Tag Archives: Supreme Court

MPSL VLog:Unions in the Union (Same-Sex Marriage)

Same-sex marriage was also up for a vote in several statewide elections. Professor Gaffaney explains what could happen in this Supreme Court 2012-13 term.

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on Same Sex Marriage

Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to review two cases dealing with same sex marriage. Some observers believe this move might result in a decision that will affect gay rights nation-wide. What do you think?

Weekly Quiz: Test Yourself on this Week’s Events

The weekly quiz is now live in Mypoliscilab. Good luck!

MPSL VLog: Check-Up on Health Care Policy

How does the recent Supreme Court health care decision affect Obama’s chance at re-election? Professor Gaffaney explains.

MPSL VLog: Party Platform

How will the Republican Party’s platform on immigration issues affect this fall’s elections? Professor Gaffaney explains.

Weekly Poll: Your Opinion on the Affordable Care Act Decision

Some legal experts were surprised by Chief Justice John Roberts’ position on the Affordable Care Act decision. What do you think?

The Tool of Taxation

Old hammer during reconstruction of the buildi...

Old hammer during reconstruction of the building in Pleszew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In graduate school a professor of mine often referred to the “toolbox of government.”  The characterization must have resonated with me because I still use it in my own classes almost fifteen years later.  Of course he was referring to the variety of actions that governments at all levels have at their disposal to implement and otherwise enforce public policy.  For our purposes we can narrow the contents of the “toolbox” down to the bare minimum:

  • The power of government to deprive a person of liberty (think incarceration and in the most extreme form, the death penalty)—the hammer.
  • The power of government to deprive a person of property (think real property and money)—the hammer.

Confused?  Don’t be.  Chief Justice John Marshall (1801-1835) is credited with expressing the position that the power to tax is the power to destroy.  In this regard the power to tax is the power to punish those who violate the law, ignore regulations, or otherwise challenge the general welfare—the hammer.  The power to tax citizens and residents, businesses, corporations, is generally available to most governments—from Congress to your local water district.  Check your text books, one of the first concurrent or shared powers listed is the power to tax.  Moreover, taxes are ubiquitous—fees: taxes; assessments: taxes; dues: taxes; levies: taxes; taxes: taxes.  The power to tax is the power of government to deprive.

In the months following the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-care) , much will be made of the taxation aspect of the now upheld health care reform package—especially the individual mandate, which requires people capable of paying for health insurance to do so or risk a penalty (tax).  What do you think, is it the most intrusive tax ever devised by government (in this case by democrats)?  Is it a new tax?  Is it a tax increase (even though it only applies to people who don’t buy their own health insurance—and wouldn’t we otherwise call these people free-riders or equate them to people who don’t buy car insurance and drive up all of our rates)?  With all the hammers we get hit with every day, is this the one we’re really going to object to?  Ouch!  I know how to fix it; where’s my hammer?!

–DENNIS FALCON