• A word on tyranny

    Aaron G comments:

    Doesn’t the fact that this is a unprecedented expansion of Federal power concern you at all if the mandate is ruled constitutional?

    Look at Floccina’s comments. We can now make hundreds of arguments in favor of forcing people to buy this or pay this tax or do this because it is in the “interest of the public”.

    Doesn’t that simple risk alone, which logically follows, concern you?

    No, it doesn’t.

    First of all, the hypocrisy is rampant in the number of Republicans still in office who supported the mandate until recently, and now decry it as tyranny. But the larger picture is that the government uses economic incentives to get us to do lots of stuff.

    Do you own a home? If so, you get a pretty big mortgage interest tax deduction. To pay for that deduction, we all pay taxes. So if you don’t buy a home, you pay in but get nothing back. I suppose it’s because the government wants us to buy homes.

    Do you have a child? Same deal. We all get taxed, but if you have a kid, you get a tax credit. I suppose it’s because the government wants us to have kids.

    Do you give money to charity? We all pay for your deduction. Own a home business? Ditto. I suppose it’s because the government wants to encourage us to do those things, too.

    Get my point? There are lots of things the government does to penalize us economically if we don’t do it. That’s how they encourage us to do it.

    So if you choose not to buy health insurance, you get penalized economically. You also get the right to buy it the moment you get sick, so it’s probably still worth it. That’s all. They aren’t going to put you in jail. And the mandate will affect a small proportion of people.

    And please, don’t come back to me with semantics of how this is not a tax deduction, but a penalty payment. If you tell me that you would be fine with this if the government raised everyone’s taxes the amount of the penalty, and then returned it to those who bought insurance, then I will listen to that argument. That policy would accomplish the same effect as the mandate, and be just as much tyranny as the mortgage interest deduction and child tax credit.

    But because the Democrats feared the tax label, they did it this way. You can dislike their lack of policy spine, but that’s not fascism. The individual mandate is a economic incentive. That’s all. If you don’t like it, feel free to elect people to reduce it or get rid of it. But it’s no more tyranny than any other tax deduction or tax credit. And no one seems particularly concerned about most of those.

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    • Two sentences here are flatly not true:

      1) “They aren’t going to put you in jail.” Sure they are. What else are they going to do to people who don’t buy insurance and don’t pay the tax? What do they do to tax scofflaws now?

      2) “And the mandate will affect a small proportion of people.” I think you are setting aside the employer mandate, which is fine. Even so, the market for individual (non-employer, non-Medicare) policies is somewhere between 8-10% currently. And this number could rise, given the weak penalties for employers in PPACA. Do you really think this is small? This represents about 25 million people, give or take.

      • pipster-

        Stop. From Politifact:

        The outline of a bill introduced on Sept. 16, 2009, by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., didn’t specify how penalties would be enforced but by the time the measure had made it into official language and been passed by his committee on Oct. 19, 2009, it included the following provision: “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.”

        That provision made it into the bill passed by the Senate in December 2009, and also into the final version of the law that was passed by both chambers and signed by President Barack Obama

        As for the numbers, you have to remember that most Americans already have insurance. They aren’t going to give it up. More people will get Medicaid or massive subsidies, so won’t turn it down. So the people who might conceivably pay the penalty are those wealthy enough to have the mandate apply to them (it has a percentage of income exclusion) and then choose not to buy it. That is a relatively small number of Americans.

        I don’t think you understand the meaning of “flatly not true”.

    • So X is not tyranny simply because some Republicans at one time supported it? That idea frightens me more than anything else in this debate.

      But the rest of your argument rests on the idea that this penalty isn’t really a penalty at all. So the IRS will bill me for the penalty if I don’t get health insurance, but if I don’t pay, they are not capable of legally forcing me to pay? So it’s just the honor system? Once people find out about that, do you really think the individual mandate will have any affect at all?

    • Scott

      You can twist the argument all you like, but it won’t change. I will repeat myself.

      No, I’m no saying it’s not tyranny because Republicans once supported it. I’m saying the cries of tyranny are hypocrisy because none came when Republicans supported it.

      And I never said it wasn’t a penalty. The government is using an economic incentive, so you will feel it. And, no, just because you can’t be jailed doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions. The IRS is fully capable of harassing you in many other ways for not paying your taxes. I suspect that most people will find that fighting the IRS would cost more than the mandate penalty, at least in time.

      And – remember – this is just an economic incentive. Whether it’s a tax credit you choose not to take, or a penalty you pay for not buying insurance, it’s all the same in the end.

    • For those Republicans who did support it and are now saying it’s tyranny, yes, that’s probably hypocritical. Maybe they’ve sincerely had a change of heart (hey, it happens sometimes), but maybe they just saw which way the political wind was blowing and changed their tune. Still, I’d rather have 51 “hypocritical” Senators who are willing to vote against it right now than only 49 who have always been opposed to it. Personally, I think “tyranny” is too strong of a word, but that’s a linguistic preference, not a political one.

      Anyway, either Republican hypocrisy means it’s not actually “tyranny” (in which case that argument should work for other topics as well), or Republican hypocrisy is entirely beside the point, and just a cheap partisan shot. I’m not twisting your argument, I’m simply taking it to its logical extreme.

    • Thanks for addressing my concerns in a blog post Dr. Carroll!

      I think your application might be incorrect. Here is my point. The individual mandate EXPANDS the commerce clause to include inactivity. This is a rapid expansion in federal power and control. If this passes mustard, that means the government can dictate just being alive. These tax deductions do not apply to everyone and did not require a expansion of authority to implement. While the mandate and these tax breaks are incentives, they are implemented in completely different fashions and have completely different consequences. The debate is on the legality and possible consequences… not that it is a incentive.

      Not to mention, out of those incentives you mentioned, do they actually work?

      Mortgage Deduction= Housing Bubble.

      Child Tax Credit= Do you think people really have kids for tax breaks? Since most new babies are born to immigrants and we are having less children today, probably not

      Charity= does not ever recoup what you put in. It is just a boost for you doing it. Firms give to charity now for image and prestige reasons, not tax breaks.

      Starting a business= I think this does work. I think it works because the tax aligns with our core values of being independent and self-reliant.

    • Aaron,

      Thanks for the heads up on the penalty, I found that at a couple of other sites too. I’m a bit stunned that the mandate is so toothless. It looks like the only recourse for the IRS is to scrape the penalty out of a tax refund. Why on earth will people comply with the mandate?

      On the second point, I’m not going to concede so quickly. You say that most Americans already have insurance, and aren’t going to give it up. But they aren’t going to have a choice. Almost everybody is going to have their insurance plan modified beyond all recognition due to mandated benefits and subsequent price increases. Virtually all of the (relatively) cheap, catastrophic plans will be illegal to sell in 2014. And if you drag employers into this, it is expected that employers will start dumping employees into the individual market from the group market because the penalties are so low. Sorry, but I still call your claim “untrue.” There will be many, many millions of people who will be mandated to buy something they don’t want to buy, and will be unable to keep their previous plan.