The Law

It’s Time For ObamaCare To Face A Death Panel

The Supreme Court is currently conducting a marathon three-day session of oral arguments on the challenges to ObamaCare, an almost unprecedented amount of time for the Court to consider any case. But the ObamaCare issue isn’t just another case, or even just another case involving weighty constitutional issues. If the Court upholds ObamaCare’s individual mandate, it will put the final nail in the coffin of the federal government being a government of limited, enumerated powers. If the federal government can force everyone to buy health insurance, there’s not much holding the federal government back from forcing us to buy certain foods, drive certain cars, or engage in any other activity that the federal government deems (in its infinite wisdom) to be for the “common good.”

ObamaCare supporters argue that health care is somehow different from everything else: because we will all use the health care system at some point in our lives, the government has a higher interest in regulating it and making sure that costs are allocated “fairly.” There’s a huge flaw in that argument: it’s a license for unlimited government power. As the example goes, why couldn’t the government make everyone buy broccoli? After all, you must participate in the market for food. Even those wraith-thin supermodels have to eat at one point or another. And broccoli is good for you, which would reduce health care costs. So why can’t Michelle Obama make everyone eat broccoli, or choose to pay a “penalty?”

For that matter, since the Chevy Volt is a massive taxpayer-financed boondoggle, why not mandate that everyone must buy a Chevy Volt or pay a “penalty?” After all, everyone must somehow participate in the “transportation market,” even those people whose only interaction with the market is when they buy their motorized wheelchair to carry their beached-whale bodies to the local buffet. So why not just mandate that everyone buy a Chevy Volt or pay a fine?

In fact, since Disney is taking a bath on John Carter, why shouldn’t they lobby Congress to make everyone in the country see the movie or pay a fine? After all, everyone participates in the “entertainment market” too.

And that’s the major constitutional problem with ObamaCare: a broccoli mandate, a Chevy Volt mandate, a John Carter mandate, they’re all separated from the individual insurance mandate by degree, not by principle.

The individual mandate is the most sweeping power grab of our generation—in terms of real-world impact it makes the PATRIOT Act look timid. And yet there’s been nowhere near the outcry about ObamaCare as they has been about the PATRIOT Act.

The Tax Man (Doesn’t) Cometh

The government has argued that the individual mandate’s penalty really is a tax. The reason why the government makes this argument is because of a federal law called the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act is a federal law that prevents people from challenging taxes in courts as a way of getting out of paying taxes. In other words, if the Court bought this argument, the challenges to ObamaCare would fail.

The government’s argument that the ObamaCare penalty really is a “tax” doesn’t save them. For one, it’s an argument that goes against the facts: nothing in the health care law makes the penalty into a tax other than the fact that it was shoved into the Internal Revenue Code. The President and Congressional Democrats were adamant that it was not really a tax, otherwise they would be accused of breaking their promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. Nor is the tax But when it became legally convenient to say that the “penalty” really was a tax, the government is now making that argument. But the penalty isn’t a tax in either form or substance, so that argument is unlikely to go anywhere. And, based on the Court’s skeptical questions in today’s arguments, it looks like the tax argument isn’t likely to carry much weight.

Kill (the) Bill

The problems with ObamaCare are legion, not only is it bad policy, but it sets a precedent that wipes away the system of checks and balances that keep our system of government functioning. The Supreme Court has this opportunity to stand up for the established constitutional order and strike down the individual mandate as a violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. If they do not, the costs could be grave. There’s not only the risk of eroding freedoms, but there’s a much more concrete risk as well: ObamaCare is bad law. It won’t make health care cheaper, it won’t make it easier for people to see a doctor, it won’t save lives. It will create a system where medical care is artificially limited by the government (both directly and indirectly). If that sounds a bit like a “death panel” concept, it should. Because that’s what has to happen: the government has no magic fairy wand that they can waive over our healthcare system to make health care cost less. The only way to reduce costs is to ration, and that’s exactly what would have to be done in order to make ObamaCare work.

But the Supreme Court isn’t concerned with health care policy, at least not directly. Their concern is with the question of whether ObamaCare is consistent with our constitutional order. It is not. The individual mandate in ObamaCare is no less unconstitutional than a broccoli mandate, a Chevy Volt mandate, or a mandate to see John Carter. The Commerce Clause isn’t a blank check for the government to take effective control of an entire sector of the American economy. The Supreme Court should serve as ObamaCare’s “death panel.”

Idiotarianism, Media

ABC – State-Run Television

Sheldon Alberts has a good editorial on ABC’s decision to become a propaganda organ for the White House tonight:

At the president’s invitation, ABC News anchors Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer will host a prime time town hall-style meeting from the White House during which Obama – and Obama alone – will answer audience and viewers’ questions about efforts to cover 50 million Americans without health care insurance.

Talk about a bully pulpit for Obama to sell his proposal for the creation of a government-run public health insurance plan.
ABC News’ packaging of the health care special also includes a Good Morning America “exclusive” interview with the President on Wednesday morning, a live broadcast of ABC World News from the White House, a full edition of ABC’s Nightline devoted to the issue, an ABC News webcast and an ABC Radio special.

ABC is essentially become a journalistic whore—giving away their credibility in favor of access to their master’s house. Tonight’s programming will be little more than propaganda, despite ABC’s weak promises that they’ll be critical of Obama’s plans, they have not given any airtime for any dissenting voices to Obama’s attempts to “reform” health care.

In short, ABC has decided to become a political propaganda network for the White House. Not only is this blatantly against the “watchdog” role of the press, it also violates the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. That Code requires journalists to “[a]void conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” Here, ABC is trading objectivity for access, but even if they are not, the fact that not a single voice will be given time is more than enough to “perceive” a conflict of interest. The Code demands that journalists “[r]efuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.” Here, ABC is compromising their journalistic integrity in order to curry favor with the Obama White House and gain access to the administration. One could go one, but the point has been made: what ABC is doing is a violation of professional ethics.

It is ironic that a party that has called for a “fairness doctrine” to promote “balance” on the airwaves and criticizes other networks for being “biased” seems to be silent as ABC refuses to give equal time. It only exposes the hypocrisy of those who would censor talk radio to prevent dissenting voices from having a bully pulpit.

This sort of thing should not happen in a free society: and that this is not the product of government coercion is even more distressing. It is one thing to become a slavish propaganda organ for the ruling clique at the barrel of a gun—but that ABC will prostrate themselves of their own volition is even more disgusting.

ABC has no objectivity. They have allowed themselves to become an uncritical propaganda organ for the Obama Administration and should be treated with the same critical eye as one would treat any other state-run propaganda outlet.


A Little Radicalism Is Good Medicine

Ramesh Ponnuru has an interesting pice in Time on why the GOP’s health care platform represents a radical shift. Instead of health care being something that you get through your employer, many of the Republican plans would see health care as something you have—just like auto insurance, life insurance, or homeowner’s insurance.

That’s the way it should be. The only reason we have the system now is because the tax system forces it—there’s no economic reason why risk pools have to be so small or why health coverage shouldn’t be portable from job to job. Losing your job should not mean losing your health insurance. Moving to a new job shouldn’t require you to have to think about what coverage you’ll get. People who work from Mom’s Apple Pie Bakery should have access to the same level of care that someone who works for Microsoft has.

The Republicans need to push back on health care, because despite all the hew and cry, it’s a winning issue for them. Even after years of scurrilous attacks, polling shows a market-oriented approach being more popular, winning over the Democratic plan 49-40%. When confronted with the options of having a federal bureaucracy or having real choice, it’s not hard to figure out why Americans tend to choose the latter. The last thing we need in this country is more bureaucracy in medicine.

Emphasizing personal choice is key to this issue. The electorate is justifiably upset at the status quo in which the HMO bureaucracy makes health care more expensive and harder to get. The huge rise in health care costs in this country is due to the fact that we have an unworkable system: the Democrats want to make that system bigger, the Republicans want to fix it. Instead of forcing everyone into a federalized Mother of All HMOs that combines the efficiency of the DMV with the caring service of the IRS, it’s a much more attractive option to give people real choices.

Put the only way something like this will get passed is if the GOP is willing to fight for it. The Democrats are promising the moon, but giving us more bureaucracy. Nobody (other than Democrats, who take it as an article of faith) really believes that things run better when the government takes them over. Healthcare is no different. The GOP has the right policy, but they have to have the political will to see that policy enacted. That will mean actively fighting back against all the pressure groups backed with special interest cash who are invested in the broken status quo.

It’s a battle worth fighting, both politically and on behalf of the American people who need real choice in health care. The question is who will be willing to lead that fight?