Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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“Did We Say Penalty? We Meant Tax … or”

The individual mandate within Obamacare was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. Go figure. Contrary to the claims of the proponents, the Court ruled the government does not have authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate inactivity. It can, however, tax it. Decrying excessive taxation, big government critics have often lamented that for big government, if it moves, tax it! That no longer applies. Movement – activity – is just not a requirement for taxation anymore.

Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration have always claimed that the fine to be imposed on those who do not purchase health insurance is a penalty, not a tax. The Roberts opinion states the only way it is constitutional is if it is a tax, not a penalty. The Democrats loudly cheered the ruling upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare on the grounds that the fine is a tax. But now they again are stating that it is a penalty, not a tax. So it’s a penalty…or a tax, except when it isn’t. Who can argue with that logic?

As I state in my book (not-so-subtle book plug alert here), The Constitution – I’m Not Kidding and Other Tales of Liberal Folly, government cannot force citizens to buy health insurance or any other product. If it can, that’s bad. It’s “your fourteen-year-old daughter just got a tweet from Anthony Weiner” bad. It’s “your son just announced plans to get a neck tattoo” bad. It’s “Timothy Geitner is offering you tips on using Turbo Tax” bad.

In retrospect, perhaps I underestimated exactly how bad government requiring its citizens to purchase a product is. It’s “your fourteen year-old son, who has a neck tattoo of Timothy Geitner, just got a tweet from Anthony Weiner – and Geitner actually does your taxes” bad!

The court’s decision may open the floodgates for all kinds of congressional mischief under the guise of its taxing authority. (Not that they needed an excuse.) Let’s consider a couple of possible examples.


The EPA declares the entire country, including Alaska and Hawaii (but not Puerto Rico) a wetland. As such, Congress passes legislation requiring all citizens to purchase floodgates. “This is critically important, especially for those who are underwater with their home mortgages,” declared Harry Reid. Naturally, the law specifies the type of floodgates that must be purchased. Less expensive “inferior” Chinese floodgates will not be allowed. Apartment dwellers and families express concern over the undue financial burden of the requirement to buy floodgates or face stiff penalties, um…taxes.

Democrats are pleased that the government is now able to provide free floodgates to the homeless. “Great,” said Pete “Tootsie” Whooten, a homeless man from Milwaukee. “One more thing I have to push around in the damn cart. I wish the government would stop giving me stuff. I’m going to need a bigger cart. I need a free floodgate like I need free solar panels.”

Solar Panels:

Well, there are all those solar panels left over from Solyndra and they just haven’t been moving on ebay. It only makes sense that the government would want to reduce the inventory of solar panels that it (by “it”, of course I mean the taxpayer) has already paid for. Congress could simply mandate that citizens purchase solar panels or face stiff…well, you know where we’re going here. The government will again be pleased to give free solar panels to the homeless. “Solar panels?” asked Whooten. “You’re kidding, right? Why can’t they give me something useful, like a wet-dry shop vac or a George Foreman Grill?”

Curtice Mang is the author of the new book, The Constitution – I’m Not Kidding and Other Tales of Liberal Folly. He can be contacted at, where one can also purchase his book; or contact Curtice at mangwrites at


1 Michael E. Newton { 07.02.12 at 5:51 am }

It’s a tax. It’s a penalty. It’s a floor war. It’s a dessert topping.


Michael E. Newton Reply:

Doh! Floor wax (not ‘floor war’).


Curtice Mang Reply:

Of course, I knew what you meant.


2 Curtice Mang { 07.02.12 at 7:35 am }

And that’s what we are left with – government as a Saturday Night Live skit. It’s hard to know which is real and which is the parody anymore.


3 Bob Mack { 07.02.12 at 12:29 pm }

Tax or penalty? It doesn’t matter. The cards are marked and the game is crooked. It has to be shut down. Linked at


4 Jeff Edelman { 07.02.12 at 7:41 pm }

I would encourage everyone in joining me in flying the flag upside down on “Independence” Day. What do you say?


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