The triumph of economy over morality — a solution to the DACA problem

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Whatever is illegal and immoral becomes legal and moral in direct proportion to local, state, and federal governments’ needs for tax revenues. Therein lies Congress’s solution to the DACA debate. All it has to do is declare immediately all “Dreamers” as legal immigrants and levy a special tax against them for the privilege of being legitimized.

The strategy has worked before for legislators. Remember when gambling was illegal in almost every U.S. state except Nevada, primarily because it was considered immoral? Then legislators had an epiphany. Gambling could become morally defensible if it could be regulated by government entities. Oh, yeah, it could be taxed, too, as a way to bolster flagging government revenues. Government-regulated casinos sprouted up all across the United States and legalized lotteries were created to transfer people’s disposable cash to government coffers. Gambling became moral and legal.

Politicians studied what else they could legitimize, make morally acceptable —and tax— in the name of the nation’s general welfare in accordance with the two most dangerous words in the U.S. Constitution, “general welfare,” the ones that make all taxes possible. (Eighth Amendment, Section 1: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”) They construe those two words as a license to tax whatever they deem taxable, uniformity be damned.

Suddenly, smokers and adult beverage drinkers became the targets of excessive taxation. It dawned on enterprising politicians that smoking and consuming alcoholic beverages were health hazards to the general public. Therefore, they levied accelerating taxes on tobacco products and alcohol with a promise to purchasers of such products that they would use the revenues to underwrite smoking cessation programs and the evils of alcohol seminars, all in the interests of the general welfare. Somehow the new taxes got dumped into the general funds and the promised programs rarely materialized. But new sources of revenue did. Ah, cigarettes, liquor…what else?

Politicians added marijuana to the list of “we used to think it was bad, but now it’s good” taxable items. They wisely started with medical marijuana. “Hey, we’re not saying that all marijuana is good —or bad,” they averred. “We are only interested in taxing what benefits the general welfare.” That was merely a pretext and a step down the proverbial slippery taxation slope.

Individual states began legalizing recreational marijuana, not because it was necessarily good for the general welfare, but because it was a potential source of significant tax revenues. Read this lead paragraph to an article on the website on Feb. 14, 2018: “Advocates for legalizing recreational marijuana use in Connecticut — and taxing its sales — are hoping a holistic, economic argument will win the day this year.” Once again, what was immoral and illegal becomes moral and illegal practically overnight, simply because it’s a potential cash cow.

DACA provides the same opportunity.

“Dreamers” themselves did not do anything illegal, but the folks who brought them into the U.S. did. As such the “Dreamers” have unwittingly become the center of largely partisan arguments about how they should be treated. Politicians should think of them as sources of revenue, rather than problems. The best solution to resolve the argument over whether to legalize or deport them is to tax them and let them stay at home — which is the United States. The strategy has worked well in raising revenues through special levies on gambling, smoking, alcohol, marijuana, and whatever gets legitimized next. It can be just as lucrative on “Dreamers.”

Everybody benefits. The “Dreamers” get to stay home, the country’s general welfare is enhanced by the extra tax revenues, and morality is upheld. What some people think is immoral, i.e., illegal immigration, suddenly becomes moral, and a problem is solved.

More important, the new strategy of legalizing what once was illegal and making moral what was once immoral can be applied to new cash cows such as hard drugs, prostitution, and euthanization. Glorious days lie ahead for the United States.

Arthur G. Sharp is a former university professor and Senior Technical Writer at The Travelers in Hartford who splits his time between Florida and Connecticut.

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