Friday, June 29, 2012

Tax or Mandate? John Roberts As the Decider

On the farce that was yesterday's US Supreme Court ruling that narrowly preserved the Obama health care plan, Salon writer and University of Colorada law professor Paul Campos gets it entirely right:
Today, John Roberts got to decide what sort of healthcare system the United States should have. It would be difficult to explain to someone not familiar with the American legal-political system why this isn’t a crazy way to decide such an issue, for the very good reason that it is crazy when you think about it, which is why most people don’t. 
...Roberts has this extraordinary degree of power because our political process remains committed to an absurd system of judicial review, in which someone like Roberts gets to “interpret” an unavoidably ambiguous 220-year-old document, written at a time and place that had less in common with America in 2012 than it did with England in 1500. Under such interpretive conditions, it’s inevitable that “the Constitution” ends up meaning pretty much what John Roberts thinks it ought to mean.
What's In a Name?

So let me get this straight - if you call it a mandate, it's an illegal, devious federal overreach of Marxian proportions, and must be struck. But if you call it a tax, then its perfectly fine. This is because while governments can impose taxes, they aren't allowed to require Americans to purchase products from  private enterprise on threat of penalty.  Unless the government that does the requiring is a state government, as in the case of mandatory auto insurance, which is the law in 47 US states.  Now, in America, when state governments legislate such mandates, it's fine.  But when the feds do it, it's the leading edge of tyranny or worse - socialism.  Unless you call it a tax.  Because then it's legal. 

Fortunately, for the more than 50 million Americans without health insurance, John Roberts says its a tax

We can all breathe easier now. 

(Until some pretentious hack with a law degree and an agenda proposes to re-litigate questions about whether it's the kind of tax that the Constitution authorizes, that is).
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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