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A poll tax, sometimes called a capitation tax, is a tax of a sum certain on individuals.  Now I invite you to imagine a world in which you are required to pay a poll tax to insurance companies.  This is the world that Sen. Max Baucus and every other opponent of the public option envision.  Without a public option, Congress will have given the insurance companies the power to demand however much money they want from you and to do so every year until you die.  If you refuse to pay the insurance companies, you will be punished with fines and possible jail time.  A tax by any other name...

Of course, the fact is that without a public option but with a personal mandate, the legislation itself is likely unconstitutional.  It will be an illegal delegation of Congress's power of taxation.  Only instead of the usual unconstitutional delegation of powers, i.e. to the Executive branch of government, this time it will be a delegation to the Corporate "branch" of government.

Why would Congress try something so cynical?  Probably because they don't understand what it is they are doing.  I doubt they have thought through the legal implications of no public option.  They're too focused on costs and trying to assuage the town hall one-percenters.  Some might also see it as the equivalent of car insurance mandates.  But there are two key differences with car insurance mandates.  First, you aren't required to drive.  Now while it's true that it's impractical not to drive in many areas of the country, the fact remains that if you stop driving you don't need to buy car insurance anymore.  With the personal mandate, you are only released from it when you die.  Second, car insurance mandates are state mandates, not federal.  The Constitution is an interesting document in that its operating principle is that the federal government only has the powers granted to it.  Most other governments in history took the position that the central government was all-powerful and that local governments only had the power the central government gave to them.  As a result of our union of states approach, state governments have more powers than the federal government does.  So while a state government might be able to get away with it, the federal government couldn't.  And you could make a strong argument that a state government trying to give private companies the power to tax citizens would be violating the Constitutional guarantee of a republican form of government.

At the end of the day, ordinary citizens ought to be up in arms at the very idea that the government is seriously considering ceding the power to tax to private companies.  That they aren't yet is probably because nobody has explained it to them that way yet.  That's my thoughts, anyway.  I'm happy to listen to yours.  And if this thing passes with a personal mandate and without a public option, I'll see you all in jail, too.  Because I'd rather go to prison than be taxed by a private company.

Originally posted to Mike McL on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 06:57 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (24+ / 0-)

    The Rule of Law begets democracy. Democracy does not necessarily beget the rule of law. This is a maxim which we too often overlook.

    by Mike McL on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 06:57:04 AM PDT

  •  How about car insurance? (0+ / 0-)

    I guess everyone is required to have that, that drives.

    •  Dealt with in the diary. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State, Chi, Seneca Doane

      The Rule of Law begets democracy. Democracy does not necessarily beget the rule of law. This is a maxim which we too often overlook.

      by Mike McL on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 07:07:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Mandatory car insurance is usually only liability (4+ / 0-)

      Two other differences:

      1. I believe in most states the "mandatory" part of car insurance is for liability, if you hit or injure someone else. The mandatory part of health insurance has nothing to do with liability.
      1. There's the issue of scale. Car insurance is WAY more affordable than healthcare or health insurance. I've got an old 1992 Sentra (which STILL wasn't clunker-y enough for the clunkers program) in a dense urban neighborhood and my insurance through AAA is $57 a month. If people could buy health insurance or healthcare for $57 a month, this entire health care and health insurance debate would not be happening.

      Californians: The Courage Campaign is working for changing the 2/3 budget rule and for ending Prop 8. Go!

      by tmo on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 08:36:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for saying this... (13+ / 0-)

    My God I don't know why people aren't discussing this stupid mandate more often.  I can't believe this is even being seriously considered, and if it passes I have to believe it's going to be a disaster for the Democrats.  The Republicans will immediately argue how the Dems are big taxers.

    Worst part is, I might could agree with the Republicans for once, but I've heard many of them say they SUPPORT the mandate.  Where's those libertarian values these bastards profess all the time?  I guess personal freedom can take a back seat when it comes to helping out big business.

    •  If there's a public option, (9+ / 0-)

      I don't have a problem with the mandate.  Then it becomes like the ordinary gov't function of taxing and spending.  My problem is with the idea that I might be compelled to pay what amounts to a tax to insurance companies.  Or any private companies.  That scares the hell out of me.

      The Rule of Law begets democracy. Democracy does not necessarily beget the rule of law. This is a maxim which we too often overlook.

      by Mike McL on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 07:19:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Problem with the public option requiring payment (6+ / 0-)

        I think we've still got a big problem if the public option requires payment. We don't require people to pay a fee to send their kids to public school. Do we require unemployed people to pay up for insurance with money they don't have? I've read Obama's plan at the site and it seems to be saying that unemployed people will get a subsidy in the form of a tax credit. That doesn't do you any good to get a tax credit next April when you have to pay up now. What if you really don't have the money now? Is it their intention to drive people into bankruptcy? Or will that just be an unfortunate side effect?

        Californians: The Courage Campaign is working for changing the 2/3 budget rule and for ending Prop 8. Go!

        by tmo on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 08:40:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But the mandate is probably necessary... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Angie in WA State, tmo, Mike McL

          It's the whole moral hazard problem.  Without the mandate, the public option ends up being purchased by people who are likely to use a lot of resources.  In order for insurance to work, the risk needs to be spread over the entire population, not just the sickest subset.  (The latter is one reason why individual insurance is so much more costly than group insurance: with no mandate and no group to spread the risk, the insurer would be gambling on one person in a market where the healthiest are already skimmed off the top by high-deductible plans.)

          But at the same time, the mandate can't work without a robust public option.  Without real competition to keep private insurance companies honest, a mandate just forces people to hand over their money to an industry that has shown it cannot be trusted or even policed.

          I see both the public option and the mandate as essential in any health care reform bill.  The tricky part is how to keep people from going bankrupt now.  I believe that the best way to do it is to offer the choice of public insurance at a reduced (or waived) premium, or a tax credit for those who choose private insurance through the exchange.  That way there is at least something to fall back on for those who cannot pay immediately.

          •  sign me up for public option - (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cassiodorus, Mike McL

            oh, and I use so little of my current private insurance that I never meet my $1200 deductible...please don't assume that public option will only attract the sickest citizens.
            Mho a buy-in to Medicare would circumvent both the mandate and the tax issues.

  •  Government Mandate to Fund Corporatism (9+ / 0-)

    If you can't afford it will there be debtor's prisons

  •  If there is no public option (6+ / 0-)

    and there is a mandate, you are right, we are now being taxed and owned by corporations. I have been looking at the options for leaving the country after all of the pathetic waffling by the dems on this. There is no way I will ever pay their mandated insurance to one of the current for-profit companies. Not. Gonna. Happen.

    Yes we did, yes we will. President Obama

    by marketgeek on Thu Sep 17, 2009 at 08:26:45 PM PDT

  •  A tax raise? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike McL, miss SPED, pensivelady

    Yes. And we should frame it that way.  Republicans want what will be a tax on everyone!

  •  remember the poll tax rebellion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike McL, miss SPED

      actually history is full of poll tax rebellions but the one in Britain that was ultimately responsible for ousting Thatcher is the particular one I had in mind.

      the reason poll taxes tend to make people so angry, and have for thousands of years, is because they are the most regressive tax imaginable - especially because poor people tend to have more children.

      the Health Tax would be a tax that would fall only on relatively poor people, since prosperous people already have health insurance. It would mean using the threat of government coercion (fines, jail) to extract money from poor people, a certain proportion of which will then go directly to the pockets of rich people, since a certain amount of it will go to the profits of the corporation or the insanely high salaries of its executives. Maybe people don't realize it now. But the moment that people realize they will be forced, by the government, to pay profit-seeking corporations against their will (let alone, corporations whose executives bribed the senators to pass legislation making them do so, let alone, corporations whose executives are now taking their money, extracted by force by the government to continue to bribe senators to give them the right to do so) we will be seeing a mass outbreak of popular rage unlike anything seen before.

      the problem is it's the Republicans who will be leading it. If the Democrats make it illegal not to buy private health insurance, threaten to fine poor families who can't afford it, and don't provide a public option... they will be voted out of power. Which is disturbing, because the Republicans have reduced themselves to a lunatic fringe as we all know who could never in a million years be able to retake power otherwise. Baucus and his corrupt ilk will have managed to do the unthinkable - give the crazies a genuinely good reason to rebel against the government and give power to the Republicans

  •  It's nice to see the rebellion -- (0+ / 0-)

    against mandates getting started. Tipped and rec'd.  

    "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

    by Cassiodorus on Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 06:24:14 AM PDT

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