Since the news that Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the majority in ruling that the Obamacare individual mandate is constitutional, there has been tremendous debate and analysis about the opinion that he offered. Liberals predictability praised the ruling and gloated that they knew it was constitutional all along – even though most of them never admitted or even implied that the mandate was tantamount to a tax (which is what Roberts determined). Conservatives praised other parts of the opinion which basically limited significantly the use of the commerce clause in any future legislation, and it also helps them promote their narrative that Barack Obama is just another tax-and-spend liberal.
Since the ruling, most polls, including a new one reported on RealClearPolitics.com, show that most Americans still disapprove of Obamacare and of the Supreme Court’s ruling about it. Future polls about Obamacare are likely to show even higher numbers of those disapproving of the act and the ruling. That is because the opinion provided by Roberts sets the stage for frequent and massive tax increases on any number of issues down the road.
What Roberts wrote in his opinion is that the individual mandate was constitutional based on the premise that the federal government has the right to impose taxes. The issue of taxation has long been settled law – no one disputes the fact that the government can levy taxes. What is new in this opinion is that the government can now levy taxes on doing nothing or on doing activities that are not currently taxed by the federal government. In the Obamacare case, Roberts states that the federal government can impose a tax on individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance – so their inactivity makes them subject to taxation.
As an example of how this principle can be applied in other situations, the gasoline tax provides a perfect scenario. The premise behind gasoline taxes was to provide money to help the government pay for highway construction projects. In a way the gasoline tax makes sense – those who use the highways the most will likely also by the most gasoline, and therefore should also pay a lion’s share of the taxes. And even the most ardent conservative or Libertarian agrees that the interstate highway is something that the federal government can and should control as a public good.
But what would happen if the federal government decided that it was not raising enough taxes to pay for all the highway construction projects that it had planned? In the past, the main option was to increase the amount of the gasoline tax. But now, the Roberts opinion gives the federal government another option – it can broaden the tax base to include anybody who is not currently paying any gasoline taxes.
Consider the examples of people who live close enough to their work that they can just walk to work each day, the environmentalists who bike to work each day or the urban dwellers who take the subway or trolley to work each day. In theory, none of these people pay gasoline taxes – they have made a decision to not engage in the gasoline-using industry and as a result they pay nothing into it. This is obviously similar to a person who chooses to not get health insurance.
The federal government could now, as a result of the Roberts opinion, impose a tax on all of these types of people. Politicians could make the argument that the highway system is a common good and that everyone benefits from it in some form – whether it is due to mail delivery, movement of products, allowing people to spread out to reduce congestion, etc. In some way, the highway system benefits everyone and therefore everyone must be required to pay for it in the form of gasoline taxes – even those people who do not directly use it or ever have a need to purchase gasoline.
While the gasoline tax is one of the best examples of how the Roberts opinion can be used and abused in the future, the ruling that a mandate is allowed because of the taxing provision opens the door to many more examples. No level of activity or inactivity is safe from taxation now. And what makes it even scarier is the fact that taxing provisions can be included in budget reconciliation packages, which means they will need only a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass rather than a 60-vote super-majority.
Some analysts are saying that the Roberts opinion has sealed Obama’s fate in the November election. That is not so certain. But it does make Obama’s “I reject that notion” claim about the mandate penalties being taxes seem like his “Read my lips – no new taxes,” and “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” moments rolled into one. Clearly Obama has been completely dishonest in trying to deny and hide what could turn out to be the largest tax increase in the history of the nation. Equally as clearly, the American people are about to get bent over and screwed many times over by this legislation. And if Obama and/or some of his enterprising colleagues in Washington, D.C. use this Roberts opinion to its full advantage, then there will be more unwanted new taxes and more unwanted sexual relations imposed upon the American people for decades to come.