A major argument against the government taking over Americans’ health care is competence, the fear that the government is just not competent enough to supervise such an important part of life. Here is an example:
The IRS processed more than 230 million tax returns last year, paid 127 million refunds and received about 68 million phone calls. The agency is responsible for enforcing a tax code that, at 71,000 pages, makes Anna Karenina look like a comic book.
Starting in 2014, the agency will have another task: making sure all Americans have health insurance. Under the law, Americans who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it will face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is higher. More than 4 million Americans could be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 by 2016 if they fail to obtain health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office said last week.
The IRS will be the enforcer — sort of.
While the IRS can impose liens or levies, seize property or seek jail time against people who don't pay taxes, it’s barred from taking such actions against taxpayers who ignore the insurance mandate. In the arsenal instead: the ability to withhold refunds from taxpayers who decline to pay the penalty, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said this month.
Still, compliance with the health reform law will be largely voluntary, says Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. “By taking criminal sanctions and liens and levies off the table, the IRS’s hands are tied, to a considerable extent.”
The IRS is “being put in a position where it will be sending notices that will annoy people” and not much else, says James Maule, professor of law at Villanova University and author of the tax blog MauledAgain. “It’s basically designed for failure.”
So according to the jury-rigged, Rube Goldberg provisions of the law, an agency that has a completely different purpose is asked to enforce the law, and then the mechanisms necessary to enforce it are taken away. How can this possibly work?