Public Service Announcement

I’ve been traveling and hence not blogging much the past several days. I’d intended to post something for today, but since I don’t know what’s going to happen at 10AM, and since that’s likely to be the only thing anybody wants to talk about today, I think I’ll hold off. I’ll be back soon though!

Meanwhile, once 10AM has come and gone, feel free to use this space for (thoughtful!) discussion of the Supreme Court decision, whatever it may be.

Click here to comment or read others’ comments.

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30 Responses to “Public Service Announcement”


  1. 1 1 Dmitry Kolyakov

    Professor Landsburg, once the healthcare discussion has calmed would you perhaps be interested in commenting something on the new masterpiece by Paul Krugman? http://www.manifestoforeconomicsense.org/ (also published yesterday in the FT)
    Thank you in advance!

  2. 2 2 Advo

    Yes, it would be nice if you could say something about that manifesto.

  3. 3 3 nobody.really

    Before the bullets start flying….

    Would it be possible to number the comments? See, for example, this blog. I would have an easier time complimenting the many insightful remarks I read here if I could say, “Wow, Advo, that was an insightful thing you said at Comment 22 (not to be confused with the abject drivel you wrote at Comment 21).”

    Not sure how hard these things are to program. Just a thought.

  4. 4 4 Ken B

    The mandate survives as a tax. Of course the mandate is not a tax. If I speed I don’t pay a velocity tax.

    So now is the time to institute my suggested crucifx tax from another thread. Everyone must own a small silver crucifix or pay a tax of $5000.00. If we accept the logic of this ruling, ans Steve’s ‘you can’t raise religious’ objections then I’m curious to know — aside from foolishness, a slender reed — what objection there can be to a crucifix mandate.

  5. 5 5 Todd

    Shame. There really is no limit to government power anymore.

  6. 6 6 nobody.really

    So the obsession over an “individual mandate” was illusory. There is merely a tax related to health care – combined with the opportunity for any individual to evade the tax by taking actions designed to ameliorate the costs government would bear for that individual’s health care. Who would have guessed?

    So now is the time to institute my suggested crucifix tax from another thread. Everyone must own a small silver crucifix or pay a tax of $5000.00. If we accept the logic of this ruling, and Steve’s ‘you can’t raise religious’ objections then I’m curious to know — aside from foolishness, a slender reed — what objection there can be to a crucifix mandate.

    The objection is “bona fide governmental purpose” and “equal protection.” Rightly or wrongly, governments have been in the business of promoting the health of their citizens for a very long time. And the problems of adverse selection warranted a systemic remedy that could not be achieved for society without compulsion. In contrast, I can’t see the bona fide governmental purpose in the crucifix tax. Consequently I can’t evaluate the nexus between the tax and that bona fide governmental purpose. And I can’t evaluate whether that purpose could be better served by some substitute policy that did not have a disparate impact based on religion.

    Perhaps a better analogy would be a Switzerland-type policy: In pursuit of a bona fide governmental policy of national defense, every adult citizen must maintain a rifle and ammunition, and be trained in their use – or pay a tax designed to finance the maintenance of professional soldiers. I don’t doubt that many people would argue that this policy was abject tyranny or offended their religious views, but I suspect it would pass constitutional muster.

  7. 7 7 Ken B

    @nobody.really:”The objection [to Ken B's crucifix mandate]is “bona fide governmental purpose” and “equal protection.” ”

    Jobs for crucifix makers. The federal government has been in the business of promoting jobs for American workers for a long time. So there’s your compelling interst, but you don’t need a compelling interest to impose a tax.

    “Equal protection”? Everyone needs to own a crucifix. Can’t get much more equal. My stipulation is that you must accept Steve’s argument that an objection based on religion be rejected. “You object rabbi? Sorry, we can’t allow your judaism to be grounds for evading this tax, that would be tantamount to establishing judaism. Enjoy your crucifix”

    Note the crucifix mandate does not establish a religion. It merely imposes a tax which you can avoid paying by helping a distressed sector of the economy.

  8. 8 8 Josh

    The government compels us to pay them in many different ways. Some of these “payments” make sense and some dont. But certainly what you call the payment or transfer shouldn’t matter as much as whether you can justify it as being a good or bad thing.

  9. 9 9 nobody.really

    You know, perhaps we can combine the crucifix hypothetical with the Switzerland hypothetical. In pursuit of the bona find governmental policy of national defense, we could compel all citizens to purchase silver crucifixes – or pay a tax designed to reflect the cost of paying others to do so on your behalf – if the nation were being attacked by vampires.

    After all, while movies may sometimes depict the chief executive as personally defending the nation against the undead, we all know that that’s simply dramatic license. Such depictions are not very realistic from a public policy perspective.

  10. 10 10 Josh

    Also, those of you who are against this BECAUSE you don’t believe the government should force people to do certain things or purchase certain products, do you also believe that hospitals shouldn’t be forced to treat emergency patients that just show up with no means to pay? If you believe they should be allowed to reject dying or seriously inured patients, then I have more respect for your argument. As it stands now, though, why not insure that from those who can afford and who are not insured it we collect a reasonable amount from them to offset the fact that when they have an emergency either the hospital and/or taxpayers will be paying for their healthcare anyway?

  11. 11 11 Todd

    “do you also believe that hospitals shouldn’t be forced to treat emergency patients that just show up with no means to pay?”

    Yes.

  12. 12 12 Steve Landsburg

    nobody.really:

    Would it be possible to number the comments?

    Done.

  13. 13 13 Ken B

    Dibs on 13!!

  14. 14 14 Jonathan Kariv

    I kinda wanted to talk about tau day.

  15. 15 15 nobody.really

    @nobody.really: ”The objection [to Ken B's crucifix mandate] is ‘bona fide governmental purpose’ and ‘equal protection.’”

    Jobs for crucifix makers. The federal government has been in the business of promoting jobs for American workers for a long time. So there’s your compelling interest, but you don’t need a compelling interest to impose a tax.

    “Equal protection”? Everyone needs to own a crucifix. Can’t get much more equal. My stipulation is that you must accept Steve’s argument that an objection based on religion be rejected. “You object rabbi? Sorry, we can’t allow your Judaism to be grounds for evading this tax, that would be tantamount to establishing Judaism. Enjoy your crucifix”

    “Thank you. It’s delicious!”

    Oh, you can pretty much exchange a religion-based objection for a race-based objection. Find data showing that Americans with Asian, Indian, and Jewish ancestry tend to have a lower rate of Christian adherence than other ethnic groups, and would therefore be less likely to already own crucifixes. Bingo: the policy has disparate impact on historically oppressed ethnic groups.

    I understand Landsburg to oppose granting legal preferences based on religion, but that leaves a big question unresolved: What level of scrutiny should policies receive from the courts? Perhaps policies – including policies that have a disparate impact on different religious groups — should receive deferential scrutiny. Or perhaps they should receive intermediate scrutiny. Or perhaps high scrutiny. I understand Landsburg to argue that, whatever level of scrutiny a court provides, the level should not vary based on the religion of the parties.

    So if we say that all policies should receive high scrutiny, then – if challenged – government would need to show a strong nexus between the policy of creating jobs and the crucifix tax. Are there no substitute policies that might achieve the same ends while avoiding the imposition of disparate impacts on suspect categories of people?

    But, of course, this whole hypothetical is ludicrous. Everyone knows that the US imports its silver crucifixes from abroad. So who would propose such a “job-creating” policy? (Besides Mitt Romney, I mean.)

  16. 16 16 nobody.really

    Would it be possible to number the comments?

    Done.

    Thanks!

    Dibs on 13!!

    You call me No. 6. BUT I AM NOT A NUMBER! I AM A FREE MAN!

    (At long last, I can see who No. 1 is. And, believe me, from now on I intend to look out for No. 1.)

  17. 17 17 Harold

    “we could compel all citizens to purchase silver crucifixes” Is a silver crucifix required for vampire defence? I though any crucifix sufficed. Now, silver bullets and werewolves…

  18. 18 18 Ken B

    @Harold: Good point, and indeed those lacking the requisite vampire protection place a burden upon the rest of us. Buffy is worn out.

  19. 19 19 Advo

    That numbering is very nice. Now, if someone could tell me how to do that quote thing?

  20. 20 20 Ken B

    @advo:
    use blockquote and /blockquote enclosed in angle brackets — less than greater than signs. I cannot type it here as the formatter reads it.

    But buy your crucifix first.

  21. 21 21 nobody.really

    Blockquotes: What Ken B said. Or you can find instructions here.

  22. 22 22 Ken

    Advo,

    Try using <blockquote> put quote here </blockquote> to do block quotes quotes.

  23. 23 23 Ken

    Advo,

    This is a reference on how to use html tags, so you can see how to do bold, italics, etc.

  24. 24 24 Ken B

    Dammit nobody.really we missed a trick! We should have said to advo

    That would be telling!

    I’m kicking myself.

  25. 25 25 nobody.really

    Ha!

  26. 26 26 nobody.really

    Shame. There really is no limit to government power anymore.

    Not so fast!

    The Court upheld ObamaCare as a tax. And, let’s face it, we already knew Congress had the power to tax; the only dispute here was whether the Court would acknowledge that ObamaCare was a tax when the Administration had (for political reasons?) refused to make such an acknowledgement.

    But it appears the Court rejected the argument that the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate future/potential commercial transactions, such as the purchase of heath care in the future. That is, the Court seems to have recognized/erected a limitation on Congressional powers to regulate in interstate commerce.

    How important is that limitation? Still mulling that….

  27. 27 27 Jeff Semel

    @nobody.really:

    That is, the Court seems to have recognized/erected a limitation on Congressional powers to regulate in interstate commerce.

    How important is that limitation? Still mulling that….

    Just speculating, but it seems to me that a consequence of using the Taxing Power rather than the Commerce Clause may be this: Suppose some people decide that it’s cheaper for them to pay the fine (“tax”) and then wait to buy insurance until they get sick. (Seems plausible.) Further suppose that enough people choose the fine, so Congress decides to criminalize disobedience, that is, throw people in jail for not buying insurance – fine or no fine. That’s not covered by the Taxing Power. Wouldn’t legislation like that require another round through the courts?

    Now I just need for Ken (No. 22) to divulge the escape sequence he used to show the literal angle brackets in his post. We want information.

  28. 28 28 Ron

    Re: #27

    Use &lt; for < and &gt; for >
    Don’t miss the semicolons!

  29. 29 29 Will A

    @ Ken B
    If I speed I don’t pay a velocity tax.

    Of course you don’t pay a velocity tax. However, reason now is that your payment doesn’t go to the IRS and the fine isn’t based on your income.

    The good news for those who hate the Americans with Disabilities Act is that fines are not paid to the IRS. So Roberts could side with the other 4 conservative judges and throw out this out under his reasoning.

    After all, if I’m fined or have to pay for services in order to avoid a fine, then the government is forcing me to purchase services. And according to Roberts and the other 4, this is invalid under the commerce clause.

  30. 30 30 Ken B

    @Will A: I’m not sure I can parse your comment but …

    It is quite possible to have fines geared to income. Some European countries do that quite explicitly.

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