Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
June 2012 - and especially its last week - was ripe with ominous metaphor, all revolving around the Supreme Court's decision on June 28th to uphold President Barack Obama's signature health-care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
For those not in the know, the highest court in the land - the historic mission of which was to guard against tyranny by ensuring that laws passed by Congress abide by the constraints imposed by our Constitution - has now rubber-stamped the most comprehensive expansion of federal power since the New Deal.
The so-called "individual mandate" provision of Obamacare, which compels every American to have government-approved health insurance or face government-enforced penalty, stands thanks to (supposedly) conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the four liberal justices to uphold the law. According to the Roberts Court, government can now order a private citizen - that's you - to engage in commerce and punish you if you don't...so long as that punishment is called a "tax." In one fell swoop, the distinction between public and private is erased.
The very next day, mirabile dictu - the wrath of Heaven came down on Washington D.C. First came the heat, a record 104 degrees, as if the insane Supreme Court decision was an infection that the Gods of Liberty were attempting to fry with a frightful fever. Then came the rain; a brief but violent summer storm swept through D.C. and its environs Friday night, leaving millions without power (and thus air-conditioning) smack in the middle of aforementioned fever. As of this writing, days later, hundreds of thousands are still with partial or no power, and officials are claiming it may be a week or longer before full service is restored.
The rest of America should take note - the city that has just given itself the power to micromanage your health (and thus every aspect of your existence) cannot even keep its own lights on after a summer storm.
As if it all wasn't fitting enough, the "lights-out" week in Washington D.C. extends over the 4th of July holiday. It's all too ironic for words, really - the American Revolution started with outrage over some trifling taxes, taxes which were lawfully passed by the Imperial authority in Britain and which affected a small number of American colonists. Nonetheless, the unjust nature of the Stamp Act and other intrusions into American life spurred our ancestors to war - and ultimately to Independence and freedom.
Now, just in time for Independence Day 2012, an unelected man in a black robe has single-handedly imposed a tax on Americans not passed by any legislature (the mandate was sold as a penalty by the President and his allies, who knew it would never pass Congress if labeled a tax), and handed the Government unlimited power over our lives via an unelected taxation bureaucracy - the IRS.
The Founders knew that the tax power was government's most dangerous instrument. The American experiment in self government was born in opposition to this power, a struggle lit by hope as much as rockets' red glare. That experiment has ended now in utter and fitting darkness, as the government of our Founders claims the authority to tax anything you do, and anything you don't.