Tribe and Punishment (Updated)

The battle for (and against) ObamaCare is joined in the Boston Globe. Laurence Tribe takes up the banner of the administration and declares the following:

THERE’S PLENTY to be said as a policy matter both for and against the Affordable Care Act, but it’s beyond reasonable debate that it complies fully with the Constitution.

Oh my. Sounds like there is a consensus of “reasonable debate[rs]” that we must not speak against. Where have I heard that before? Then we have this:

Those who objected to the federal civil rights laws did so on the supposed basis of states’ rights. So too, those who challenge the health care law invoke states’ rights to say the individual mandate cannot properly be imposed by federal, as opposed to state, law.

I see. People objected to civil rights laws on the “supposed basis” of states rights’. These people were wrong. People object to the individual mandate on the basis of states’ rights. Therefore, their objections must also be wrong? I’m sorry, but I’m having difficulty following your logic. And, by slipping “supposed” into the mix, are you intimating that states have no specific rights which are reserved to them? I seem to remember some rather specific wording in a very old document which addressed that.

And then there is this jewel:

[T]his law doesn’t literally force anybody to do anything; it just increases the tax liability of those who refuse to buy insurance.

Indeed, sir. In keeping with the spirit of that statement, allow me to propose the following corollaries:

  • The law against speeding does not force anybody to do anything; it just increases the fine liability of those who refuse to slow down.
  • The law against non-payment of income taxes does not force anybody to do anything; it just increases the incarceration liability of those who refuse to pay their taxes.

I’m sure we could go on, but does that not suffice?

Professor Tribe, I admit to and admire your drive, your intellect and your achievements. However, I cannot admire the arguments which you are making. It is obvious that you want ObamaCare to be constitutional. Regardless, desire is a poor substitute for a solid argument.

UPDATE 4/5/2011

Professor Blanchard also finds Mr. Tribe’s logic underwhelming from a different perspective.