So, it’s law.
The local paper ran a two-color headline: YES IT’S CONSTITUTIONAL. I wouldn’t go quite that far. “Yes, It Stands,” maybe, or “Sure, Why the Hell Not?” or “Yes, It’s As Bad As You Feared and If You Don’t Like It, Scrap It Yourselves.” But constitutional? Even though the Supreme Court refused to strike down the ACA, I think that I’d stop short of saying that they gave it the Constitutional imprimatur.
For one thing, the decision basically outlines every last way in which this statute is bad law, and Constitutionally sketchy… which seems quite odd in an affirmation. For another, it’s quite possible for a very smart person to make mistakes that no average or middling intellect could ever. Justice Roberts’ reasoning in this decision is nearly a textbook example thereof. It’s almost as if he were searching frantically for a legal reason to avoid scrapping this monstrosity.
As a result, there are a number of thoughts within his reasoning that make sense in isolation. For example, there’s the statement that a bad policy isn’t de facto unconstitutional; also, the thought that the Courts don’t exist to spare us the consequences of sending morons to Congress to write dumb laws. Both eminently true. Alas, neither of these is the point at hand. The point at hand is, does Congress have the authority to force us to do what this bill requires? And a very simple reading of the list contained in the US Constitution of things Congress can do reveals that, No, they really can’t, not no way, not no how.
But they ARE allowed to tax us, right? OK, so fine, this is a tax and they’re allowed to do it! Splitting the judicial baby, as it were. Poor kid, he never stood a chance.
There’s a huge flaw in that thinking. I’m sure a cleverer mind than mine could paper over it, explain it away, much as today there are many clever minds explaining all the silver linings in this cloud that’s currently set to deluge us in another layer of unbearable government busybodery. In this case, let’s just look at the cloud, OK? Sure, the Congress can levy taxes – but why are they taxing us this time? That’s exactly what the decision refuses to examine, with a firmness and determination that I wish had been applied towards actually deciding the issue instead of punting it.
It seems quite obvious that Congress has the power to tax only in order to accomplish things it is allowed to do otherwise. We need an Army. Tax! We need to fix the Interstates, deliver the mail, pay down our debts. Tax! Great – so where is “Make citizens buy health insurance” in the Constitution?
Saying “It’s a tax, therefore they can punish you for not doing this” just dodges that whole question, doesn’t it? WHY are they taxing us? If that WHY is unconstitutional, so is the tax, isn’t it? If not, then the word “Tax” becomes a magic wand that can be waved over any mess of intrusive regulatory crap, transmuting it into golden legislation.
By this means the IRS becomes a well-ordered army of Sheriffs of Nottingham, scouring the countryside to squeeze the peasants for whatever coin they deem we can spare, under the pretext of our not doing precisely what we say. Tell me, what “long-term benefit” is there in that? OK, the Feds can’t wave the Commerce Clause at us… so they just impose a tax on what they don’t want us doing, in order to get us to do as they choose for us? That is a fine description of what it’s like to be six years old, having our allowance held back because we haven’t done our chores, but most of us finally mature to the point of resenting the hell out of that treatment and breaking off on our own. That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind the American Revolution in the first place. All of a sudden we as a nation are going to move back into our folks’ basement and enjoy our freedom only under their sufferance? In fact, it’s even worse than that – it’s as if the folks themselves ORDERED us to move back in, and connived with the landlord to raise our rent so high that we’d be forced to turn to them.
Excuse me, but what the fuck? Who do these rat bastards think they are, anyway?
I’ll tell you, and I’ll even borrow Justice Roberts’ method here – the method he used to call this a tax even though everyone involved insisted that it wasn’t a tax, couldn’t be a tax, swore upways and downways and sideways and slantways and every other ways you could imagine that this wasn’t a tax. That method was, in short, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”
The Honorable Mr. Roberts is quite correct to say so. Unfortunately, in this case he concluded that it must in fact be a really clever chicken, not a duck at all. Well, no. To speak plainly, what we have here is not a tax, nor a fee, nor even a penalty for non-compliance.
These are union dues.
Frequently, a non-union worker in a union shop is required to still pay the union dues (or a large percentage thereof), on the grounds that the job and its perks wouldn’t exist without the union; therefore the union deserves a cut. If the administration refuses to collect it, they get a grievance from the union. This in fact has held true twice in my life – the first time, I was an hourly wage-hand in an office for about three years. My boss wanted my job posted so that I could qualify for all the union perks, and finally it was… only the job requirements called for someone with schooling and experience that I did not have. Therefore, according to the union – remember, the collective that’s meant to protect working-class folks! – I no longer qualified for my own job, which I had been successfully doing for years, and was not even permitted to interview for it.
The job I took immediately after that was in a school (secretarial position), and the admin, having heard this tale of woe, promised that it wouldn’t happen again. I was hired. Except that the union rep would want 85% of the normal union dues if I didn’t join. “Well,” I reasoned, “if I’m not going to be sacked for no cause, why would I need the rep to bat for me? Why can’t I just save the money?” Because fuck me, that’s why. So of course I joined the NJEA. I was paying for it anyway, right?
That is exactly what will happen here with the Affordable UnionCare Act. A great many of us will be forced to pay a penalty to avoid it, and since we’re paying anyway, oh well… might as well join. It’s exactly the union model of member recruitment, with a dash of old-school protection racket mixed in. “Nice health care you got, it’d be a pity if anything should happen to it.”
And the irony of all of this is how bad the idea is to begin with. But that’s fodder for the next post…