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A Startling Misstatement By The Supreme Court

Is this just scandalous sloppiness? Or a deliberate attack on the truth?

I WAS READING THROUGH THE 'OBAMACARE' ruling (NFIB v. Sebelius) the other day. I had girded myself for what I had already known was a journey through a gauntlet of fingernail-on-blackboard intellectual assaults, and so most of the remarkably-ugly state-serving jurisprudential contortions of which the thing is comprised didn't make it through my nausea shields.

But one thing was unexpected. Some ways into the windy ruling, C.J. Roberts presumes to discuss "capitations". In doing so he displays either remarkable-- indeed, scary-- ignorance, or deliberate malice (with the evidence strongly pointing toward the latter).

Roberts delivers the following statements:

"Even when the Direct Tax Clause was written it was unclear what else, other than a capitation (also known as a “head tax” or a “poll tax”), might be a direct tax."

"Capitations are taxes paid by every person, “without regard to property, profession, or any other circumstance.” Hylton, supra, at 175 (opinion of Chase, J.) (emphasis altered)."

"First, and most importantly, it is abundantly clear the Constitution does not guarantee that individuals may avoid taxation through inactivity. A capitation, after all, is a tax that every- one must pay simply for existing, and capitations are expressly contemplated by the Constitution."

Each of these statements are either outright wrong or very misleadingly constructed (or both). But I'm going to focus on the middle one, because it is most easily shown to be a falsehood, and incapable of being anything BUT a falsehood, due to it being an alleged quote of Justice Chase in the Hylton case. Contrary to C.J. Roberts' assertion, what J. Chase actually says in Hylton is this (emphasis added):

"I am inclined to think, but of this I do not give a judicial opinion, that the direct taxes contemplated by the Constitution, are only two, to wit, a capitation, or poll tax, simply, without regard to property, profession, or any other circumstance; and a tax on LAND."

To begin with, then, the quote of J. Chase is a lie. This is not something that you can get wrong by mistake-- Roberts presents his false quote as a judicial opinion of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase when Samuel Chase-- in the same sentence quoted by Roberts-- says it is no such thing. You can't find the one without seeing the other, and thus the misrepresented quote can only be seen as deliberate.

Further, it seems clear that the lie about Chase's opinion was meant to support or justify the misrepresentations in the other two assertions. Each of them pretend that a "capitation" is ONLY a "poll tax", whereas any competent legal scholar knows that a "poll tax" is merely one of many kinds of "capitations" (and not necessarily just an indiscriminate "head tax" variety, either*).

The actual authorities on this subject (including the U.S. Supreme Court in its actual judicial opinion on the subject) are perfectly clear. J.J.S. Wharton's recently unearthed 1848 'Law Lexicon' adds its own supporting declaration on this point (defining the term and describing its English implementation):

"POLL-MONEY, POLL-SILVER, POLL-TAX, a capitation tax. It was formerly assessed by the head on every subject according to rank."

Wharton's Law Lexicon (1848) (page 530)

SO, HERE'S THE QUESTION: Is C.J. Roberts deliberately trying to contribute to the legal and historical mythology supporting the "ignorance tax" scourge by which Americans (and America) have been impoverished and subordinated for the last 80 years? It's hard to see it any other way.

Here then is the second question: Is this not an impeachable offense, if not some variety of treason, or at least oath-breaking, since the "ignorance tax" scheme is nothing less than a direct assault on express provisions of the United States Constitution?


*Indeed, it is self-evident that the Framers were not thinking of mere "head taxes" when listing capitations as among the variety of taxes requiring apportionment. After all, a uniform "head tax" of the sort described in the false ascription made by C.J. Roberts to J. Chase in the Hylton ruling would automatically and inherently be apportioned by its very nature. Expressly subjecting such a tax to the apportionment rule would be comically superfluous.

Maybe an intimation of this fact tickled the back of J. Chase's mind when he reserved his casual and, frankly, silly speculation as not meriting the stature of an actual judicial opinion...