Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Individual Mandate

Since the US Supreme Court’s recent hearing of the case against the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or ObamaCare), a number of liberal commentators have gotten into a tizzy over the possibility that the high court will declare the mandate un-Constitutional, thus dashing the hopes of millions who foresaw the possibility of finally obtaining healthcare that was not affordable to them before. They tell us how much ObamaCare is needed by the uninsured, and justify the mandate using the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause of the US Constitution. To hear these commentators speak, you’d think that those conservative Supreme Court justices, as well as every citizen opposed to the individual mandate, were in a celebratory mood, salivating over the thought that they have a chance to deny much needed healthcare to those worthless dregs of society. Come on, give me a break! I dare say that only a handful of people feel that way. Many kind, decent, and caring people are opposed to ObamaCare and its individual mandate. Why? Because it’s un-Constitutional. And for some people, that still means something.

Surely we all know that when the Constitution was drafted, it was intended to limit the powers of the federal government. After all, these citizens had just been fighting a tyrannical English government. Why would they immediately turn around and create a new government with essentially unlimited power over their lives? Why would they fight a war only to jump from the frying pan into the fire?

The Commerce Clause, which says “[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” specifically gives Congress the power to regulate commerce between the states rather than mandate commerce. The intent was to make sure voluntary commerce occurred unimpeded across state lines, thus insuring the country was a unified whole as it pertained to trade.

The General Welfare Clause was obviously not intended to give Congress the power to implement any legislation they deemed to be for the general welfare. That would go counter to the whole purpose of the Constitution, which was federal restraint. Thomas Jefferson said this: “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.” In other words, the Constitution spelled out the powers of the federal government that would provide for the general welfare. That being so, Congress was granted the power to tax its citizens to finance those activities, but no more.

So, don’t believe those who say that those in opposition to the individual mandate are evil, mean-spirited people who want to see uninsured people dying in the streets. Rather, we who are opposed believe it is ultimately in the best interest of our country to not have an unbridled federal government. Giving Congress the power to dictate purchases US citizens must make is a huge unbridling.

Since the beginning of our country, Congress and the President have un-Constitutionally grabbed more power from the states and its citizens, oftentimes with a nod of approval from the Supreme Court. And just look at the mess we are now in. Their track record for handling our tax dollars is nothing to write home about. Look at what they have done with the Social Security trust fund. It’s now a distrust fund. Total unfunded liabilities are estimated to be about $60 trillion. Our national debt is over $15 trillion and increasing by a trillion dollars every year. Do we really want to put ourselves in these hands when it comes to everyone’s healthcare? While it is true that current calculations show that ObamaCare will actually reduce future obligations, it is also true that past calculations for existing government programs have been horrendously wrong. And it’s also true that once a segment of our economy is taken over by politicians, it becomes highly politicized, with incumbents expanding the scope of various programs in order to gain votes to stay in office. In other words, the politicians like to use some of the taxpayers’ money to benefit themselves during their reelection bids.

So, what to do about the uninsured? One option is charity. Another is to eliminate unnecessary regulations on the healthcare market, thus putting downward pressure on costs. Yet another is for each state to implement their own healthcare plan to the extent that its State Constitution permits. Ultimately, if a sufficient number of the American people become convinced that the best option is to have our leaders in DC mandate a national healthcare plan, an amendment can be added to the US Constitution granting the federal government this power. After all, that’s why Article V is in the Constitution. But it seems that more and more our leaders want to skirt around that Article and pass laws without the permission of their employers, the American people. I believe they have skirted around it for too long. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and say, “Enough!”