If ever a person required blinding proof for the completely ineffective and non-restrictive nature of the U.S. Constitution, now is the opportunity to see it. The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) incredulously upheld the Liberty-effacing rubbish piece of legislation colloquially known as ObamaCare. The twist, however, in this soap opera farce of a legal review is the laughable excuse the court gives for its legitimacy.
For many untold years, the U.S. government has used and abused three main sections of the Constitution as justification for the continual usurpation of individual freedoms. In no particular order, these favorites are: the General Welfare Clause, the Commerce Clause, and the Necessary and Proper Clause. In the episode of Jerry Springer today, we find that most people were under the assumption that in the event ObamaCare was upheld by SCOTUS, it would use the Commerce Clause for justification. But as with all good shows, this one had an unforeseen plot twist at the end.
For one reason or another, Justice Roberts determined to pay lip service to the clear limitations imbued in the Commerce Clause. “The Commerce Clause is not a general license to regulate an individual from cradle to grave, simply because he will predictably engage in particular transactions.” Taken at face value, it would almost seem that Johnny-boy is trying to pull back on the reins in an attempt to slow down the race to despotism. Unfortunately, in the same breath he continues, “Any police power to regulate individuals as such, as opposed to their activities, remains vested in the States” (my emphasis). In other words, he is not claiming that government lacks the legitimacy to “regulate an individual from cradle to grave” so much as the federal government alone lacks this legitimacy. So much for a restraint on Leviathan.
The twist comes a little later when the egotistical black robed lap-dogs give their legal justification for this particular power grab. In a move that would almost be comical if the stakes weren’t so high, the SCOTUS decision performs a near-perfect distraction from their magic trick. “Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes.” Presuming, then, that this is simply a tax, “the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.”
Did you catch that little switcheroo there? Choosing to not purchase a privately produced good results in a tax. The analogies given simply do not apply to this case. To make them accurate, we would have to change them so you would pay a gasoline tax when you did notpurchase gasoline and you would pay income taxes when you did not have income.
Ah, but the cloaked mystics are wise and have foreseen this complaint. Here is Ginsburg’s justification (my emphasis): “The inevitable yet unpredictable need for medical care and the guarantee that emergency care will be provided when required are conditions nonexistent in other markets. … And if she eventually wants a car or has a craving for broccoli, she will be obliged to pay at the counter before receiving the vehicle or nourishment. She will get no free ride or food, at the expense of another consumer forced to pay an inflated price. … Virtually everyone, I reiterate, consumes health care at some point in his or her life. … Health insurance is a means of paying for this care, nothing more. In requiring individuals to obtain insurance, Congress is therefore not mandating the purchase of a discrete, unwanted product. Rather, Congress is merely defining the terms on which individuals pay for an interstate good they consume: Persons subject to the mandate must now pay for medical care in advance (instead of at the point of service) and through insurance (instead of out of pocket).”
How clever and tireless these usurpers of individual liberties are! So you see, because Congress has required all emergency rooms to treat individuals with health care needs without regard to the ability to pay, a further requirement for everyone to pay for the prior requirement is fully within their bounds. To apply this to the infamous broccoli statement, the government cannot force you to eat broccoli, but it can tax you if you do not eat broccoli provided that it has previously legislated the requirement that all grocery stores provide free broccoli for those who ask for it.
But there is one aspect of this ordeal which seems to be overlooked. What happens to those individuals who are unable to afford insurance (or simply do not desire it) and are unable to afford the tax (or simply do not desire to pay it)? I’ll let the IRS do the talking here: “Any person required under this title to collect, account for, and pay over any tax imposed by this title who willfully fails to collect or truthfully account for and pay over such tax shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.” (Interestingly enough, the IRS website claims the penalty is $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations.)
Ultimately, then, what does this mean for Joe Public? Beyond the rise in taxes (primarily on the lower and middle classes, by the way), this opens the floodgates for potential to create more onerous and invasive habit-changing legislation. To put it simply, if the government can tax you for choosing not to purchase a private good they can do anything they desire.