Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | July 4, 2012

A fun Independence Day list of things that are now considered taxes

If you have decided to go along with Chief Justice Roberts and agree that Obamacare is a tax, now is the time to contemplate the many things this reading will allow Congress to require you to do.

The list is literally endless, because of the endless number of things ideologues can come up with.  But these are some of the top tunes.

1.  Congress can force you to buy an electric car.

2.  Congress can force you to buy solar panels.

3.  Congress can force you to buy and install a remote-control thermostat for your home.

4.  Congress can force you to buy internet service.

5.  Congress can force you to buy particular kinds of food.

6.  Congress can force you to buy contraceptives for yourself.

7.  Congress can force you to buy biofuels, even if you don’t have any use for them.

8.  Congress can force you to donate to political causes and “charities.”

9.  Congress can force you to pay union dues.

10. Congress can force you to buy the New York Times.

11. Congress can force you to buy “green travel” packages.

12. Congress can force you to buy a 3-bedroom, 2-bath townhome with a 1-car parking spot for your electric car.

13. Congress can force you to pay for soccer, gymnastics, and ballet lessons for your children.

14. Congress can force you to pay for a gym membership.

15. Congress can force you to rent a 2-bedroom apartment with no parking space.

16. Congress can force you to borrow money.

17. Congress can force you to pay for a state-college education for your children, regardless of where or whether they actually attend college.

18. Congress can force you to buy a goat.

19. Congress can force you to hire people.

20. Congress can force you to buy mass transit passes, whether you use mass transit or not.

The list could go on and on.  After all, if fining people for not buying health insurance is the same thing as a “tax,” then fining them for not spending on other things is also a tax.

We rarely make important distinctions in our politics anymore, and that is a great menace to our idea of liberty and limited government.  We must not let our concept of the purpose and character of a tax be corrupted, precisely because taxing us is a power accorded Congress in the Constitution.  The definition of “tax” is, in fact, the most important limit on what Congress can do with its power to tax. In the wake of the Obamacare ruling, defining “tax” is defending our liberty – or, from the opposite perspective, attacking it.

This is not a minor point.  Definitions are central to the idea of constitutionalism.  We have let government dig into our pockets in so many different ways that many Americans have lost sight of the importance of definitions, but it is fatal to our liberty if we accept that any old way the government might make us spend money is a “tax.”  It’s not.  Taxes produce revenue for the government as their primary purpose and first-order effect.

I recommend reading Federalist 30-36 to discern the prevailing view of taxes at the time of our founding, as a revenue-production measure for the expenses of government. Count the number of times you see the word “revenue.”  In Federalist 30, Alexander Hamilton makes an illuminating distinction between having power over the people’s lives and having the power to tax:

In the Ottoman or Turkish empire, the sovereign, though in other respects absolute master of the lives and fortunes of his subjects, has no right to impose a new tax.  The consequence is that he permits the bashaws or governors of provinces to pillage the people without mercy; and, in turn, squeezes out of them the sums of which he stands in need, to satisfy his own exigencies and those of the state. In America, from a like cause, the government of the Union has gradually dwindled into a state of decay, approaching nearly to annihilation. Who can doubt, that the happiness of the people in both countries would be promoted by competent authorities in the proper hands, to provide the revenues which the necessities of the public might require?

Read the whole paper; it is clear that Hamilton viewed federal taxation as a revenue-raising measure, and not as a means of exercising mastery over the people’s lives and fortunes (e.g., regulating, penalizing, or social- or environmental-engineering the people).  If we have come to see federal taxation in the latter light, it is not because such a purpose can be read into the Constitution or the Framers’ intent.  We have a choice to accept the statist-interventionist mentality on taxes, or not.  The most important thing we can do today is affirm limits on Congress’s power to tax, by requiring narrow definitions.

I am encouraged that the Romney campaign has declined to agree that Obamacare is a tax.  People need to read the Constitution.  Whatever we accept as a “tax,” Congress has the power to make us pay.  The Obamacare purchase mandate is not a tax, and neither is the fine for not buying health insurance.  If we agree that they are taxes, the constitutional republic is lost.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

Note for new commenters:  Welcome!  There is a one-time “approval” process that keeps down the spam.  There may be a delay in the posting if your first comment, but once you’re “approved,” you can join the fray at will.


  1. ypu, there are so many many things ideologues can come up with.

    this one was fun until you tried to get serious at the end.

    see 41 and tariffs.

  2. “7. Congress can force you to buy biofuels, even if you don’t have any use for them.”

    If you are in the business of making gasoline, Congress already has mandated that you purchase biofuels even though they do not yet exist. And if you don’t purchase them, the government fines you for your failure to purchase them. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion is, sad to say, not radical at all, but a minor extension to the consumer what already has been committed upon the producer.

  3. The tax or the mandate, are just the levers to the mechanism, now Herr Grosch, who looks fondly on the honesty of Walter Mondale, might not realize that this violates Obama’s promises

  4. This is great! Also, love the reference to the Federalist Papers!

  5. Don’t know if using that statist, opportunist, sycophant, attorney, central bank advocate, bad shot Alexander Hamilton for a reference is a good idea.

    • Chuck, I think Hamilton would be very much in the conservative, small government camp today. At the time, the Federalists had the more persuasive arguments, but the Anti-Federalists are looking more and more prescient as time goes by.

  6. Happy Independence Day everyone. I hope you enjoy your 4th. Hopefully by July 4th 2013 we’ll be able to declare our independence from Obamacare.

  7. I would gladly support a law which required you to attend a kindergarten course on constitutional law – or even, for heaven sake, adult literacy lessons. The judgment made it clear (yet again) that the power of Congress to tax must be exercised reasonably. You obviously disagree with the Chief Justice and a majority of his court as to what is reasonable (or not), but I will bet an F35 against your lavish socialized pension that if any of the ridiculous propositions you have listed in your hysterical tract came up for determination by the Supreme Court the result would be to declare the enabling legislation unconstitutional on the reasonableness criterion. The distinction – and the reason why – would be obvious if you had read or understood the judgment.
    We all disagree with findings of the Court, and we can all claim that the Founders would have intended anything which might accord with our individual prejudices. For instance, the Founders would hardly have intended (or anticipated) the right of a citizen militia to carry arms to encompass Saturday-night-specials or individuals toting AK47s. Sadly, the SC has ruled otherwise (up to a point), and, constitutionally, the Founders and their legal successors have left the final say, not to you or I, but to it.

    Now, can somebody explain why I could or should have to pay for your lavish socialized pension and health plan? (Or to put it in another way: Why can the taxpayer be levied to pay for your perks and priviledges, and why shouldn’t you be levied to contribute towards the (far less lavish) provision for your less fortunate fellow citizens?

    • Oh, knock it off, Paulite! Especially today. Our host earned her pension by service to this country. She could have earned a greater compensation at JP Morgan or any number of private or quasi-private enterprises. But have a happy Independence Day, nevertheless.

    • You’re the one with the adult literacy problem. The Constitution, in the second amendment ratified by the states, says: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

      There is no mention of “firearms or guns or rifles” because in the latter years of the 18th century arms included items like knives, swords, pikes and so on. This is why laws that restrict the length of knife blades or their construction, ie. automatic knives, violate the bill of rights. You can, of course, in your simplistic, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood way, object that swords are not an effective device any longer or even used by well-regulated militias, and that the possession of an AK-47 by a private citizen doesn’t have anything to do with that same militia. Fine. Use the amendment process to change it, just as was done with the adoption of the insane alcohol prohibition and its subsequent repeal, another great example of government effectiveness. Curiously, no amendment was needed to make possession of drugs illegal.

    • I join with Cousin Vinnie in asking you to cease beating on the opticon’s pension entitlement. after the first twenty or so times, it’s time to put it away for good, P.

      however, do keep banging away at her always awful attempts to pretend that she has a grasp of law. that has to continue until she gives up and gets to learning some

      • I admit I do come back to the point repeatedly. But it’s difficult to resist the temptation when she obsesses how the nation and its ethos will be destroyed if other folks get a watered-down version of her socialized benefits. Its all this breast-beating, compassion-free mendacity, posing as Christian virtue that really gets to me. If doing without tax-payer provided benefits is character-building, this character-building should start at home.

        Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for our front-line military (i.e. the guys and gals who get shot at); other front-line services like the police and firefighters – and even teachers in inner-city schools – getting these benefits. There are good reasons for this. However, I can’t for the life of me see why bureaucrats – whether military or civilian – should be on this bandwaggon of taxpayer largess. They should pay for these things themselves – just like I do. (BTW, I don’t buy the fiction that the benefits our civil-servants get is factored into their salaries. Given the enormity of their actuarialized value, they would then be arguing that they are entitled to twice the pay rates on offer for similar jobs in the private sector)

        Anyhow, I will perhaps just wince and keep silent every time she goes on about how other people’s benefits are destroying the nation.

        And a belated and happy 4th to you all.

        • The fact that everyone else’s benefits (SS, Medicare, SCHIP, Medicaid, Obamacare) are all unsustainable drains on the country’s purse and that the wealthiest American’s all ready pay a level of taxation above the level of wealth they control it would seem the bankrupcy of the US would be something to be worried about.

          That none of the programs I mentioned are actually solvent – both Medicare and SS if put to standard financial audit tests would fail them – as would the pension plans of a majority of the public employee groups at both the state and local level – seems to you to be no big deal. State UC pools are broke as well. Maybe 99 weeks of benefits aren’t such a good idea after all.

          Just look across the pond to few the financial disaster that looms here. California is staring it right in the face. I apologize not wanting to go the poor farm myself so someone else can have elective surgery done on their wrist, or face no consequence of being diabetic because they sat around and ate and drank themselves into the disease.

          • and THAT is the argument to be answered. ….. are these things practical and affordable?

            the argument that they’re unConstitutional is patently bullspit and cretinous to any but a few people who are attempting to fob off a logical error as an important truth.

            • It is something that is overlooked quite frequently – now you and I would disgree on the 10th Amendment I understand, but whether it is constitutional or not the fact is we haven’t the money to pay for it, let alone all the other entitlemetns already on the books and implemented.

              • plenty of room for argument about the 10th……….

                and as it pretty much doesn’t really say much to begin with and was anyway modified by later amendments, it really wouldn’t be all that fruitful

            • And another thing – its (socialized national medical schemes) track record of working is pretty abysmal.

              • there are no direct analogs in the medical systems of other countries, unless you can point to one with roughly the same per capita expenditures and something near to the size of our own in a society with about our level of technology…….for starters.

    • “can somebody explain why I could or should have to pay for your lavish socialized pension and health plan?”

      “People, (such as yourself) sleep peaceably in their beds at night, only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

      If enlistment in the military, which attaches the provision that ones very life is hostage to the needs of the state and, with nothing beyond societal conscience to advocate upon their behalf… if that isn’t deserving of proportionate recompense, then nothing is, so what recompense would you offer for keeping your ungrateful tush safe and free against the ever ready aggressor barbarians?

      “Why can the taxpayer be levied to pay for your (retired military) perks and priviledges, and why shouldn’t you be levied to contribute towards the (far less lavish) provision for your less fortunate fellow citizens?”

      Firstly, retired military do pay taxes. Secondly, the average compensation of public sector employees increasingly exceeds that of the military. Thirdly, it’s not provision for the less fortunate who cannot provide for themselves to which we object but the entitlements of socialism, which seeks above all, equality of outcome and the ‘insurance’ of ‘cradle to grave’ entitlements with the most productive and monetarily fortunate paying for those ‘entitlements’.

      It’s a supremely important philosophical* objection; in principle, what right do I have to use coercion, so as to benefit from the sweat of your brow?

      And if I don’t have the right to reach into your pocket through the ‘might of the collective’ and take what I ‘need’ then neither do you have the right to do that to me. Regardless of how many people may agree that “the might of collective votes, makes right”. The quantity of agreement of an opinion does not equate to the veracity of an opinion.

      Might does not make right, regardless whether it be the might of arms or the might of votes, only right makes right, even if it be but one who has ‘the right of it’.

      * Many falsely and unwisely disparage philosophical questions. Ultimately, the ONLY difference between tyranny and freedom is its philosophical premises.

  8. Now, JED, as perceptive as you usually are, you have got to be more analytical about this.

    You know it’s an unconstitutional mandate, and I know it’s an unconstitutional mandate, and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama now know that it’s an unconstitutional mandate. But John Roberts has said it’s tax (though I sincerely doubt he rally thinks it is), and John Roberts, not you or me of Nancy or Good Ol’ BHO, has the deciding vote.

    So we are in an interesting place. BHO, Nancy P, Harry the devout? norman, and all of their cohorts assured us this was not a tax.

    The Supreme Court has now, apparently, ruled that they are liars and con men (women). If the MSM were not a DMC propaganda machine, it would recognize that it ha them in a box much tighter than Richard Nixon ever saw. If they wish to promulgate the truth, that this is not a tax, then it is manifestly unconstitutional and they are in violation of their oaths of office if they lift a finger to enforce it. If it is a tax, they must admit to being liars and conmen (women).

    Unfortunately, we must face the fact that the MSM will, as usual, roll over and present itself for intellectual and sexual abuse.

    Keep up the fight. You are doing a great job!

    • if only someone coulda convinced the Congress, White House or Supreme Court that it was unConstitutional…..then what you think you think you know wouldn’t be known to be wrong.

  9. If Roberts has defined the power of Congress to tax that broadly – I see little of what she says as impossible. Under your interpretation the amendment on instituting the income tax should have been unnecessary.

    I realize that SS and Medicare have been found to be funded properly – with payroll taxes – and have survived their day in court (I think only SS was challenged but I could be wrong on that). I, however, still have a pretty sure feeling that the power to tax was never intended to be that broad – not only the Federalist Paper excerpt above but the proceedings of the convention itself more than bear that out. And it seems that the 10th Amendment has pretty much been neutered – govt sponsored benefits (non-employment related) seem to pretty much fly in the face of the entire concept.

    The beauty of all of this is that under this ruling – you can now be taxed if you are not a member of a church. I wonder how the left will be singing a tune when things they don’t like become mandatory – like taxing you if you don’t have a weapon in your home. It is all there waiting to happen thanks to a very radical reading of Congress’s taxing power.

    As I listened to the speeches yesterday – and their thanks to our men and women in uniform I was struck by what was missing – no reverence for the document under which this day is supposed to be special. With all the platitudes to freedom all day – I have never in my life felt less free, and not because Roberts said I can now be taxed for breathing. It is a general sense that govt at all levels – but particularly at the federal one – no longer hold these truths to be self evident. Our fruits of our labor are no longer ours in their minds, and our desire to keep what is ours and determine how we would like to us it is an increasingly foreign concept to the political elite and their bureacratic partners. They have become, or are becoming, our King George. or our Caeser.

    While this is not Rome, we are at a very interesting place where the population is split on whether they wish to be cared for by the state or free from it. Once we decide to be cared for, the slide begins. We see it currently in Europe where the massive welfare state is destroying the birthplace of much of the political and philosophical thought we hold dear. We need only look back in history and see the decline of Rome and of the British Empire and realize we are making the same choices today.

    Perhaps we will choose wisely but I think rather we will not. Too many people want something for nothing – for it is the human habit to move to the easist level if it is available. If we are at the peak of our powers, I hope the ride down is more like that of a glider than a rock.

    • —– you can now be taxed if you are not a member of a church. ——

      somehow, I think that one may not hold up

  10. Shorter Liberal: “Bah, it cannot happen. And if it does, I´ll find a reason to defend it.”

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