Tax Police and the Health Mandate: We Will, We Won’t, We Are Not Saying

William McGurn’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal raises a question the Obama administration does not want to answer:

Who will police the new health care mandate?

If left to the “honor system,” what becomes of the vaunted (and entirely mythical) “cost savings” to be earned by overcharging young, health people and then subsidizing those who are neither young nor healthy?

Poor workers, the young, small businesses: get ready for the tax police with the new “mandate” to slush your money into IRS coffers if you fail to buy the “right” insurance (or any insurance at all).

Then again, the IRS hasn’t said whether it will enforce the mandate: we will, we won’t, we haven’t said . . .

The “historic” law doesn’t clear matters up either. Implementation and enforcement is vital to the success of any policy endeavor. There is a huge literature on that subject alone but in the rush to Make History, our Congress and president didn’t say (or wish to say) how it would be implemented.

So much for deliberative democracy, already in tatters.

Perhaps the reference to the legislation as the ugly slaughter of sausage is inapt: clear as pea soup is a better analogy. Bon appetit!

For an excellent guide to implementation, read the splendid classic by Aaron Wildavsky and Jeffrey Pressman, Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland; Or, Why It’s Amazing that Federal Programs Work at All (1984)

If you trust the IRS to “do the right thing,” read the account of the agency’s first (and last) historian: Shelley Davis, Unbridled Power: Inside the Secret Culture of the IRS (1998).

Jonathan Bean is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and editor of the Independent book, Race & Liberty in America: The Essential Reader.
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