The ACA Heads to SCOTUS by MSW
I also have always believed that this penalty is, in fact, a tax, and that the Court will likely quickly rule that it is and that further consideration of its constitutionality must wait until the tax is collected, leaving all other issues in abeyance until that occurs – although, frankly, it would be an act of judicial malpractice to let clients go forward on a what would be a Quixotic quest against the taxing power to bring this up again.
That is the first hurdle and it is the out that the Court is looking for to avoid the complicated constitutional question. The second is that the dollars funding the public relations campaign against the law are not brought out because the donors object to the mandate, but because the non-wage income payroll taxes which will take effect soon are costing rich people money - especially since there are no offsets to paying them or passing the cost to customers - essentially turning these taxes into a VAT. Indeed, a VAT would be less objectionable than keeping these taxes in place, because the burden is more broadly shared, more visible and refundable at the border.
As an aside, the objection to using the threat of loss of federal funding to enforce Medicaid reforms is a long objection of so called “Federalists” (who are in truth, states rights supporters, which is something different) has never gained much traction, from using highway funding to enforce the 55 mile per hour speed limit to using the same funding to force a 21 year old drinking age. It is an unsophisticated objection. I made the same argument in Iowa Model legislature when in High School – contending that the clause prohibiting differing regulations of commerce or revenue applied. Any first year law student or historian will point out that this clause applies to international trade, not the regulation of interstate commerce or the use of intergovernmental funds. We suspect that the Court has likely allowed it to be argued to kill this argument once and for all. To expect either a radical rethinking of the Commerce Clause or intergovernmental funding requirements will occur at this time is the legal equivalent of believing in unicorns.
The opposition to reform is well funded and sophisticated. We believe it has nothing to do with mandates, the Commerce Clause or Medicaid funding. The real reason conservative major donors don't like the law is the funding mechanism for much of reform. Wealthy donors are writing checks because of provisions creating additional taxes on un-earned income that fix Medicare Part A funding and fund other health care reform, essentially turning the Hospital Insurance Tax into a Value Added Tax with an exemption on profits paid to the 98%. Fighting for repeal on this basis, however, would only be politically unpopular. Only judicial repeal would of the whole law stops this tax hike, although there is no justification for not severing this portion from the law, even if the mandate falls.
Note that whenever this tax applies to those whose holding operate in less than a perfectly competitive market, in other words to most commerce in 21st century America, the costs will likely be passed to the consumer and it would be more honest to simply enact a Value Added Tax or VAT-like Net Business Receipts Tax.
Monday, March 26, 2012
The ACA Heads to SCOTUS by MSW