Critical Condition

The Mandate That Isn’t

It appears that the rumors are true. The health-care monstrosity recently enacted, while ostensibly containing a mandate that every individual obtain Beltway-approved health coverage one way or another upon penalty of a fine, in fact severely limits the enforcement actions that the IRS may pursue. No seizing of assets. No freezing of bank accounts. No criminal charges. Indeed, IRS Commissar, oops, Commissioner Doug Shulman now says that “the IRS would most likely use use tax-refund offsets to penalize those that don’t comply with the mandate.” In plain English: Individuals’ tax refunds would be reduced or confiscated. So one future outcome is clear: The number of exemptions claimed for withholding purposes is certain to rise, yielding fewer interest-free loans for Uncle Sam. Who said that Obamacare is a bad thing? And never let it be said that Barack Obama fails to honor his campaign commitments: He ran against an individual mandate, except for children, who apparently now may be as old as 26.

But please allow Shulman to observe: “He seemed confident that in most cases individuals would either receive subsidies to purchase insurance or simply do so on their own in order to comply with the law.” Sayeth Comrade Shulman: “The vast majority of American people have a healthy respect for the law and want to be compliant with their tax obligations.” A non sequitur, that, but never mind. What is supremely amusing about Shulman’s argument is the observation about the “healthy respect for the law” to be found among the American people. Has he taken a look at Congress lately? Does the legislation evidence a healthy congressional respect for the Constitution? And is the respect for the law among the populace likely to be unaffected by the massively publicized machinations needed to ram Obamacare through Congress, or by the perverse incentives unleashed by the insurance “reforms” in the bill? Has Shulman thought about any of this? No wonder that he needs someone else to do his taxes.

Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.

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