Friday, June 29, 2012

"The taxing power of the federal government, my dear"

Between work and family commitments, I've barely been on the interweb since the Supremes' decision on Obamacare was handed down, so maybe someone else has made this connection.  For all I know, Chief Justice Roberts may have cited it as a precedent in his opinion.

I'm in the middle of Amity Shlaes' superb - and heartbreaking - The Forgotten Man, and just ran across this eerily relevant passage:

[Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins] and [Paul] Douglas had their plans for unemployment insurance and pensions for senior citizens.  At a tea at his house [in 1934?], Perkins had sat beside Justice Harlan Stone, and he gave her a tip.  She had confided her fears that any great social insurance system would be rejected by his court.  Not so, he said, and whispered back the solution: "The taxing power of the federal government, my dear; the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need."  If the Social Security Act was formulated as a tax, and not a government insurance, it could get through.

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