The Stamp Act of 1765. The Tea Act of 1773. Boring stuff, right? Except for what they represented to a bunch of rebel colonists fed up with oppressive taxation and a government increasingly divorced from the pulse of its people. After the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776 things didn’t go too well for the oppressors.
Fast forward to June 28, 2012, where the Supreme Court has ruled the Obamacare mandate constitutional — as a tax. Correction: The mother of all taxes. Chief Justice John Roberts‘ logic? It’s better to be oppressed under a government with near-unlimited powers than one with unlimited powers:
Whether the mandate can be upheld under the Commerce Clause is a question about the scope of federal authority. Its answer depends on whether Congress can exercise what all acknowledge to be the novel course of directing individuals to purchase insurance. Congress’s use of the Taxing Clause to encourage buying something is, by contrast, not new. Tax incentives already promote, for example, purchasing homes and professional educations. […] Sustaining the mandate as a tax depends only on whether Congress has properly exercised its taxing power to encourage purchasing health insurance, not whether it can. Upholding the individual mandate under the Taxing Clause thus does not recognize any new federal power. It determines that Congress has used an existing one.
[A]lthough the breadth of Congress’s power to taxis greater than its power to regulate commerce, the taxing power does not give Congress the same degree of control over individual behavior. Once we recognize that Congress may regulate a particular decision under the Commerce Clause, the Federal Government can bring its full weight to bear. Congress may simply command individuals to do as it directs. An individual who disobeys may be subjected to criminal sanctions. Those sanctions can include not only fines and imprisonment, but all the attendant consequences of being branded a criminal: deprivation of otherwise protected civil rights, such as the right to bear arms or vote in elections; loss of employment opportunities; social stigma; and severe disabilities in other controversies, such as custody or immigration disputes.
By contrast, Congress’s authority under the taxing power is limited to requiring an individual to pay money into the Federal Treasury, no more. If a tax is properly paid, the Government has no power to compel or punish individuals subject to it. We do not make light of the severe burden that taxation—especially taxation motivated by a regulatory purpose—can impose. But imposition of a tax nonetheless leaves an individual with a lawful choice to do or not do a certain act, so long as he is willing to pay a tax levied on that choice (NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS v. SEBELIUS, Opinion of the Court, 42-43).
Basically, what Roberts is saying is that allowing Congress to compel you to buy insurance “because we say so” would destroy the idea of a government of limited and enumerated powers. Allowing a government to compel you to do something through taxation “because we’re power-hungry, oppressive jerks” … apparently falls within the scope of the constitution. Barely.
The inside-the-Beltway crowd doesn’t read things quite the same way. As always, they’re too caught up with head games to understand what’s going on in the hearts of everyday Americans. Take Charles Krauthammer, a brilliant man who is technically right when he says:
“[Roberts upheld] the central conservative argument against Obamacare, while at the same time finding a narrow definitional dodge to uphold the law — and thus prevented the court from being seen as having overturned, presumably on political grounds, the signature legislation of this administration.”
That might very well be true. Charles and Chief Justice John Roberts are intelligent individuals. But let this also be known — Chief Justice John Roberts helped sow the seeds of revolutionary change today. The American people have a history of not responding well to oppressive taxes. Just ask our British friends.
Obamacare has now been certified a tax of the highest, most oppressive order — a tax imposed upon you at birth because you exist. And so, the people who unleashed a big red wave in 2010 over federal spending and uncontrollable debts have now been told that Obamacare stands — as a tax — from their worst nightmares.
My prediction is that the Tea Party movement, already fed up with $17 trillion dollars of debt, high unemployment and a grim economic forecast, will use the anger generated from this decision and turn out another big red wave in the 2012 elections that will rival or surpass 2010. Then they will wait. They will expect the Republicans they elect to craft principled legislation to secure a brighter future for their kids and grandchildren. If it doesn’t happen, there won’t be much time to right the ship. You can only outrun the math for so long, as Greece, Italy and Spain have found out. It will then be up to good men to pick up the mantle of Paul Revere and William Dawes, or the nation will be lost.