In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the individual mandate of President Obama's "Affordable Care Act" as a "tax," Congressional leaders have responded with an ecstatic flurry of proposals for new laws making use of this newfound authority. "The sky’s the limit!" cried Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), when he heard the news. "The Supreme Court has just given us the OK to make Americans do anything we want, so long as we attach a penalty if they don’t do it and call it a tax."
For example, most economists blame the 2008 recession and the continuing economic malaise on the crashed housing market, which has been slow to recover. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has suggested placing a tax on anybody who does not own a home, which would have the effect of boosting sluggish home sales and reinvigorating the construction industry. "We’d mandate that everybody own a home," he explained, “and place a tax on everybody who didn’t. We’d then use that tax money to buy houses for people who can’t afford them."
The Court’s decision to uphold the ACA under the taxation power instead of the commerce clause has opened up a realm of new possibilities for the federal government. First Lady Michelle Obama is already considering what this ruling means for her war on childhood obesity. "The opponents of my husband’s visionary efforts always complained that if we could make them buy health insurance, we could make them buy broccoli," she said. "They were right, but under the commerce clause, we couldn’t actually make them eat it. Under this ruling, we can simply tell people exactly what they have to eat every day, and levy a hefty fine – we’ll call it a tax – if they don’t."
Republicans have their own ideas, too. "We’re working on a great new way to combat the growing crime problem," Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) told us. "We thought if the court upheld Obamacare under the commerce clause, when we were back in power we’d at least mandate that everybody buy a gun. Now, we can not only mandate that, we can mandate that Americans carry a loaded gun with them everywhere they go, and even mandate that they respond to any crime they see with force."
The Republicans' plan would use tax money generated on penalties for noncompliance to fund police services. "Democrats always justified Obamacare by complaining about the costs imposed on others by people who don’t get insurance. Well, people who don’t carry protection impose costs on others, too, by becoming victims of crime and encouraging more criminal behavior," McConnell explained.
Other ideas that have been tossed around include combating youth unemployment by mandating that all homeowners hire a neighborhood kid to provide daily lawn care services, and dealing with air pollution by mandating that everybody walk, bike, or take public transportation to and from work.