Sunday, January 25, 2015

Stamp Act of 1765 and Affordable Care Act of 2010

This is a stretch. I was reading Barbara Tuchman’s classic book The March to Folly about the misjudgments governments make in spite of evidence to the contrary.

In speaking of the Stamp Act of 1765, which has similarities with the Affordable Care Act, she says:

“Because the Act not only required a stamp on all printed matter and legal and business documents, but extended to such things as ships’ papers, tavern licenses and ven dice and playing cards, it touched every activity in every class in every colony.”

The ACA is like that: it touches the lives of every American of every class in some way at one time of another over the next decade, and it will be make its presence known in every IRS return. And for many Americans, it is “taxation without representation,” in that it passed without a single Republican vote. So far the ACA has imposed $500 billion in taxes on Americans/ Since its inception, Americans have opposed the ACA by double digit margins in over 95% of national polls.

In the words of Tuchman, the Stamp Act “was a classic case and ultimately self-defeating case of proceeding against all negative indications.” The colonies were willing to tax themselves but Parliament and King George III rejected any alternative, such as the colonies taxing themselves. The opposition was ignored “because policymakers regarded Britain as sovereign and the colonials as subjects, because Americans were not taken too seriously.”

Parliament repealed the counterproductive Stamp Act in 1766 because of its negative effect on commerce and to ward off a rebellion by the colonies.

Through his unilateral executive actions, President Obama seems to regard himself as sovereign, looks upon Republicans and state governors with disdain, and has threatened vetoes (nine so far) if his wishes are not met. He cannot envision Congress in terms of equality or as representatives of the people. Perhaps that will come if his vetoes are overridden. Perhaps it will come with repeal. Perhaps it will never come. Perhaps it will only come with a new President.

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