I found the question from the Supreme Court, on whether our Congress could pass a law compelling citizens to eat broccoli, intriguing. It elicits an image of a nanny state and ludicrous overreach in a single question. But if “compel” or “mandate” means can the Congress make people who don’t buy broccoli pay more in taxes, then, surprisingly, it seems to me the answer is yes.
That Congress causes someone to pay more in taxes for not buying something may seem like something new, but it really isn’t. It is simply just a different way of presenting tax breaks that we have become accustomed to. We have given our Congress the power to tax our incomes. So members could pass a law adding, say, $1,000 per year to everyone. Then, at the same time, they could pass a tax rebate of $1,000 for anyone buying broccoli. This is identical to just raising the taxes by $1,000 on anyone not buying broccoli.
Of course, in this theoretical case, our Congress could “compel” us to buy broccoli but not necessarily make us eat it. Notice the above model only depended on three things: the ability to raise income taxes, the ability to do so on a flat tax basis and the ability to offer a tax rebate. Of course such a law would likely spur recall elections and the election a new Congress to change the taxes back. But who knows? Maybe our Supreme Court has now sparked some ideas.
A Madman has spoken…