Unintended Consequences

Most of us are familiar with the law of unintended consequences (for those of you who aren't, prohibition would be a good place to start your research) and this post at Tax.com has me wondering if all those folks fighting Obamacare in the courts might have considered the unintended consequences if they win:

The only difference between the mandate and your common tax incentive is that Congress framed the incentive as a tax penalty instead of a tax break. I recognize there might be a legal difference between the two approaches that is beyond my comprehension. But the Court, Congress, and the public should understand that economically the two approaches are exactly the same…

A tax penalty and a tax incentive have the same economic impact on affected and unaffected individuals. They have the same effect on the goals the government is trying to achieve. They have the same effect on government revenues. It is possible, then, that they have the same effect on freedom and constitutional principles.

So armchair constitutional scholars should enjoy the show. But please excuse us economists if we tune out. Perhaps too blithely, we assume the mandate will be affirmed because the nation's leading legal gurus won't want to open up a can of worms that makes all tax incentives subject to constitutional challenge. If by chance the court does strike down the mandate, by all means give us a call. It could be the beginning of the end for all those complex and inefficient tax incentives we have been complaining about all these years.

So a question for you legal scholars out there: if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare is my wonderful deduction for mortgage interest soon to follow?

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