Shikha Dalmia of Forbes and Reason contemplates a vast campaign of civil disobedience in defiance of the health care mandate:
Any strategy of nonviolent civil resistance has to first make a good faith effort to achieve its end through the available political and legal means. But there comes a time when changing the law requires acts of conscience.
For opponents of ObamaCare that time is Dec. 31, 2013. That's when the individual mandate will go into effect. If ObamaCare hasn't been repealed by Congress or nullified in court by then, its opponents would be justified in urging Americans to refuse to buy coverage or pay fines and dare authorities to come after them.
By some estimates, Uncle Sam will need to hire an additional 17,000 IRS agents or so just to enforce the coverage mandate. But even if a few million Americans simultaneously refuse to abide by it, they could easily overwhelm the system.
Well, it depends on the meaning of "overwhelm" - the legislation includes a pre-emptive retreat in the clause related to enforcement of the mandate. This is from page 131 of the 906 page .pdf Senate bill:
‘‘(g) ADMINISTRATION AND PROCEDURE.—
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The penalty provided by this section shall be paid upon notice and demand by the Secretary, and except as provided in paragraph (2), shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty under subchapter B of chapter 68 [link to Tax Code].
‘‘(2) SPECIAL RULES.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law—
‘‘(A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES.—In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
‘‘(B) LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES.—The Secretary shall not—
‘(i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or ‘‘(ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.’’.
And from Subchapter B of Chapter 68 of the Tax Code we glean this:
Sec. 6671. Rules for application of assessable penalties
(a) Penalty assessed as tax
The penalties and liabilities provided by this subchapter shall be paid upon notice and demand by the Secretary, and shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as taxes.
Now, I am not smart enough to be a Democrat and I am surely not smart enough to be a Democratic Congressperson, but I am having a hard time reading Section 2, where criminal penalties and liens are waived, as a commitment to tough enforcement. [I am a day late on this - apparently, Dems are delighted that no actual enforcement can take place:
A September letter from a top tax official had said failure to pay the fines could ultimately lead to the most severe penalty under federal law for tax evasion, a $100,000 fine and five years in jail.
Now Democrats are touting protections they have added to limit the reach of the tax man. “The bill specifically prohibits the IRS from confiscating taxpayer assets, from using liens or levies, or imposing criminal penalties of any kind — including jail time — because of a lack of health care coverage,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said in a statement.]
Presumably a new Congress could amend the enforcement provisions if non-compliance becomes a problem. Of course, if non-compliance is a problem Congress might want to reflect on the disease, rather than the symptoms.
BONUS PUZZLE FOR THE ACCOUNTANTS AND TAX LAWYERS: Imagine some poor chump owes $6,000 in regular Federal income taxes and a $750 penalty for non-compliance with the mandate. He mails in a return with a check for $6,000 marked as "Full payment for taxes owed/No penalty".
Can the Feds deem his payment to be $750 for the mandate penalty and $5,250 for his taxes, leaving him short (and subject to liens) on $750 for his taxes?
Obviously, this would let them sidestep the "No Enforcement" clause cited above. The result would be non-enforcement for people who don't owe other taxes; I will guess there are more Dems than Reps in that group.
THE OLDIES ARE STILL THE GOODIES: Bill O'Reilly and Congressman Anthony Weiner reprise the immortal "Who's On First" routine. The gist:
Weiner: The IRS does not collect the fine.
O'Reilly: So who collects the fine?
Weiner: That's right.
What's scary is that Weiner claims O'Reilly is making stuff up; Weiner himself is either misinformed or lying.
HMM: Wage garnishment is also known as a wage levy, but I have the notion that it might well be different from a levy on property (such as a bank account), which means that a levy on wages would be allowed under ObamaCare.