With all the flap over the “tax” in the health care law one would think King George himself had been resurrected. The underlying issue is by no means trivial – government assuming ever greater power and imposing highly questionable levies to pay for it. But it is also nothing new, and neither is the Supreme Court putting its stamp of approval on it.
Under President Grant the Knox v Lee decision made Federal notes legal tender, contrary to the explicit dictates of the Constitution. For the first time the doctrine of implied powers was used to expand federal powers rather to than curtail them, and the floodgates were open.
Each new power assumed comes with the need for greater revenue. The better such revenues can be disguised, the better are the chances that an administration can stay in power. FDR raised nearly $3 billion by compensating citizens for confiscated gold at the official rate of $20 per ounce then selling it on the open market for $35. What amounted to a 43% directed tax on the more wealthy Americans was heralded as a victory by the impoverished masses.
Since Nixon divorced the dollar from gold the unrelenting devaluation of the dollar has been a tax of epic proportions. Each new administration has likewise devised creative new ways to boost revenues to fund the constant demand for governmental largesse.
Ironically, such measures are a nod to fiscal prudence, a realization that greater spending requires greater revenues. Yet for decades we demanded that the government keep giving us more as we insisted that it take no more from us. You can’t have it both ways.
There is one very big difference today, however: the government has exhausted its options to extract additional revenues from relatively small groups for which the majority have little empathy. To many Americans the mandate to purchase health insurance is an insurmountable barrier to their future well being.
Simply put, we are at last being confronted by the consequences of demanding far more than we have been willing to pay for. There is no way to unravel the mess while any group imposes a burden on any other. There is little difference between being required to give our money to insurance companies and expecting the existing system to provide care to those unable to pay.
Millions of Americans are in dire straits today, but we all had a hand in getting to this point. Games of semantics and scapegoating will get us nowhere. We need to take a long hard look at where we are and open our minds to innovative, cooperative, and honest solutions.
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