“The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” ~ Chief Justice John Marshall
[U]nder the Roberts decision, Congress can levy a tax for virtually any reason. As Chief Justice Roberts himself acknowledges in the opinion:
There may, however, be a more fundamental objection to a tax on those who lack health insurance. Even if only a tax, the payment under §5000A(b) remains a burden that the Federal Government imposes for an omission, not an act. If it is troubling to interpret the Commerce Clause as authorizing Congress to regulate those who abstain from commerce, perhaps it should be similarly troubling to permit Congress to impose a tax for not doing something.
Roberts rejects that argument. He argues that:
(1) “the Constitution does not guarantee that individuals may avoid taxation through inactivity” (as support for this proposition, he idiotically quotes Benjamin Franklin’s famous injunction that nothing is certain but death and taxes, which is apropos of nothing);
(2) “Congress’s ability to use its taxing power to influence conduct is not without limits” (although he declines to name those limits).
In short, Congress can tax you if you do nothing; Congress can tax you to influence your conduct; Congress can tax you and tax you and tax you. What kind of tax isn’t allowed under the Constitution? Roberts has to reach all the way back to a 1936 case, United States v. Butler, in which a tax on processors of farm products, proceeds to be paid to farmers. The Court in that case stated that the Act was “a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government. The tax, the appropriation of the funds raised, and the direction for their disbursement, are but parts of the plan. They are but means to an unconstitutional end.”
This is an open invitation to “tax” via whatever mandate sounds good to you. What sort of unequal-before-the-law mandate wouldnot fit this definition of a tax? Congress can do anything it wants, by the logic of this decision, with the judicial precedent set that levying mandates equals using the power to tax.
Let’s mandate that every adult in America with an income over $80,000 a year has to buy a Chevy Volt or pay a fine. Make it a 5-year recurring requirement, with the vehicle selected according to the preferences of environmentalists and unions. Use the IRS to gather the necessary data and enforce the requirement. It’s just a tax – why not?
Why can’t Congress tell us the size of house we are allowed to buy, require us to buy it, and fine us if we don’t? Congress would just be taxing us by doing this. Why can’t Congress mandate that we pay for two weeks of vacation at the tourist hotspots approved by Congress, and fine us if we don’t? Why can’t Congress order us to pay for college and fine us if we don’t? Buy furniture, buy certain types or brands of food, use a certain minimum amount of electricity or natural gas; get tattoos, buy a minimum amount of clothing each year – or buy only a maximum amount of clothing, and use only a maximum amount of electricity or natural gas – why can’t Congress require any or all of these things via a Tax-Mandate?
This is a very serious question. If nothing in the US Constitution or legal precedent can be held to stop Congress from levying an unequally applied health-insurance purchase mandate, then what could stop Congress from levying any other unequally applied purchase mandate? The same things that would stop a lawn-care or makeup purchase mandate should have knocked down the health-insurance purchase mandate.
Senator Mitch McConnell points out that Obamacare never would have passed if Democrats had been honest about the fact that it was a major tax increase.
Brent Bozell from Newsbusters remarks, “the incredible irony here is that in upholding Obamacare, Roberts et. al. have formally also declared Obama to be a monumental liar.”
Geoffrey P.Hunt points out at American Thinker that “The Power to Tax is the Power to Destroy“:
The Supreme Court, ruling substance over form in denying the mandate as a commodity purchase but accepting it as a tax, is now beyond reproach given the 16th Amendment.
This interpretation is a splash of acid in the face for limited government libertarians. If any activity mandated by Congress accompanied by a money transaction can be construed as a tax, despite its commerce clause proscriptions, there is no limit to the power of the federal government over our lives.
Repeal of ObamaCare would fix the immediate horrifying consequences of this Supreme Court ruling. Yet what are the odds of both a Senate takeover by Republicans and a Romney victory? Even so, permanent damage has been inflicted on this nation. Any future Congress with enough votes to override vetoes or with a like-minded president can now force US citizens to purchase anything at any time, under the guise of a tax. Congress has an unlimited power to confiscate resources-any and all– from us by simply calling it a tax.
Which is why conservatives can never compromise on their political exhortations for limited taxation. There are now no restraints on how Congress may hook up vacuum hoses to our wallets, our assets, our future earnings, and prospects for life and liberty.
Electoral victory and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will not be enough to end this push toward government control of healthcare. Even if the bill is repealed and replaced, the electoral winds need only change for a single Congress to pass the legislation again, citing this SCOTUS precedent. Inevitably, the agencies required to enforce the act or a variant of it will become too firmly entwined to citizens’ lives for a lasting solution through the U.S. code or executive order.
To gain ground in the fight against civic illiteracy on this scale, it will take nothing less than a Constitutional Amendment to–and I cannot believe this phrase must be written–prohibit the federal government from taxing mere human existence.
Cross posted at ThoughtsFromAConservativeMom.com
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- Supreme Court Rules Mandate Is A Tax, Obamacare Constitutional
- Why the 16th Amendment Should Be Repealed
- The Income Tax and Government Spending