At a rally in Florida yesterday, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) thought he found the perfect way to mock the Supreme Court’s finding that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate — which requires individuals who do not carry health insurance to pay slightly more income taxes — constitutes a lawful application of Congress’ power to set tax policy:
What will be next? If you don’t buy a certain kind of green car, they will tax you. If you don’t buy a certain kind of food, they will tax you. Well I got a great idea. I believe that for personal security every American should have to go out and buy a Glock 9 mm, and if you don’t do it, we’ll tax you. Now I wonder how the liberals will feel about that.
First of all, there’s nothing even vaguely unusual about a law which allows people who take a certain action to pay lower taxes. People who take out mortgages, who buy fuel efficient cars, or even many families who have children all receive a tax break. By West’s logic, this means big government is unconstitutionally forcing people to breed.
Moreover, while requiring every American to “go out and buy a Glock” is indeed a stupid idea — unsurprisingly, research shows that gun ownership strongly correlates with gun homicides — the fact that a proposed law is really, really stupid does not make it unconstitutional. Indeed, President George Washington signed a law in 1792 that required most free male citizens to “provide [themselves] with a good musket or firelock.”
It’s a good bet that George Washington knew a little bit more about what the Constitution allows than Allen West.