December 30, 2010

The Stamp Racket Mandate (part 3)


In part 2 of these posts I described how the Stamp mandate is unconstitutional and an affront to the rule of law. My argument assumes belief in democracy and federalism, so that we act as citizens to embody and interpret our own Constitution in its essence and its obvious intent. It’s empirically proven that all elitists are criminals. It’s empirically proven that representative trickle-down pseudo-democracy doesn’t work, and is by now a scam. By definition the Constitution seeks the broadest freedom and welfare of the people. By definition it can’t legitimately be subverted to corporatist ends. That’s why the SCOTUS is illegitimate: because it’s corrupt.
The liberal process mentality will never understand, therefore, why the Stamp mandate violates the commerce clause, the necessary and proper clause, the 5th amendment, and most of all the 9th and 10th amendments. (Conservatives also reject the Constitution in all those ways, but I think they’re more likely to be conscious criminals rather than feckless ideologues.)
It’s also a poll tax, which the Constitution has already explicitly outlawed. (This had to be done because the liberals’ and conservatives’ own beloved SCOTUS was willing to illegitimately call poll taxes “constitutional”, most recently in 1937.) Anyone who doubts Obama’s bad policy faith and guilty conscience over the constitutionality of this mandate need only look at how during the legislative process he claimed it wasn’t a poll tax, while now in court he claims it is.
No one who truly believes in his cause and has great power to achieve it ever obfuscates and lies about its essence this way. Obama’s flip-flop here is smoking gun proof that he consciously regards the mandate as unconstitutional as well as bad from a policy point of view. Otherwise, as leader of the Party with total control over both houses of Congress, he’d proudly affirm his “accomplishment”.
Nevertheless, Obama is finally telling the truth for once. This is a poll tax. It’s a radically regressive tax. By now, all taxes on the non-rich are by definition regressive, since all such extractions are conveyed to corporate interests. We know that government does not need taxes for revenue. We know that taxes are only political and redistributive. And we know that under kleptocracy, the redistributive purpose of taxation, every sort, is from the productive people to the parasitic rich.
That’s why one of our basic principles and slogans must be: No Taxes on the Non-Rich.
So this poll tax is a nasty assault on our already parlous economic position. Consider this anecdote:

William Mann of Pittsburgh earns just enough to get by. He is 46, doesn’t own a car, hasn’t taken a vacation in three years and hasn’t had health insurance for most of his adult life.

He is just the kind of person who should benefit from the health care overhaul, and he is, in fact, eligible for heavily subsidized insurance that will cost him an estimated $1,845 a year, while the government contributes about $2,756.
But Mr. Mann says he still can’t afford it. He lives too close to the edge, and won’t be buying insurance, even though he will face a fine under a provision called the individual mandate, which penalizes most Americans who don’t buy coverage starting in 2014. The requirement is one of the most controversial aspects of the overhaul.

Subsidies, even if they really did materialize, will not cover the cost of the Stamp. It’ll still be unaffordable for millions who will then be fined for being unable to pay this poll tax.
That NYT piece refers to “the choices made by people like Mr. Mann”. I guess according to the NYT if he was denied food he’d “choose” to starve to death as well. It also quotes a Kaiser cadre saying that in Massachusetts people feel bullied into buying what they can’t afford, thinking that if they’re going to be mugged anyway, they might as well buy the Stamp. But these coerced policies don’t provide affordable care. They only extract payments.
If the process functions exactly the way astroturfers like Krugman claim, then the mandate will make no difference at all:

If you are an individual without employer-provided health insurance that plans to get insurance on the exchange, the existence of the individual mandate (or lack there of) will likely have little or no impact on what you will pay in premiums.

The way the new exchange is designed is as follows:

If you are an individual making less that 400 percent of the federal poverty level, you will qualify for subsidies to help you afford insurance.
The size of your subsidy is based on individual income and the cost of the reference plan, which is the second cheapest, “silver” level plan.
The subsidy is set so that after you pay a certain percentage of your income, the government will pick up all the cost over that.
For example, if you make $26,500 a year, the amount you are required to pay to get the second cheapest silver plan is capped at roughly 7 percent of your income, roughly $2,000. If that reference plan cost $4,000, your subsidy would be $2,000. If that reference plan cost $8,000 your subsidy would be $6,000 and you will still only pay $2,000. To you, the actual cost of premiums for this plan doesn’t matter…..

Rising premiums are government’s budget concern, not that of individuals on the exchange.

What this means is that, for most people on the individual exchanges, how much they pay has very little to do with the actual cost of the premiums. When the White House says removing the individual mandate would increase premiums by 20 percent they are talking about total cost, but that increase would barely affect how much people using the individual exchanges are paying.

So mandate or no mandate, the incentive is for the rackets to jack up the price as much as possible since government will allegedly cover the extra cost. Mandate or no mandate, the cost to the low-income Stamp purchaser will be the same, and the total social cost will be the same. So why, if the Democrats were honest about these subsidies, did they add the mandate at all? If they’re honest, then there’s no need for the mandate. They can correct their political mistake and get rid of it.
Unless, of course, the real goal of this poll tax, like all other poll taxes, is social control, forced conformity to a centralized monetary system. And the subsidies are never meant to materialize.

From a pure dollars-and-cents point of view, it is cheaper for people just to pay the penalty. Even when fully implemented in 2016, the penalty is limited to no more than 2.5 percent of taxable income, and it starts out even lower, with a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

The NYT itself admits that it’s economically rational to refuse to buy the Stamp, even if one had to pay the extortion penalty. (So the NYT implicitly admits that the health insurance rackets shouldn’t exist at all, since even paying a penalty for nothing is still more rational than buying this worthless “policy”.)
(Is there any reason to think the subsidies actually will render care affordable? Not according to the affordability of existing COBRA subsidies. No matter where you look, the existence of the insurance rackets is a pure evil and a traitor to civilization, if the concept of civilization includes decent medical care for the people who make up a society. Support for this bill, or even arguing about it, is evil.)
So we see how the Stamp mandate is a poll tax and, to use a redundant term, a regressive tax (since all taxes on the non-rich are regressive and only meant for social control and upward redistribution). We add that to its unconstitutionality, the fact that health insurance doesn’t work, and the fact that the bill further entrenches corporate tyranny. Putting these together, we see how this poll tax is an odious tax and an odious extension of corporatist government power which must be resisted. In my conclusion, which I’ll post sometime next week, I’ll cite examples of where an enacted poll tax was successfully fought and destroyed.


  1. Unless something in the actual insurance plans change when/if this all comes down the payment of the premium is just the start. I am currently reviewing individual plans for myself and the premium just gets me in the door so to speak.

    Preventative services (think annual physicals and womens exams) are covered in your premium at no cost. But other services start put one into copays and deductables and out of pocket maximums. So you pay the premium and then you pay for services according to the type of plan you are on.

    It appears to be expensive major medical insurance is the guise of medical insurance. If you are healthy it gives you (expensive) piece of mind. If you are not as healthy or unlucky watch out. The numbers are going to be very rough but illustrative: for myself in my age bracket, $200/mo premium, $2500 deductable which must be paid before other services are covered at 80/20 (cost of service paid at 80% by insurance and 20% by me).

    That seems very expensive for insurance. So in the example of the man in the NYTimes story even with the subsidy it would just get him in the door as having insurance. I dont believe his out of pocket costs are subsidized as well. I could be wrong here.

    P.S. I follwed a link from nakedcapitalism.com here. Thank you for some terrific commentary and writing I am looking forward to browsing the archives this weekend. You are a very good writer.

    Comment by Trevor — December 30, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

    • Thanks, Trevor, and welcome. If there’s any special subject you’re interested in, let me know. Maybe I can recommend something from the archives.

      According to everything I read, the thrust of the phenomena (the bill and the behavior of insurers, employers, and government) is to drive people out of employer-based insurance and into the individual market, which is intended to be more expensive (the CBO itself said so):



      Based on the experience of Massachusetts, and the fact that most people who go bankrupt because of medical expenses have insurance, it’s clear that the point of health insurance, and therefore of the health care system itself, and of course this bill, is not to provide care, but to extort rent payments without providing care.

      That’s the essence of what all elites want to do, Obama most of all: Make us pay exorbitant insurance Stamp premiums, but not provide any care, because that would cut into racket profits.

      That was the goal of all establishment liberals.

      Comment by Russ — December 30, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  2. Happy 2011 to all who follow this excellent blog. Found this over at Baseline and wanted to share the laughs:

    Comment by Bryan — December 31, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  3. Happy New Year, such as it could be….

    We dropped our health insurance in 2003 when the premium was hiked from $600 to $1,000/month. I can’t imagine what our premiums would be in 2014, when we’re in our 60’s.

    I considered getting the most minimal policy possible, just to be able to be charged the discounted rates that insurers pay, instead of the standard 3x to 4x that uninsureds are billed. But we’re still healthy enough that we took the risk we wouldn’t break a leg or come down with cancer (not that I’d ever undergo chemo; palliative care would be good, though). So far so good. Our total health costs since 2003 come to about 2 premiums, including medications, which weren’t covered anyway.

    I’m wondering if paying the poll tax can be deemed entrée into the system, and that billing would be at the lower rate, since the mandate/tax penalty means that all are included under the umbrella of the national health care system…..

    If those who can only afford to pay the fine/tax are triple-charged, …..I’m sure you can articulate the gross discrimination, unfairness, evil of such a scheme.
    I don’t comment much because I feel tongue-tied and grossly under-educated when I read your writing. Your philosophy is the closest to my own of any writer I’ve ever read, most of which I hadn’t been aware of at a verbal level, until reading here.

    I think the sense of fairness and justice is innate in most of us, and grows best in small societies, within which one knows ones cohort. [What this bodes for tribalism and out-group hostility, I don’t know; I’ve read that oxytocin is involved in aggressiveness to a perceived threat (protectiveness).] And it must be nurtured. TV is the killer of all that is humane. It anaesthetizes the limbic system. That said, I do believe that psychopaths are born with brain defects that prevent empathy. But western civilization by its nature produces a large ponerized population.

    I think growing up and living in modern civilization permanently alters most people’s brains into serial addiction. Whether it’s food, booze, drugs, sex, video games, whatever.

    Comment by AR — December 31, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

    • Thanks, AR. Your comments look good to me. I’m sure you’re right about what civilization does to the brain, although I’m not completely up to date on the state of the neuroscience.

      I think if someone fails to buy the Stamp, that leaves him in the same limbo the uninsured are today.

      But buying the Stamp doesn’t necessarily improve one’s coverage. Many who buy the Stamps in Massachusetts still can’t afford to go to the doctor because the deductibles etc. are still unaffordable to them. Meanwhile most people who declare bankruptcy on account of medical expenses did have insurance which simply didn’t cover them.

      And that’ll be the nature of this bill. In spite of all the hype about no limits on payouts, no exclusion of conditions, on the rackets’ licence to jack up rates, the fact is that there’s no credible enforcement mechanism for anything in the bill. That’s by design. All the “regulations” in it are designed to fail, just like all finance sector regulation is meant to fail.

      Comment by Russ — January 1, 2011 @ 5:50 am

      • Your American Health Insurance scheme has had one salutary effect that I’m aware of. As a Canadian, I haven’t heard one single complaint about our ‘less than perfect system’, since yours was put in place..

        Sadly, your dogmatic refusal to recognise any natural monopolies and spheres logical for government control, leave you without any possibility of achieving an equitable healthcare system. The very fact that a government sponsored program allows for tiered levels of service demonstrates the importance your people place on being ‘better than others’. Canadians have the option to que-jump and go to other locations for treatment, but, we must pay for that from our own pocket. The government contribution does not give preferential treatment to some people.

        Comment by Paul Repstock — January 4, 2011 @ 3:17 am

      • Yes, the Canadian system is far better. So are you guys going to fight when your own neoliberal kleptocracy (I’m not an expert on Canadian politics, but my impression is yours is on the same development track, just not as far along; to give a prime example, you have no anti-tar sands representation or media) starts dismantling it to replace it something more like the system in the US?

        Comment by Russ — January 4, 2011 @ 3:43 am

      • Our health care may be much better. The rest of it is not. I suppose you have heard about the police agents infiltrating the G20 protesters?? Good thing the croud was Canadian. I’ve proposed that all government personel obscured by protective gear should be identified with names and bar codes. There is some hints that part of the security forces may have been contractors..Blackwater??

        Our government is trying to implement an under the table deal to include Canada into a continental security deal. That would mean all of your repressive new rules, including needing a government approval to get a job??

        Comment by Paul Repstock — January 5, 2011 @ 5:18 am

      • It’s seems like all Western governments, including the Canadian, are headed in the same neoliberal tyrannical direction. I’m unaware of any exceptions.

        Comment by Russ — January 5, 2011 @ 9:41 am

  4. I see why the mandate is a stamp tax. However, the poll tax affects the right to vote. How is the mandate a poll tax?

    Comment by lambert strether — January 4, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

    • I still need to research it further, but my understanding is that the poll tax as a tool to disenfranchise minorities rather than to raise revenue and enforce participation in the government monetized economy is specific to the US, but the latter has been the more common use.

      (Was Thoreau in jail because he voted without having paid? Or just because he refused to pay, regardless of whether he voted or not? I’ll have to look that up too.)

      E.g., colonial powers used it to force colonized subsistence farmers into the commodity crop economy, since they had to raise cash to pay the tax.

      That’s the intended use I see for things like this and whatever food mandates they come up with, and who knows what else. So in addition to a Stamp, I call it a poll tax.

      But I ought to be able to explain what I mean more clearly when I write the fourth post.

      Comment by Russ — January 5, 2011 @ 9:47 am

      • I agree on the general tendency, but I think a stamp tax does all that you say, and that if there’s no evidence that the mandate disenfranchises anyone, and I have seen none, that should not be the trope that we use.

        Let Versailles make stuff up. But we don’t have the funding to maintain a vast edifice of bullshit and lies, so our only recourse is truth…

        Comment by lambert strether — January 5, 2011 @ 10:40 am

      • Who’s making stuff up? They imposed a poll tax to impose socioeconomic control on the farmers. Thatcher’s poll tax had the same goal. (It’s just like the link at Naked Capitalism yesterday, which I think you saw, where they want to make access to credit contingent on “approved” participation in the commodity economy. If people arrange a lifestyle based on barter or alternative currency, for example, how are they supposed to pay a head tax via “insurance” mandate?) It’s clear as a bell to me.

        Well, I’ll write the post and then let people decide if it’s “bullshit and lies”.

        Comment by Russ — January 5, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  5. It’s really pretty clear — If the mandate affects the franchise, it’s a poll tax. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.

    Therefore, when you write, “It’s also a poll tax, which the Constitution has already explicitly outlawed,” that’s not true, unless you might to write “The mandate might be a poll tax at some point in the future.”

    Comment by lambert strether — January 5, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

  6. Typo: “Meant to write.”

    Why weaken a powerful argument?

    Comment by lambert strether — January 5, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

    • I already told you, I’m referring to the broader historical usage, not one particular US usage.



      That’s because I think the intent and effect of such measures will be as a disguised poll tax. So I want to strip off the disguise.

      BTW, how is that usage any more innovative than calling it a Stamp? Maybe you just fancy the one and not the other.

      I’m still at the stage where I’m trying stuff out. So I’m going to explore both Stamp and poll tax (and other things) as concepts and rhetorical devices. If one seems to fit and the other doesn’t, so be it. Or if both have use, I’ll use both.

      This is quite a novel experience – someone trying to talk me out of writing a single post. It’s not like I’m signing in blood to write a hundred post series or something.

      Comment by Russ — January 6, 2011 @ 6:19 am

  7. There’s a book titled Tik Tok by science fiction writer John Sladek about a robot who runs amok when his morality circuits break. The robot goes into business in a number of industries and eventually runs for political office. Sladek uses the device of an amoral businessman robot for satiric effect: one is constantly drawn to compare Tik Tok, the soulless machine, with the sociopathy of modern day business run by so-called humans. The below extract is from pp. 147-149 of the British second edition and concerns American health care. When I checked the copyright I was astonished to find it was published in 1983.

    As Nobby piloted the limousine, I explained things to my little group of advertising people.

    “What we’re going to see today, folks, is a necessary stage in the development of the Clockman Medical Group. So help yourselves to the Dom Perignon there while I give you a little background. Clockman Insurance, in conjunction with Clockman Medical Centers, is establishing a new kind of high-profit hospital. You see, only policy holders can be admitted, first of all. Emergency cases can get in by buying a policy at the door and paying one year’s premiums for every day in the hospital — the rest is run on a cost-plus basis, built-in escalation clauses and claims penalties — suffice it to say, gang, that when you check into Clockman Medical Center, you don’t check out with any spare change in your pockets. We provide special legal facilities so people can make over their cars and houses, negotiate loans, cash in securities and insurance, and change their wills. We can help them trace relatives who might countersign loans. We do everything to help these people meet their bills.”

    The others sipped their champagne and watched the scenery roll by, not really taking in my words. Nobby parked just across the street from the side entrance of one of our latest acquisitions, Mercy of Sinai Hospital. “But of course, there are always deadbeats who let themselves go broke, who can’t or won’t pay. So we’re forced to do some housecleaning. Watch the door.”

    The press were watching already. A dozen men and women with cameras lounged on the sidewalk; the word was out on our Medical Centers.

    The double doors were propped open by a pair of orderlies, and the ambulatory patients, still in hospital pajamas, were wrestled down the steps and pushed away.

    All around me in the car, I heard people setting down their champagne glasses. Someone asked, “What about their clothes and personal belongings?”

    “They have none,” I said. “They own nothing and they still owe us plenty. Out of common decency, we usually give them a pair of p.j.s and bus fare home, if they have a home.”

    A few people with bandaged heads were wandering in the street, giggling at the traffic. An interrupted appendectomy held himself together and crawled down the steps, assisted by a woman dragging her leg traction and leaning on an old broom as a makeshift crutch. A geriatric case and an amputee were brought out in wheelchairs down the stairs and over to the curb, where they were dumped, while cameras flashed.

    “Oh the press love this,” I said bitterly. “They revel in scenes like these, examples of what’s wrong with American medicine. But American medicine has always had the same problems, fifty years ago people were bitching about the high costs, the inequity. I’ll tell you one thing, though. When other medical groups see our balance sheet at the end of the year, they’ll all be doing this. This is the future, gang.”

    A little queue of incubators appeared at the head of the stairs. Nurses were working efficiently, wrapping the kids in blankets and putting them into little cardboard bassinets, to be set out in a row on the sidewalk. An eye patient, hustled down the steps, nearly stepped in one of the bassinets; someone in the limousines made a retching noise. There were more such sounds when another amputee was carried out on a stretcher, dumped in the gutter and a bag containing what may have been his leg thrown after him.

    When it was all over, I poured more champagne and ordered Nobby to drive on. “Well, gang. Any ideas?”

    An account executive cleared his throat. “I see you do have an image problem, Mr Tok, and I’m very glad to see you face up to it like this, facing up to it is half the battle.”

    “Good. What’s the other half?”

    “Hmm,” he stalled. “Hmmm. I like what you said about this being the future. I think we might build on that very concept: ‘Some day, all medical care will be like Clockman care’ and um, um –”

    “Exclusivity,” added the other account executive, the one who had retched. “We can always point out that we throw out deadbeats because we’re exclusive, like a good club.”

    “Um, I could go with that too, though it’s a different handle. We could angle it towards either valuable social contribution or high personal survival value –”

    “Sure, sure. I guess the point is, Mr Tok, there is a menu of options for us here, all excellent. No problem, sir, no problem at all.”

    The car swerved, avoiding a figure in pajamas that lay face down in the street, unmoving.

    Comment by reslez — January 6, 2011 @ 7:58 am

    • I often have occasion to say, you can’t write satire anymore. Just the other day I said it again in comment.

      How long is it going to be before people come out of the trance and see that this truly is the hideous reality of all the brainwashing about “capitalism”?

      Somewhere recently, I forget where, I read something on corporations comparing them to robots as per Asimov’s 3 Rules of Robots, and how these are robots which nobody programmed according to the rules.

      Typically, the author was a “reformer” whose conclusion was, “So we need better corporations! They have to follow the rules!”

      Um, no. These are what corporations are. Period. We can either become their literal slaves, or get rid of them completely. There’s no middle ground. Corporations or humanity – one must be extirpated.

      Comment by Russ — January 6, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  8. […] work in practice and makes no sense even as a concept, how it’s unconstitutional, and how it’s a regressive tax and a reactionary policy. Now I conclude by arguing that it’s also a poll tax. As such […]

    Pingback by Stamps and Poll Taxes (Stamp Mandate, Conclusion) « Volatility — January 9, 2011 @ 7:21 am

  9. […] work in practice and makes no sense even as a concept, how it’s unconstitutional, and how it’s a regressive tax and a reactionary policy. Now I conclude by arguing that it’s also a poll tax. As such […]

    Pingback by The Obama Poll Tax (Part 2) « Volatility — June 29, 2012 @ 11:18 am

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