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Congress Planning New Mandates Under Court-Approved Taxation Power

Republicans and Democrats alike are already positing ideas for what they can mandate, so long as some kind of penalty is attached that can be called a tax.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the individual mandate of President Obama's "Affordable Care Act" as a "tax," Congressional leaders have responded with an ecstatic flurry of proposals for new laws making use of this newfound authority.  "The sky’s the limit!" cried Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), when he heard the news.  "The Supreme Court has just given us the OK to make Americans do anything we want, so long as we attach a penalty if they don’t do it and call it a tax."

For example, most economists blame the 2008 recession and the continuing economic malaise on the crashed housing market, which has been slow to recover. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has suggested placing a tax on anybody who does not own a home, which would have the effect of boosting sluggish home sales and reinvigorating the construction industry.  "We’d mandate that everybody own a home," he explained, “and place a tax on everybody who didn’t. We’d then use that tax money to buy houses for people who can’t afford them."

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The Court’s decision to uphold the ACA under the taxation power instead of the commerce clause has opened up a realm of new possibilities for the federal government.  First Lady Michelle Obama is already considering what this ruling means for her war on childhood obesity.  "The opponents of my husband’s visionary efforts always complained that if we could make them buy health insurance, we could make them buy broccoli," she said. "They were right, but under the commerce clause, we couldn’t actually make them eat it. Under this ruling, we can simply tell people exactly what they have to eat every day, and levy a hefty fine – we’ll call it a tax – if they don’t."

Republicans have their own ideas, too.  "We’re working on a great new way to combat the growing crime problem," Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told us.  "We thought if the court upheld Obamacare under the commerce clause, when we were back in power we’d at least mandate that everybody buy a gun.  Now, we can not only mandate that, we can mandate that Americans carry a loaded gun with them everywhere they go, and even mandate that they respond to any crime they see with force." 

The Republicans' plan would use tax money generated on penalties for noncompliance to fund police services.  "Democrats always justified Obamacare by complaining about the costs imposed on others by people who don’t get insurance.  Well, people who don’t carry protection impose costs on others, too, by becoming victims of crime and encouraging more criminal behavior," McConnell explained.

Other ideas that have been tossed around include combating youth unemployment by mandating that all homeowners hire a neighborhood kid to provide daily lawn care services, and dealing with air pollution by mandating that everybody walk, bike, or take public transportation to and from work.

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Greg Huegerich June 29, 2012 at 09:09 PM
"If Obama can force you to get health insurance just by calling it a tax, than there is nothing to stop him from making you gay marry an illegal immigrant wearing a condom on a hydroponic pot farm powered by solar energy" -- Stephen Colbert
patchreader 123 June 30, 2012 at 12:31 AM
"Citizens United protects personal liberties." I disagree. An "association of individuals," as used to define a corporation within the Citizens United decision, is a distortion to say the least. Do you, as a shareholder of any stock that you may own as an “ordinary individual” per your language, have any say in whom the underlying corporation finances and supports in an election? Citizens United merely opened the floodgate to the corporate finance of elections, all under the skewed pretense that corporations have purported freedom of speech rights.
patchreader 123 June 30, 2012 at 12:32 AM
As aptly stated by Justice Stevens within his dissent of Citizens United: "In the context of election to public office, the distinction [regarding freedom of speech] between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although [corporations] make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.” You appear critical of the Obamacare SCOTUS decision, yet believe that the Citizens United decision is sound? Both are an aberration of stare decisis.
Tom Kamenick June 30, 2012 at 01:48 AM
A corporation of 2 people (or even 1, which is possible with some corporate entities such as LLCs) is as much a corporation as a corporation with 10,000 owners. The law overturned by CU affected both equally. To my mind, government deciding which speakers can speak on political topics is tantamount to tyranny. Why do you want government to have that much control over the people? How can you not value freedom of speech as a personal liberty? How can you not value the ability of individuals to band together (using another liberty, the freedom of association) in order to pool their resources to speak collectively? I, alone, do not have the resources to get my message out in front of millions. A rich person does. I can join with like minded people, pooling small amounts of money together until our message can compete with the message of individuals who have lots of money by themselves. Yes, money has a corrupting influence on democracy. That's a feature of democracy that cannot be eliminated without severely dampening our freedom of speech. We can severely restrict direct payments from individuals to candidates and even completely prohibit such donations from corporations to candidates. But we should never try to silence people from expressing their political opinions. A better way of addressing money's influence is to limit the powers government has. Once gov't can't give favors away, the value of spending money on politics decreases drastically.
M.S. July 03, 2012 at 01:40 PM
A corporation's purpose is not political speech. It is to make a profit for shareholders. These shareholders believe that the corporation can enhance their pocketbook, so they invest in the corporation. But, they may not have common political views. By using corporate cash for political speech, you are diverting money from the stockholders pockets, even if they disagree with the speech being purchased, or feel that they want their money in their own pockets, or in expansion of the business, or are politically apathetic, and don't want to fund speech. These people are being denied access to THEIR money because of a CORPORATE decision. If the owners of said corporation want to freely associate for the purpose of political speech & influence, they should do so under structures for such associations, such as political action committees. And then the individuals would be subject to the disclosures and limits that apply to all of us with a pulse. This would help limit the corruptive influence that money has on democracies without limiting the freedom of association of those with common desires who want to pool their money to publicly express their speech. And allow corporate stock holders who don't want to participate to personally control their money.and stay out. You know, individual liberty. These structures do not limit speech or silence opinions. Instead, it requires people to make the deliberate action of publicly supporting a group that speaks on their behalf.

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