The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is rapidly approaching its day in the Supreme Court. This controversial bill has helped polarize our country even before most of its provisions have taken effect. Based on its individual mandate, which fines people who don’t purchase health insurance, the bill should be struck down as unconstitutional. Due to its unpopularity and price tag, the bill should be repealed.
The individual mandate within Obamacare marks the first time the federal government has attempted to force Americans to purchase a private-industry product. Supporters of the individual mandate are citing the Commerce Clause in the Constitution as justification for this, but when one reads the actual clause the argument seems unreasonable. Author and professor of law Richard A. Epstein stated the following in a Stanford University journal: “Looked at from the vantage point of the original Constitution, Obamacare should be dead on arrival.”
The reason behind his frankness is simple: The Commerce Clause explicitly states, “(The Congress shall have Power) To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” If Americans choose not to engage in commerce, then there is nothing to regulate. Therefore, the individual mandate has no base in the Constitution.
Nevertheless, the individual mandate was the linchpin that Obamacare was constructed around. President Obama and Democratic leaders forced this ill-advised, partisan bill through both houses of Congress without a single Republican vote. In order to secure passage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid handed out several sweetheart deals to hesitant Democratic senators in the final days before the vote. The most notorious was the “cornhusker kickback” for Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. The deal gave Nebraska a permanent exemption from the cost of Medicaid expansion, which means that the federal government will cover all future costs.
Deal-making is common on Capitol Hill, and compromise between legislators is good and expected. However, buying individual votes with sweetheart deals for certain states at the expense of the rest of the nation seems excessive, to say the least. If the bill were written well enough in the first place, deals like these wouldn’t be needed to buy votes.
These brash tactics only served to deepen the divide in the country and resulted in an even more sharply partisan Congress. The unproductive environment in Washington was cited by Standard & Poor’s as a reason for downgrading our country’s credit rating for the first time in history.
So this raises the question: In the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, why did the president and Democratic lawmakers choose to spend so much time and political capital forcing this bill through? Shouldn’t they have focused on the economy first?
It seems like most Americans would agree. In recent CNN/ORC polls, an increasing majority of Americans disapprove of the way President Barack Obama is handling the economy and health care policy.
Now new reports are projecting that Obamacare will cost much more than was touted by the White House and Democratic lawmakers. Author and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a public policy think tank, Michael Tanner stated that the act, “will cost more than $2.7 trillion over its first 10 years of full operation, and add more than $823 billion to the national debt.” This doesn’t include, “more than $4.3 trillion in costs shifted to businesses, individuals, and state governments.”
In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments brought by 26 states arguing that President Obama’s health care overhaul overstepped the Constitution by requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. It’s likely the justices will hear arguments that if the individual mandate stands, then the federal government can mandate just about anything, from purchasing a hybrid car instead of a truck to buying nonfat milk versus whole milk.
When considering the federal government’s power to force Americans to purchase a product, i.e. the individual mandate, let’s remember the role for which the founders intended our federal versus state governments to have. As James Madison said in the Federalist Papers, the powers of the federal government under the Constitution are “few and defined.” The powers in state governments are “numerous and indefinite.”
Obamacare with its individual mandate has no justification within the Constitution. Considering this, and that a growing majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s health care policy, it is safe to say this law is unconstitutional, overpriced and unwanted. Whether stricken down by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress , it must go.