, for limited government or for democracy.
The bottom line is that government’s power to coerce each of us has not been curbed at all. The proof: the individual mandate still stands. Robert’s opinion imposes no outward limit on Congress’ power of coercion or compulsion through taxation (even though the 16th Amendment contains such limits). Congress doesn’t even have to call future taxes, “taxes” when compelling action – the Court will uphold them anyway.
Congress can now tax us if we don’t do what they say.
Chief Justice Roberts actually admits this in his opinion. He goes so far as to tell the liberals in Congress the next mandate/tax they might impost to compel behavior (he said if we did not have energy efficient windows Congress could tax us). What is the logical end to this power? None as far as I can tell. Where might Congress use this power in the future?
Energy Efficiency: No need to subsidize the (farcical) “green economy” anymore. Roberts said Congress could mandate it instead. Congress can do away with subsidies to reward certain behavior. Instead of the carrot, Congress can use the stick. You buy an SUV or a truck instead of a hybrid? You need the truck to haul things for work or the SUV to take your 5 kids to school? Congress doesn’t care, pay the behavior tax for making that choice.
Union Goods: Congress decides to do more to benefit their cronies in the unions because Davis Bacon (which gives government contract preferences to unions) is not enough? Tell each American they can only use union tradesman to build their house or can only buy union made goods. Using union electricians and carpenters makes building your new house 30% more expensive (which is what Davis Bacon does to government construction contracts) and you can’t afford that? Congress doesn’t care, pay the behavior tax for making that choice.
Housing: Congress sees the need to stabilize the housing market. Too many foreclosed homes on the market? Let’s tell everyone they need to buy a second home. Can’t afford your current home much less a second home? Congress doesn’t care, pay the behavior tax for making that choice.
Lack of Economic Participation: Congress has a deficit. How do we close the deficit? Let’s tell everyone they have to generate more capital gains by selling their stocks and mutual funds annually to generate more tax revenue for the government. After all, that only affects “the rich” and they shouldn’t be “hoarding” capital anyway. That would unnecessarily deplete your retirement account? Congress doesn’t care, pay the behavior tax for making that choice.
The bottom line is that the federal government could already tax each of us as we make money (income taxes), tax what we consume in order to make money (such as gas taxes to get to work, airline fees to get to meetings, etc) and tax each of as we spend money (excise taxes). Now, Roberts has given Congress carte blanche to tax us if we don’t spend our after-tax money as Congress dictates – regardless of the economics of our personal situation. We long ago have lost about 50% of our income to taxes, and now government can control how we spend or save the other 50%. There is no limiting principle with what Roberts decided – and there is no freedom as long as Congress possesses the means to punish, through taxes, the behavior and decisions of free people.
The sum of Roberts’ decision is this, “People are free to do what they want but Congress is free to tax the exercise of that free will.” In effect, Roberts has used the Constitution to create a “Freedom Tax”. That is not something to celebrate – it is a blow to the liberty of every American.
Grace-Marie Turner has written an excellent article at The New York Times that should serve as a reminder that even if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, there are still many reasons to oppose the remainder of ObamaCare. Ms. Turner’s top 10 reasons to still oppose ObamaCare include:
1. Employer Mandate.
2. Conscience Mandate.
3. New and Higher Taxes.
4. The Independent Payment Advisory Board.
5. State Exchanges.
6. Medicare Payment Cuts.
7. Higher Health Costs.
8. Government Control over Doctor Decisions.
9. Huge Deficits.
10. More than 150 New Boards, Agencies and Programs.
Ms. Turner explains each of these issues in more detail and you read her full article here.
In The Wall Street Journal, Ron Williams, the former head of Aetna, wrote last week that the individual mandate raises serious constitutional concerns and that it should be discarded in favor of a bipartisan approach to health care reform. Williams writes:
“But no matter how the Supreme Court rules, we still need bipartisan solutions that work for all Americans. One benefit of the past two years has been the vigorous public policy discussion that we should have had prior to passing the legislation—and a recognition that the core problems are health-care cost and value. Simply put, we must create more value for consumers by improving the quality and long-term affordability of health care.”