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Did the ObamaCare decision really expand Congress' tax authority?

Did the ObamaCare decision really expand Congress' tax authority?

In my opinion, not really.

On this tax authority issue, many conservatives are contradicting themselves. First, conservatives are arguing that in the Supreme Court's ruling, Congress' ability to levy taxes has greatly expanded.  Take for instance this reaction from Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center:

Doesn’t this ruling effectively expand the power of Congress to regulate whatever it wants once it slaps a “penalty” on it and then defends it on the ground that it is actually a “tax”? Isn’t the distinction between tax and regulation a pure fiction, given that, in the end, we get a severe encroachment on our freedom either way? The government is already overreaching at every turn, and this ruling adds insult to injury.

But I would argue that the Court's ruling doesn't expand Congress' constitutional ability to levy taxes at all.  They can call it a "penalty," but at the end of the day, Congress has always had the ability to use such tax maneuvers.

At the same time, conservatives are (correctly) pointing out that if Obama had acknowledged that his policy was actually tax from the beginning, it never would've passed, the people would not have stood for it.  In fact, when the original ObamaCare debate was churning across the country, Republicans constantly painted the bill's penalties as taxes -- so why then are we so upset when Justice Roberts calls this spade a spade?

In my opinion, because we wanted more.

We wanted the Court to strike down the law so we could be rid of it.  But the real lesson to take away from yesterday's SCOTUS ruling and Roberts' unconventional decision is this: the people are the check to balance Congress' tax authority, not the Supreme Court -- and certainlynot the political parties.  This means that the people have to take their responsibilities of limiting this power seriously and we'll see just how seriously they take it when voters head to the polls in November.

This, I believe, is one of the most important lessons to take away from Chief Justice Roberts' decision yesterday, a move which I believe has much more genius built into it than conservatives are currently giving him credit for.  On the one hand, Roberts successfully used the Court's liberal justices to place much-needed limits on Congress' authority in the Commerce Clause -- limits the liberal justices would never have otherwise supported.  In addition, I believe that Roberts showed judicial restraint -- not activism -- in this decision by reminding us of our responsibility to be active participants in this representative democracy and how we should never rely solely on politicians, judges or bureaucrats to preserve our liberty.

To paraphrase Mitt Romney yesterday: If you want to get rid of ObamaCare, you have to get rid of Obama.  The stakes in this election just got exponentially higher -- Are we up for the challenge?

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