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No Taxation without Representation: How a Fundamental American Principle Is a Technicality to the New York Times

May 21, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

The New York Times has a predictably dismissive editorial about the latest challenges to Obamacare being argued in federal courts. One of those challenges is based on the Constitution’s Origination Clause, which requires that “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.” Since the Affordable Care Act was entirely written in the Senate, the argument goes, the revenue raising provisions violate the Origination Clause, including Chief Justice John Roberts’s “tax” for not purchasing insurance.

As Randy Barnett writes over at the Volokh Conspiracy, everyone knows that the Affordable Care Act was passed via a sneaky subterfuge designed to get around the requirements of the Origination Clause. The Senate took a House bill giving tax credits to first-time home buyers, “amended” it to empty it of all content except for the bill number, and then filled it back up with the 2700 pages that would become the Affordable Care Act. By doing this the Senate purportedly “complied” with the Origination Clause.

The Origination Clause was included in the Constitution to ensure that the body that taxed the people, the House of Representatives, was also the most accountable to the people. It was so important to the Convention that its exclusion would have “unhinged the compromise,” in the words of George Mason of Virginia. It was also included because the Founders firmly believed that taxation was illegitimate unless it came from the people’s direct representatives.

Remember “no taxation without representation?”

The Clause may seem like a mere technicality, but for the Founders that “technicality” embodied principles that were important enough to fight a revolution against the most powerful army in the world.”

The Clause may seem like a mere technicality, but for the Founders that “technicality” embodied principles that were important enough to fight a revolution against the most powerful army in the world. Given that New York was always an enclave of British sympathizers, it’s not surprising that the Times has sided with the Tories.

During the Constitutional Convention, all or part of seven days, or 8 percent of the 89 total session days, were devoted to the Origination Clause. In James Madison’s notes on the Convention, which are famously incomplete, he devoted nearly 8000 words to debates over the Origination Clause.

The phrase “no taxation without representation” is often repeated but rarely understood. But when Parliament passed …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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