I doubt the stories are true. But that is of little matter, people will believe what they want to believe.
I wish Roberts had ruled otherwise, but I don’t understand why people think this is such an irrational ruling.
For years, the federal government has practiced a policy of a universal mandate, through the use of tax deductions for the purchase of medical insurance. Each year, my employer gets to write off on taxes the amount they pay for my insurance. And each year, my insurance premiums are listed as “pre-tax”, meaning for each dollar I pay, I get a 28 cent payback from the government.
If one assumed that taxes were collected sufficient to cover the cost of government (and clearly they are not), the result of these tax policies is that everybody who does NOT purchase health insurance is paying enough extra taxes to cover the 28% of my premium that I get back in tax deductions, for every person who buys health insurance.
And I’ve never seen any conservatives complaining about how the federal government is forcing them to buy health care by taxing them more if they don’t.
And Roberts is entirely correct about the practical matter — congress could have easily raised everybody’s taxes by $5000 a year, since they have that right. Then, they could have easily given everybody who purchased just the right type of insurance a tax credit of $5000. Thus “penalizing” everybody who didn’t buy the right insurance with a $5000 tax “penalty”.
For example, everybody who doesn’t by an alternative fuel vehicle pays a tax penalty, equal to the amount everybody who DOES buy such a vehicle gets in tax credits.
When I bought my new air conditioner, because I bought the “right” kind, I got a $1500 tax credit. Guess what — that means that all the rest of you were penalized by the amount needed to reduce MY tax liability by $1500.
My point is, the government has been using tax policy for years to encourage specific behavior, and frankly, conservatives have only complained on the margins. Heck, I’ve seen hatred from conservatives when people suggest getting rid of the biggest government mandate of all — home ownership. Even when that mandate caused much of our financial problems, conservatives balk at removing that mandate (which makes every non-homeonwer pay more to cover the taxes not paid by homeowners deducting their mortgage insurance).
And of course, first-time homeowners get a huge tax credit, which means all the rest of us have to pay higher taxes to make up for the lost taxes.
Yes, Roberts should have ruled that congress made the tax a “penalty”, and therefore it was unconstitutional. But imagine if something conservatives really wanted, like deporting illegals, was up on some technicality, we’d want the court to pay deference to the legislative branch rather than throw out a law on such a technicality.
In some ways, things are cleaner now. We know that Obamacare is a huge tax inscrease for every american, one they can only avoid if they buy government-approved health insurance. If we don’t like that, we need first to get a congress that will repeal Obamacare, and then we need a constitutional amendment that makes it illegal for the federal government to make any tax or credit that does not broadly apply to people regardless of their specific choices.
We won’t be able to stop progressive taxation, but we need to stop the federal government from picking winners and losers through tax deductions and tax credits. And Robert’s Obamacare ruling helps clarify that need. And also helps us win the election, because we need to do so to reverse Obamacare.
Meanwhile, if Obamacare had been wiped out, Obama would have run on re-instating it through the use of tax policy just as Roberts ruled; the liberals would have had a reason to come to the polls and vote, and conservatives might have rested on their laurels.
As to the issue of whether Roberts switched to help the court, it makes little sense in a 5-4 ruling; if he had a way to rule that would make a 4-5 go to a 7-2, it might make sense. But why jump from one 5-4 majority to an equally rediculous 5-4 majority?
Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and even Kennedy all understood this. They sought to establish a clear limit on not just the commerce clause but also on taxation powers. It is Kelo all over again.
Roberts betrayed us.
This case is about the taxing power of Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 1. It does not involve the 16th Amendment. Mortgage deductions et al are 16th A. issues.
“If one assumed that taxes were collected sufficient to cover the cost of government (and clearly they are not), the result of these tax policies is that everybody who does NOT purchase health insurance is paying enough extra taxes to cover the 28% of my premium that I get back in tax deductions, for every person who buys health insurance.”
You are quite correct. In that regard, every person WITH insurance actually costs society MORE than every person WITHOUT insurance. Which is why the claim that the mandate was intended to prevent free-riding was a joke. http://www.aei.org/article/health/healthcare-reform/alitos-correct-the-individual-mandate-was-never-about-saving-money/
That said, the mandate certainly wasn’t structured as a tax. First, as you note, people already were being “taxed” for not having group health coverage. If Congress wished to make the current tax exclusion universal, it could have done so simply by tweaking the existing language of the tax code to extent it to all forms of HI coverage rather than just employer-sponsored policies. But it did not do this.
Second, Section 1501 was explicitly justified within the statute as a regulation of interstate commerce (search for “1501” here: http://www.ncsl.org/documents/health/ppaca-consolidated.pdf)
Third, there is a difference in the expected behavioral response between a tax and a penalty. Congressional Budget Office, Will Health Insurance Mandates Increase Coverage?Synthesizing Perspectives from the Literature in Health Economics, Tax Compliance, and Behavioral Economics http://www.cbo.gov/publication/21600. If something is structured as a penalty, people are more likely to comply, since many people don’t like “breaking the law” regardless of the size of the penalty involved. In contrast, if you structure it as a tax, i.e., you get a tax break if you decide to buy health insurance but lose that benefit—pay more tax—if you don’t, many more will feel comfortable not complying. CBO scored this as a penalty, not a tax etc.
I agree with those who say Roberts essentially rewrote the statute in order to make it pass constitutional muster. I find that deeply concerning.