One major theme now of those who object to the new health insurance reform bill is to challenge its constitutionality, saying that nowhere does The Constitution give the government the right to require citizens to purchase something from a private business. Maybe not, but it’s a fine point because, regardless of the original intent of the Constitution, there are well established precedents for the right of the government to require citizens to purchase something directly from the government. Social Security and Medicare are prime and very large examples. There are also many well-established precedents for the government’s right to collect taxes from citizens and then use the tax money to purchase things for the citizens. Highways and armies would fall into that category. So, while the current approach to health insurance reform might be challenged on a technicality, there is no doubt that, if those favoring a government single payer health care system had won out, challenges to constitutionality would be futile. After all, that is what Medicare is for the over 65 crowd, and it has been in effect for 45 years.
And, of course, strictly speaking, we are not being required by the recently signed law to buy insurance. We are just being penalized with a tax if we fail to do so, or, alternatively, we are getting a tax benefit or avoiding a tax by doing so. I don’t believe anybody will go to jail for failing to buy health insurance. They will just have part of their income confiscated by the IRS, and that can happen for lots of reasons. For those liberal leaning folks who start with the position that all belongs to the government and that any tax break consists of government expenditure, buying health insurance will now just be another tax break similar to deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. Those liberal leaning folks are ones who might argue that renters are being penalized by additional taxes because they cannot deduct their rent the way home owners deduct their mortgage interest or that single folks are being penalized by additional taxes because they cannot file joint income tax returns and enjoy the lower rate granted to married couples. (Added: A very frustrating liberal view would be that the government is "spending" on tax breaks for home owners and married couples and that, to be fair, the government needs to also "spend" on tax breaks for renters and single folks.)
All of which explains exactly why the present tax system is so corroded and corrosive and corrupting (For more explanation go here.) and pretty much assures the continued growth of government and expansion of socialism at the expense of free enterprise in America. With it’s progressive rate structure, exemptions, exclusions, deductions, credits, alternative minimums, phasing out of deductions with income, etc., it gives the US Congress unlimited power over the economy and the people. All this in spite of Senator Harry Reid's argument that income taxes are voluntary. And of course the linkage of the health insurance reform bill to the Internal Revenue Service and the rumored hiring of thousands of new IRS employees to monitor and assure compliance with the health insurance reform bill support this argument.
So, if we want to challenge the constitutionality of something, let it be neither the health insurance reform bill nor the income tax itself which was authorized by the Sixteenth Amendment consisting of thirty words, but just the volumes of discriminatory government-expanding, economy-destroying, and congress-corrupting rules and regulations which have grown up as a result of that simple amendment and which make it so easy for our congress to manipulate and control. Just for reference, here is the simple and innocent sounding February 3, 1913, 16th amendment on which our incomprehensible tax code is based:
"ARTICLE XVI. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."Addendum: For those of us arguing in favor of the Fair Tax, a tax on consumption to replace the income tax, there is a sobering article in the April 5 WSJ about the political struggles in VAT (Value Added Tax, a consumption tax) countries to determine what is and is not subject to the VAT. When is "food" just food exempt from the VAT and when is it a luxury to be taxed? And now the rumor is that, in order to stop the growth of our deficit, we will get a VAT not in place of but on top of the income tax.