Taxes on Buying and Not-Buying

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In his decision on the healthcare law, Chief Justice Roberts interprets the "penalty" on not buying health insurance as a tax. He recognizes that it is meant "to affect individual conduct." But such taxes, for example import duties, are nothing new. As Roberts says (pp. 36–37 of the decision), "Today, federal and state taxes can compose more than half the retail price of cigarettes, not just to raise money, but to encourage people to quit smoking. And we have upheld such obviously regulatory measures as taxes on selling marijuana and sawed-off shotguns."

But the import, cigarette, marijuana, and shotgun examples are taxes on selling and buying something. The penalty regarding health insurance is a tax on not buying something. Does Roberts really mean to constitutionalize a tax on not buying whatever Congress may specify? What has become of constitutional limits to federal power?




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Visitor

Since when have we been able to drive our cars without insurance? Banks are required to buy insurance. People that live in certain areas are required to have flood insurance. But if Obama supports it, suddenly it's unconstitutional. Give me a break. Who out there doesn't want health insurance anyway? Just those who want free emergency health care with no costs at all? That's not fair to everybody else.

Johnimo

The Ninth Amendment apparently means zero to most members of the court. This ruling turns the constitution upside down, and the ONLY rights are those enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Where's the right to privacy, so famously quoted by the left? Roberts' ruling will be remembered as one of the silliest ever.

Visitor

Of course Roberts means to constitutionalize this tax. Just like he upheld Arizona's "show me your papers" law.

He's not a stupid man. He just believes the rest of us are so stupid we need government to control every aspect of our lives. Lest we mess it up somehow.

He is an extremely typcial Republican judge. It makes me wonder why Republican commentators are so surprised at his decision. The Republican philosophy is to control every part of peoples personal lives. "Health care" is just another aspect of that personal life.

Jon Harrison

The argument that the mandate falls under the taxing power, as I understand it, is that Congress has the power to tax us for doing anything including nothing. Yeager's analysis is spot on if we make it with respect to the commerce clause, and the Court indeed ruled that Congress cannot force us to engage in commerce. Now, how the monetary penalty for not buying insurance is a tax, rather than a penalty, escapes me. But then I'm not Chief Justice.

The Court's ruling ontains two very important and positive aspects: 1. It kept the commerce clause alive, and defined it in such a way that will benefit liberty down the road. 2. By not voiding the law, it upheld the legislature and struck a blow against judicial activism. These two points are far more important than the narrow upholding of Obamacare. The legislative branch can always revisit the law to amend or repeal it.

Rob McMillin

Roberts knew the destination and steered the car where it needed to go.

Rubber stamping mob rule is the Court's mandate post-Wickard.

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