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Major Blow to Obamacare Mandate: IRS Won't Reject Tax Returns That Don't Answer Health Insurance Question

The tax agency has stopped requiring individual filers to indicate whether they maintained health coverage or paid the mandate penalty as required under the law

Credit - Olivier Douliery/UPI/NewscomCredit - Olivier Douliery/UPI/NewscomHow much difference does a single line on a tax form make? For Obamacare's individual mandate, the answer might be quite a lot.

Following President Donald Trump's executive order instructing agencies to provide relief from the health law, the Internal Revenue Service appears to be taking a more lax approach to the coverage requirement.

The health law's individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a "shared responsibility payment." The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Alternatively, they could claim exemption from the mandate by filing a form 8965.

For most filers, filling out line 61 would be mandatory. The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled "silent returns" and rejected.

Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional.

Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow the submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61. The IRS says it still maintains the option to follow up with those who elect not to indicate their coverage status, although it's not clear what circumstances might trigger a follow up.

But what would have been a mandatory disclosure will instead be voluntary. Silent returns will no longer be automatically rejected. The change is a direct result of the executive order President Donald Trump issued in January directing the government to provide relief from Obamacare to individuals and insurers, within the boundaries of the law.

"The recent executive order directed federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden," the IRS said in a statement to Reason. "Consistent with that, the IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn't indicate their coverage status."

The tax agency says the change will reduce the health law's strain on taxpayers. "Processing silent returns means that taxpayer returns are not systemically rejected, allowing them to be processed and minimizing burden on taxpayers, including those expecting a refund," the IRS statement said.

The change may seem minor. But it makes it clear that following Trump's executive order, the agency's trajectory is towards a less strict enforcement process.

Although the new policy leaves Obamacare's individual mandate on the books, it may make it easier for individuals to go without coverage while avoiding the penalty. Essentially, if not explicitly, it is a weakening of the mandate enforcement mechanism.

"It's hard to enforce something without information," says Ryan Ellis, a Senior Fellow at the Conservative Reform Network.

The move has already raised questions about its legality. Federal law gives the administration broad authority to provide exemptions from the mandate. But "it does not allow the administration not to enforce the mandate, which it appears they may be doing here," says Michael Cannon, health policy director at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Unless the Trump administration maintains the mandate is unconstitutional, the Constitution requires them to enforce it."

"The mandate can only be weakened by Congress," says Ellis. "This is a change to how the IRS is choosing to enforce it. They will count on voluntary disclosure of non-coverage rather than asking themselves."

The IRS notes that taxpayers are still required to pay the mandate penalty, if applicable. "Legislative provisions of the ACA law are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe‎," the agency statement said.

Ellis says the new policy doesn't fully rise to the level of declining to enforce the law. "If the IRS turns a blind eye to people's status, that isn't quite not enforcing it," he says. "It's more like the IRS wanting to maintain plausible deniability."

Tax software companies are already making note of the change. Drake Software, which provides services to tax professionals, recently sent out a notice explaining the change in policy. As of February 3, the notice said, the IRS "will now accept an e-filed return that does not indicate either full-year coverage or an individual shared responsibility payment or does not include an exemption on Form 8965, as required by IRS instructions, Form 1040, line 61."

The mandate is a key component of Obamacare's coverage scheme, which is built on what experts sometimes describe as a "three-legged stool." The law requires health insurers to sell to all comers regardless of health history, and offers subsidies to lower income individuals in order to offset the cost of coverage. In order to prevent people from signing up for coverage only after getting sick, it also requires most individuals to maintain qualifying coverage or face a tax penalty. While defending the health law in court, the Obama administration maintained that the mandate was essential to the structure of the law, designed to make sure that people did not take advantage of its protections.

In a 2012 case challenging the law's insurance requirement, the Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional as a tax penalty. The IRS is in charge of collecting payments.

Some health policy experts have argued that the mandate was already too weak to be effective, as a result of the many exemptions that are included. A 2012 report by the consulting firm Milliman found that the mandate penalty offered only a modest financial incentives for families making 300-400 percent of the federal poverty line. More recently, health insurers have said that individuals signing up for coverage and then quickly dropping it after major health expenses is a key driver of losses, and rising health insurance premiums.

It's too early to say whether the change will ultimately make any difference. But given the centrality of the mandate to the law's coverage scheme and the unsteadiness of the law's health insurance exchanges, with premiums rising and insurers scaling back participation, it is possible that even a marginal weakening of the mandate could cause further dysfunction. Health insurers have said the mandate is a priority, and asked for it to be strengthened. Weaker enforcement of the mandate could cause insurance carriers to further reduce participation in the exchanges. One major insurer, Humana, said today that it would completely exit Obamacare's exchanges after this year.

It is also possible that congressional Republicans will make it moot by repealing much of the law, including its individual mandate, which, as a tax, can be taken down with just 51 Senate votes.

Regardless of its direct impact, however, the change may signal that the Trump administration intends to water down enforcement of the health law's most controversial requirement, even if those steps are seemingly small. The Trump administration may not be tearing Obamacare down entirely, but it appears to be taking steps to weaken the law, however subtly, one line at a time.

Correction: The IRS did not reject silent returns last year, as this story originally indicated. The plan was to go into effect this year, for 2016 returns, but the IRS reversed course on February 3. Reason regrets the error.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • DenverJ||

    Wait, dajjal is Fist of Etiquette?

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Don't.

  • Pompey:何 Class Mothersmucker||

    *breakdance spin*

  • Robert||

    Would.

  • Sevo||

    PLEASE don't.
    Do you like being Typhoid Mary? You're giving it hell to get there.

  • Rockabilly||

    Boy, wait until Obama hears about this; how will he know if you have good insurance or not?

  • Pompey:何 Class Mothersmucker||

    Good insurance = high deductible + a bunch of ancillary crap you may not have needed + significantly higher premiums. Wait, I thought high deductible plans were "not good" insurance when the Dems rammed the ACA. *shrugs, walks away with a propeller beanie and pockets turned inside-out*

  • Johnny B||

    This is the worst way to give relief for several reasons. First, the IRS is not an agency known to be arbitrary or anything like that, is it, Lois Lerner? So who do you think will get a visit when they don't fill this line out. Second, the problems with Obamacare are the mandates (the "bunch of ancillary crap") and the no rejection for pre-existing conditions. Because of the former, people avoid buying insurance until they need it. Because of the latter, they can.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    Because of the former, people avoid buying insurance until they need it. Because of the latter, they can.

    You just discovered my health-insurance plan.

    No deductibles, no premiums, nobody asked my age or if I'd ever been a smoker....why, I didn't even have to take a physical! And it only kicks in when I need it. In so much as that annoying checkbox, if one has a kid, gets married, or changes their job then no checkbox. And I work onsite W2 contracts these days.

    I call it the Finding Loophole plan.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Better yet, they can go back 7 yrs on a return. So if Trump gets tossed in 4 years and President Fauxcahontas takes charge, she can order them to go back and drop the hammer, plus fines and penalties, on anybody. She wouldn't do that, she'd probably just drop the hammer on red counties.

  • Enemy of the State||

    Only 3 years, unless you file a Sch C....

  • DenverJ||

    So, if Obamacare gets repealed, do you think there will be any retroactive relief?
    For instance, guy I know, used to get insurance through his wife's work. They took that away, and he goes to a volunteer group, who screw up and get him a subsidy he didn't qualify for at the end of the year because he made about $200 too much.
    Wife's work changes mind, and he's back on their plan, but the IRS is insisting he pays back about $7000 plus interest. Poor old guy will never be able to retire.

  • Bra Ket||

    It isn't not requiring you don't do it. Or not.

  • Aloysious||

    This makes more better sense than either the IRS or the ACA.

  • chemjeff||

    Looks like Trump found Obama's pen and phone.

    Yay libertarian moment?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  • Jerryskids||

    Yay! The guy picking and choosing which laws we have to follow and which we don't picked and choosed a law I don't like to not follow!

  • I see wood chippers||

    As it currently stands, any unenforced law is a good thing.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yes, but in 4 years we will have Comrade Bernie for Dictator-POTUS, and ***THEN*** the IRS will go back after these violators, and collect penalties plus interest! SOMEONE has to pay for all of that "free" college!

    (Or for that matter, Trumpster-Dumpster will change His Mind, and ditto).

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I worry about that too. All it would take is an audit from years past to mess people up, especially with late fees and interest rubbed in the wound.

  • Longtobefree||

    Three year look back limit, unless the IRS is accusing you of fraud. No worries yet.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    But hasn't the whole "picking and choosing which law to follow" Rubicon already been crossed?

  • Jerryskids||

    I think "crossing the Rubicon" is a very apt analogy if you know what the phrase means literally.

  • jmg09||

    Are we going to Italy? Sweet!

  • DesigNate||

    The guy that signed it into law thought he could change things willy nilly and the Supreme Court agreed with him.

    Welcome to the new America.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Just think of this as a very slight improvement of 5th amendment enforcement. The requirement that you file a tax return to begin with is a violation of the 5th amendment. Requiring 2 fewer check boxes is a slightly smaller violation.

  • ||

    Good.

  • grrizzly||

    Rufus, how do you like Claude Julien moving to Montreal?

  • Pompey:何 Class Mothersmucker||

    grrizzly, how do you like Roy Dupuis being a sexy, manly piece of ass?

  • ||

    Meh.

    Great coach but he's a retread.

    Tell you what. Julien's firing was a gift to Bergevin because he likely wouldn't fire Therrien otherwise because of that stupid, discriminatory self-imposed bull shit rule that a coach for the Habs *has* to speak French. If Hitchcock was fired, I'm guessing they stick with Therrien because of it.

    Such is the absurdity around here.

    Moroever, Julien is one of those dump and chase, non-dynamic coaches not great with young players who like to play open. It's the reason why the Bruins - bursting with young talented players - made their move.

    Not that I care about the Habs anymore.

  • ||

    I remember when Gainey made the questionable move to fire Julien to bring in his buddy Carbonneau. Bad move. He was solid then and only got better.

    The Habs had both Vigneault and Julien but decided they weren't good enough. Then they go make their bones elsewhere and the fans call for them back.

  • grrizzly||

    The Bruins certainly had to let him go. I wish they did it earlier. He's a great coach but his method didn't work any more in Boston. Too bad that the Habs and the Bruins don't have any more games to play in the regular season -- that would be fun to watch. Maybe in the playoffs? Though until now the Bruins were drifting in the exact same direction toward missing the playoffs at the last moment as they did in the last two seasons.

  • ||

    They all have a shelf life. I like Lindy Ruff - he seems to be able to adjust quite well.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Not that I care about the Habs anymore.

    Tabernac!

  • straffinrun||

    "Shared Responsibility Payment". That there is some soul-crushing use of language.

  • ||

    I noticed and nodded in dismay at that too.

  • straffinrun||

    It implies that there is also a "Shared Irresponsibility Payment". They should've called it that.

  • block30||

    Post of the thread.

  • chemjeff||

    Then you'll love the "Shared Burdens Labor Camp"!

  • dantheserene||

    I noticed and nodded in dismay at that three.

  • chemjeff||

    The IRS would not accept 1040s unless the coverage box was checked, or the shared responsibility payment noted, or the exemption form included. Otherwise they would be labeled "silent returns" and rejected.

    Wait. Wait wait.

    Now I remember, back in 2009-10 or so, when Obamacare was being discussed and the individual mandate was first unveiled, that Republicans rightfully complained that giving IRS the power to enforce the mandate meant that individuals who didn't have health insurance could have the IRS sicced on them, withholding refunds, placing liens and garnishments on wages and property, etc. And the smug Obamacare defenders of course said "why you are just being silly, it says right there in black and white in the law itself that the IRS is forbidden to use its collections powers against taxpayers for not paying the penalty!!!" And sure enough, that was the case in terms of what the law itself said.

    But evidently as this article points out, the IRS enforced the mandate by just rejecting noncompliant tax returns. Seems to me, failure to file a tax return is actually a felony. So instead of the IRS chasing taxpayers to pay the mandate tax, instead they would put taxpayers in jeopardy of committing a felony? That is disturbingly underhanded.

  • GILMORE™||

    That is disturbingly underhanded.

    By their methods you shall know them.

  • DenverJ||

    Dude. Mind. Blown.
    No, seriously. That's actually no fuck what the government is doing. That's crazy. I'm resurrecting my call for Pennsylvania Ave to be lined with gibbets, full of the molding corpses of overbearing bureaucrats.

  • Bubba Jones||

    You could file a compliant return but decline to submit payment.

    They would take the penalty out of any tax refund (or any future tax refund) but would not seek outstanding payments.

  • Poolside at the Decline||

    "That is disturbingly underhanded."

    You have a very firm grasp of the obvious. You seem to be saying that we should be expect to be secure in relying upon governments statements that they won't hurt us. Cute.

  • n00bdragon||

    Welcome to the United States, where everything is illegal but we discretion is used to spare (almost) everyone. We are but felons in the hands of angry government.

  • chemjeff||

    Gawd. Your words are closer to truth than many would be willing to admit.

    Has it been added up how many laws people break on a daily basis just going about their daily activities?

  • Viking1865||

    Gawd. Your words are closer to truth than many would be willing to admit.

    I think 90% of the people commenting on Reason would agree with it.

    There's that great quote from Atlas Shrugged that kind of sums up the whole racket.

  • DenverJ||

    Jeff, the guy's name has "noob" in it. Chill with the sarcasm and give him a link to Radley Balko discusing Three Felonies a Day.

  • DenverJ||

    Eh, not a great link. Google it, people, I don't owe you my labor. And get the hell off of my lawn.

  • chemjeff||

    Okay here is the link. Thanks for mentioning it.

  • DenverJ||

    Eh, not a great link. Google it, people, I don't owe you my labor. And get the hell off of my lawn.

  • DenverJ||

    And take these goddamned squirrels with you!

  • straffinrun||

    In Japanese we have a saying, "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down". If you want to raise the material well being of you and your family, well, you better cross your eyes and dot your fucking tees or the gavel of justice will bonk you on the noggin. A populace riddled with anxiety over fear of accidentally ending up on the wrong side of a tower of incomprehensible rules is a populace unable to mount a defense of themselves. They will bow to the brute strength and abandon individual judgement. It's a party and you're invited only if you cut your nuts off.

  • Pompey:何 Class Mothersmucker||

    That was some terrifying prose. All too realistic and accurate.

  • Sevo||

    "In Japanese we have a saying, "The nail that sticks up gets pounded down"."

    Not gonna find a reference to it right now, but in WWII, subordinates could shame a leader into more aggressive action by the simple measure of proposing a stranger activity in a memo for the superior to sign. A lot of the ground action on Guadalcanal came about from this.
    I'm not claiming you're wrong, only that Japanese 'proverbs' can well be honored in the breach.

  • Robert||

    I thought that was Italy, where everything is illegal or taxed, but nobody gives it any mind.

  • GroundTruth||

    three felonies each day

  • __Warren__||

    What the fuck, CATO? Keep your goddamed mouth shut!

  • SIV||

    The move has already raised questions about its legality. Federal law gives the administration broad authority to provide exemptions from the mandate. But "it does not allow the administration not to enforce the mandate, which it appears they may be doing here," says Michael Cannon, health policy director at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Unless the Trump administration maintains the mandate is unconstitutional, the Constitution requires them to enforce it."

    Cuckotarian Moment!

  • DenverJ||

    The other argument being that, if you just don't enforce the penalty, and pretend, it takes pressure off Congress to actually do something, leaving in place the law, waiting for the pendulum to swing to a Democrat presidency.
    Rule by whim.

  • Colossal Douchebag||

    "I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution." -- Ulysses S. Grant

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Yeah, I'm beginning to understand more and more why those guys love GayJay so much.

  • Longtobefree||

    According to the ninth circuit, you have to include political comments and speeches made before an executive order is issued when determining its constitutionality. Apply that logic to the ACA, and the tax is not a tax. By the ruling of the supremes, if the tax is not a tax, the law is unconstitutional. QED

  • kbill||

    This provision of Obamacare was to be started in the 2013 tax year, the first year of Obamacare.
    Obama used his magic pen to waive same provision for 2013,2014 and 2015 tax years because he was president and didn't want the wrath of taxpayers taken out on the democrats who passed the law. Now Trump does the same and we are told that he has no legal authority while maintaining that Obama did. Not much Reason in this analysis.

  • Bubba Jones||

    As noted above, the real concern is that President Fauxcohontas will audit your returns.

  • SIV||

    But what would have been a mandatory disclosure will instead be voluntary. Silent returns will no longer be automatically rejected. The change is a direct result of the executive order President Donald Trump issued in January directing the government to provide relief from Obamacare to individuals and insurers, within the boundaries of the law.

    THIS IS HOW YOU MAGA, cucks.

  • chemjeff||

    Yes SIV, we know. Many people did warn that in practice "MAGA" probably meant a large amount of "rule by executive decree".

  • commodious rebrands||

    Just to be clear, is there any real doubt that the 46 year old woman married to the 70 year old guy is not, in fact, a fucking hooker in the basest sense of the word? Is that really up for debate? Are we really going to put the NYT douche who mistakenly made the remark to an even bigger media whore through the ringer for saying what everyone, everywhere thought anyway?

    Yeah, no, soz and all, Melania Trump was a fucking hooker who Trump made his wife.

  • GILMORE™||

    Are we really going to put the NYT douche who mistakenly made the remark to an even bigger media whore through the ringer for saying what everyone, everywhere thought anyway?

    Isn't the phrasing, "make your enemy play by their own rules"?

  • commodious rebrands||

    I'm not all Saul about the obvious. Trump is a cad who preyed on women he hired overseas. Good for him and good for her, but to drag the poor sot through the mud for making the obvious observation nobody could avoid, that sucks. I don't care if Ratkij..jow...ski... I don't care if the chick from that music video got offended, it sucks that he gets popped making an obvious point.

  • GILMORE™||

    to drag the poor sot through the mud for making the obvious observation nobody could avoid, that sucks

    the poor sot was carl bernstein's "guaranteed a job at the NYT for life"-son, and he was at the Grammys hobnobbing with people he thought were all his liberal-patrician-peers.

    If he said something fucking stupid and suffers in the media for it, blame the contemporary "outrage culture" which treats every crass statement (e.g. 'grab em by the pussy') like actual rape, which, last i checked, was his own generation's creation.

  • commodious rebrands||

    I don't care for the outrage culture in whatever form it takes. And I'm not going to hope that it takes out Mr. Outrage Patrician himself. It's just so goddamn dumb. It's all so very, very dumb.

  • GILMORE™||

    and for the record, no i don't think every gold-digging bimbo is a "hooker", and i don't think any women that attractive has to prostitute themselves to find cushy lives.

  • commodious rebrands||

    Some men pay in cash, some men pay in wealth. I doubt the Donald was so charming as to entice Ms. Melania Unpronounceableforeignsurname with a prenup.

  • Sevo||

    "Some men pay in cash, some men pay in wealth. I doubt the Donald was so charming as to entice Ms. Melania Unpronounceableforeignsurname with a prenup."

    Some simpletons project.

  • commodious rebrands||

    If I could impute the consequences of absurd wealth, you'd better believe I'd be doing better than wasting my time here.

  • Sevo||

    "If I could impute the consequences of absurd wealth, you'd better believe I'd be doing better than wasting my time here."

    If you could read minds, you'd be doing something else also. Instead, why, it seems you can read minds and you're still here.

  • commodious rebrands||

    So you can read minds... and you're slumming it with us uncongenial folk?

  • GILMORE™||

    You're not the usual "commodious", are you.

    If you're the same person who bit my handle a week or 2 ago, you're going to get yourself in trouble very quickly.

  • commodious rebrands||

    Wait, what?

  • GILMORE™||

    Sorry, false alarm.

    I've been getting jumpy ever since someone stole my handle and started spewing some awful shit. fortunately they got slapped down pretty quick, but i now see "potential fakes" lurking in the shadows.

  • commodious rebrands||

    Huh. Didn't see that. Kinda been weighing on my mind though, since amsoc got his handle stolen.

  • commodious rebrands||

    fwiw I think Suthen was right in asking the current amsoc to give him back the handle. Doesn't seem cricket taken the name like that.

    Maybe it doesn't matter anymore since Suthen seems to be gone too.

  • straffinrun||

    See, that's the problem when you add stuff to your handle. Makes it easy to create a reasonable fake. Keep it simple and let your rep be the defense of the false socks.

  • Sevo||

    G,
    I also think it's a 'borrowed label' sock, but it really doesn't matter; make a stupid comment, get bitch-slap.

  • commodious rebrands||

    It's funny. Half my comments to you are complimentary. I like your Bay area wisdom. And the other half are fending off your anger. You're ferocious.

  • Sevo||

    C,
    Outside of the regular suspects, I try like hell to focus on the argument.

    "If I could impute the consequences of absurd wealth, you'd better believe I'd be doing better than wasting my time here."
    Maybe I'm missing it but it sure sounds to me like:
    "If you could read minds, you'd be doing something else also."
    And then I continued:
    "Instead, why, it seems you can read minds and you're still here."
    If that's unfair, you can call me on it.

    But the earlier shot at Melania (I assume that's FLOTUS) was just so much cheap-shot TDS.

  • commodious rebrands||

    It was a poorly considered defense of the douche who made the original comment. I'm still not fully aboard the shame-train on that guy, if only because I find that shit tiresome, whoever's tied to the cattle grate. It turns out I'm an ignorant lout.

  • GILMORE™||

    Some men pay in cash, some men pay in wealth. I doubt the Donald was so charming as to entice Ms. Melania Unpronounceableforeignsurname with a prenup.

    if that's your very-loose-standard for calling a woman a whore, then you're basically calling all married women who are supported by their husbands whores, and its pretty much the definition of misogyny.

    i'm not the social conservative type myself, and i'm all for women paying their own way (*i'm a feminist, you see); but i do think men should at least show a little class and not call other men's wives whores, unless they let their dog shit on your yard or something.

  • commodious rebrands||

    Oh, fuck it. Yeah, it was uncalled for. The fact that I have not myself accrued a retinue of inexplicably attractive eastern European models who merely want work in the States is because of poor luck. I'm barely thirty, but I'm sure there are women half my age dying to make my acquaintance if only I had some better fortune.

  • chemjeff||

    And small hands. I understand those help as well.

  • GILMORE™||

    don't sweat it.

    an anecdote which just occurred to me = i traveled in eastern europe when i was 18, right after graduating high school. I had some money saved and a buddy had moved to italy 2 years earlier, so the plan was to meet up with him and spend the entire summer blowing all my cash and getting drunk and laid.

    after about a week in italy, i had blown a huge chunk of money, and we quickly realized we needed to be more 'budget conscious'

    so off to Slovenia we go. parts of which were still on lockdown due to nearby war. We bounced between Hungary, Czech republic, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Romania... and lived like kings.

    in some places less than $20 a day bought us the best hotel, the best rooms, all the booze we could drink, plus the attentions of all the attractive young ladies.

    i also noticed that a surprising number of these attractive young ladies my age were already married. and the men they were married to? were thuggish looking middle aged men of 45 who probably beat them for fun after drinking with the boys.

    And that's the world Melania Trump came from. she would have been ~4 years older than me, from Slovenia. And she was there at that time. It was a poor place whose govt was falling apart, and whose future was in serious doubt.

    I'm pretty sure marrying a billionaire didn't make her a whore in the eyes of her peers.

  • commodious rebrands||

    Well, fuck my historically illiterate self.

    Going to bookmark this for the thoroughgoing putdown I deserved.

  • GILMORE™||

    i wasn't busting your balls, really :) it was more of just a thought passing through my head about how many of those beautiful early 1990s slovenian girls were married to drunken-dead-enders. And that she would have been exactly one of those people. It was a place which i think anyone with half a chance would have tried to escape.

    another strange coincidence = the last girl i really fell hard for? (and still hold a candle for) Slovenian. And a model (naturally). i'm glad we're friends, but i'm also bitter that her boyfriend is a rich dude who isn't any better looking than me.

  • commodious rebrands||

    I remember Bosnia in the vaguest terms possible, ie I read Chris Hedges about his journalism and some of it covered Bosnia.

    I kinda remember when Bosnia was in the headlines, at least as much as reading Bosnia in Chris Hedges' book wasn't totally without the "Oh right I remember that place was a thing that one time I heard about it" moment. I'd have been about eight.

    Aside from that, I don't know Bosnia. I don't know Slovenia. You are entirely exotic and foreign for having been to or near these places.

  • GILMORE™||

    whose govt was falling apart

    *rechecking my history book = "it was a country whose previous govt had just fallen apart, and was barely on its feet".... something like that.

  • Suellington||

    I went to those countries, but in the early 2000's. It wasn't much different then. Entering Serbia was a trip.

  • GILMORE™||

    It wasn't much different then.

    i'm pretty sure it was more different than you might think.

    in 1989 the berlin wall fell, then in '92, the yugoslav breakup/bosnian war started; everything east of Vienna was, if not "a mess"... at least very-very-very different than it is now.

    there was no EU, and the currency differences between countries was.... quite simply, 'ridiculous'. a beer in Florence was $5. A beer in Krakow was $0.05.

    The Czech republic was probably the best off, socially and economically; Prague in 1992 was like.... i don't know, Paris in the 1930s. everyone was drunk all the time and thrilled to be alive. Budapest was depressed. half the civil servants didn't have jobs anymore, nothing worked. Any further east or south and it just got more "former communist'' and more depressed. Everywhere there were thousands of Romany(gypsies) who were claiming refugee-status, but were mostly selling hash and doing black market money-exchange.

    it was a unique and weird time to visit that area of the world. what's odd is that no adults even bothered to say, 'be careful' or anything to two 18 year olds who had nothing except a couple grand in cash and no common sense at all. It was sort of "normal" at the time to get a copy of "Let's Go: Europe" and just hope for the best.

  • commodious rebrands||

    Was it generally expecting your safety or indifference to loss of life?

  • GILMORE™||

    Was it generally expecting your safety or indifference to loss of life?

    meh, lots of kids did the "Eurail" thing in the 1980s-1990s. It was a cliche. You'd get an all-destinations train-ticket covering 6-weeks for like $500, and stay in these $5 a night hostels.

    in my situation, my friend's parents had relocated to Italy for 2 years (his mom was an art teacher from Colombia U who was working at the Uffizi in Florence), and i basically told my parents,"hey i'm going to go visit my buddy for the summer". as long as i paid my own way, who were they to say no? My buddies parents were sanguine about our traveling, and were like, "call every few days"; they'd be a few days away at worst. The one time we got arrested (in poland) we talked our way out of it after a night in the hoosegow.

    It really wasn't all that dangerous at all. Even in Slovenia, there was no war *there*, it was a few hundred miles south. but the place was still part of 'former Yugoslavia' so there were troops around and quite a bit of uncertainty about refugees coming across the border. The only really sensation of "danger" was when i told some guy i'd love to take a day-hike into the hills and he was like, "no no no, landmines"

  • Suellington||

    Sounds like good times indeed. I would have loved to have been in eastern Europe in the early 90's. I was in Ireland at that time.. .

  • commodious rebrands||

    Well goddamn it, what was that like?!

  • Ted S.||

    I studied for a semester in Sankt-Peterburg in the spring of '92.

    Well, spring on the calendar. It didn't get nice until May. But it was interesting times, and where I had my first hangover.

  • Suellington||

    Sounds like good times indeed. I would have loved to have been in eastern Europe in the early 90's. I was in Ireland at that time.. .

  • mr simple||

    Occasionally, they get one right.

    Gov. Cuomo signs bill that blocks NYC disposable bag fee

    First surprising revelation (as in surprising that they got it):
    Supporters of the moratorium criticized the bag fee as nothing more than a tax that would hurt lower-income people.

    Second:Hours before Cuomo announced his decision on the bill, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx) and Sens. Marisol Alcantara (D-Manhattan) and Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) offered up an alternative to the bag fee.
    Rather than hit customers who use plastic and other disposable bags with the 5-cent fee under the city law, a new bill would actually pay them to use reusable bags.
    Under the plan, customers across the state who choose to use reusable bags would receive an instant 3-cent sales tax rebate from the stores.

    Sure they're just letting them keep their own money, but they're democrats who aren't charging people to make their own decisions or even paying them with other people's money. I never thought I'd see this, especially in NY.

  • Browncoat||

    This is a sign of end times, I actually agree with the asshole for once.

  • Longtobefree||

    Minor detail; they are actually paying with tax dollars. You aren't keeping your money, you are receiving a tax rebate, which means for each 3 cent rebate will require a 5 cent increase in some other tax, or an increase in the sales tax percentage due to "unforeseen reductions in sales tax collections".

  • Sevo||

    "The tax agency has stopped requiring individual filers to indicate whether they maintained health coverage or paid the mandate penalty as required under the law"

    OK, throat clearing: The IRS really should not exist. But it does. Similarly, O-care should not exist. But it does. And O-care was passed by congress, albeit in a barely legal (but legal) manner.
    Does the IRS now choose which tax laws it enforces? And this is a tax law, courtesy of that social-climber Roberts.
    We live in interesting times...

  • straffinrun||

    I have a feeling the only thing keeping them from enforcing every little transgression is a lack of manpower. They collected record revenue last quarter and the Feds are still over $150 billion short.

  • Sevo||

    Been gone today; did this get linked?

    "Ruben Navarrette: The teachers unions may have met their match in Betsy DeVos "
    [...]
    "SAN DIEGO -- What do you suppose would happen if an education reform advocate who spent decades throwing bricks at the public school system from the outside suddenly became the ultimate insider: secretary of education?
    Well, much to the horror of self-serving teachers unions that sprinkle money throughout the Democratic Party to protect the status quo and make sure the interests of students who attend public schools don't interfere with those of the grown-ups who work there, we're about to find out."
    http://journalstar.com/news/op.....bff72.html

    There's far more; he rips the Ds new assholes left and left.
    The local rag reprinted it as a WaPo feed.

  • Suellington||

    We live in interesting times indeed. Who can call it? I would love for liberty and freedom be the main direction, but think that is likely not the direction things will take. If it does, it will be technology driven and claimed for the state.

  • Rich||

    Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow the submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61. The IRS says it still maintains the option to follow up with those who elect not to indicate their coverage status, although it's not clear what circumstances might trigger a follow up.

    Oh, FFS! What total bullshit! 8-(

  • Rich||

    And another thing:

    'Fess up, who else thought, upon reading Major Blow to Obamacare Mandate, "Major Tom to Ground Control"?

  • Personal Liberty||

    If enough people took advantage of this little nugget it could end up undermining the precarious support that exists for repealing the law. I just doubt enough people to matter will take the IRS up on the offer. It's an invitation to evade taxes from the people who prosecute tax evasion. No, thank you. I'll stay on this side of the door for now.

  • Juice||

    Yeah, even though I didn't have insurance for almost all of 2014, all I had to do was check the box that said I couldn't afford it (true, the ACA canceled my insurance and made it unaffordable). No biggie. It's not like the mandate was actually ever enforced.

  • ||

    "shared responsibility payment."

    Well, at least that doesn't sound Orwellian at all.

  • Alcibiades||

    There are no penalties for failure to pay the mandate. If you arrange your taxes so you don't owe anything at the end of the year, have had no health coverage and the IRS requests payment of the penalty you can basically tell them "fuck off". The ACA prohibits any legal penalties or consequences for non-payment.

  • sgreffenius||

    This is outstanding news. We live in Massachusetts, Jonathan Gruber's ground zero for the whole mess, but at least the country can begin to work its way out of the horrible law Massachusetts managed to inflict on the other forty-nine states. Thanks for good coverage.

    Reader feedback: I like to read comments at Reason from time to time. It'd be great if article author's occasionally responded to substantive comments.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The competent writers occasionally respond to intelligent comments. You doubtless have observed that those are an easily overlooked minority in this high noise-to-signal environment.

  • TruthDetector||

    That's the sole enforcement mechanism.

    Obamacare is done. Stick a fork in it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    If you live outside These States you can tell the IRS to take their national socialist medicine and shove it! But there may be another approach. Puerto Rico is ripe for some libertarian influence, and the IRS does not tax you there...

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Major Blow to Obamacare Mandate: IRS Won't Reject Tax Returns That Don't Answer Health Insurance Question
    The tax agency has stopped requiring individual filers to indicate whether they maintained health coverage or paid the mandate penalty as required under the law

    A good start.
    But the ultimate goal still should be the elimination of Obozocare and the deregulation of the healthcare industry.

  • ||

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