Thursday, July 5, 2012

Yes, Tax/Penalty/Mandate is Just Semantics

Kevin Drum argues that the big tax/penalty/mandate debate is more than just semantics, given that John Roberts made a big deal of it in his decision. Perhaps. This is worth a quick once-through:

1. Substantively, what you call it makes no difference whatsoever. I think Ezra Klein nailed that one completely.

2. Politically, in terms of 2012 electoral politics, I'm going to insist that it makes no difference whatsoever what the thing "really" is. Republicans are free to call it whatever they like (as are Democrats). There's not apt to be any cost at all to anyone if, for example, they are radically inconsistent about it.

3. Legally, Drum has a point...but that's all in the past now; there's no reason that our substantive understanding of a policy has to be controlled by the legal understanding of it; and anyway, I strongly suspect that Roberts would have found some other hook if "tax power" wasn't available, although that last bit is obviously speculation.

So, yeah, it's really just semantics, and nothing at all is at stake in what anyone, Romney included, chooses to call it.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. B,

    Its not "all in the past now" legally. A ruling sets important precedent.

    There is an important "power of government" distinction between being able to compel commerce, fining to punishing disobedience, and levying a tax on those who don't carry insurance. With the former, its not really what the limits on that punishment could be, beyond those already enshrined in the constitution. In the latter case, the limit is clear.

    I'm curious what other hook you envision that would enable Roberts to side with the liberals regarding the mandate, and preserve this limit.

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