Our reading today is from the Constitution, first Act, eighth Section, third Clause:
[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
This is the so-called Commerce Clause. It is from this verse which is found the new power to compel ordinary citizens to purchase health “insurance” from companies selected by the government. If private citizens do not choose to enter into a contract with (semi) private companies, the federal government will use its powers to punish these citizens.
In Obamacare, the coercion is called the “individual mandate,” as in mandatory under fear and actuality of punishment.
Perhaps you are sympathetic with the view that the government should provide “free” health care to its citizens. You feel so strongly about this—think of the poor!—that you do not care how the government funds this “free” care. So what if people are made to give their money to private companies? The needs of the people for health care outweigh rich folks’ rights to dispense with their money how they see fit. And anyway, Congress surely has the power to raise a tax for this purpose and the individual mandate is nothing but a new tax.
The individual mandate is not a tax, however. Congress certainly could have created a tax to fund health care when it passed Obamacare, but it chose not to, almost certainly because Obamacare would not have passed with a tax as its base. Do not forget that not one single Republican, and not every Democrat, voted for Obamacare. This Act, this most contentious Act, just squeaked by: and only after the Congress promised at the last moment that federal funds would not be used to provide abortions; a promise that was quickly broken.
But never mind that. The mandate is not a tax. Taxes are monies which are taken from citizens and sent to the government. The mandate instead forces citizens to give their money to (semi) private corporations or to pay a penalty—not a tax—to the government. It is true that these beneficiaries will be selected and regulated by the government. But this means the Act thus codifies and makes permanent crony capitalism, a state of affairs which used to be anathema to the left, but embraced warmly in this case.
If you accept that Congress can compel citizens to give money to other citizens lest they pay a penalty, you are setting a precedent with far-reaching consequences. For this allows the federal government to regulate all behavior. Perhaps you are one of the intellectual elite who see that as no bad thing. After all, the truest and brightest will be called to government and there they will decide What Is Best.
Maybe so. But mores and attitudes have a habit of shifting. How long before a new Republican led government is empowered? Don’t forget that we had two terms of George Bush not that long ago. And suppose, Dear Lefty, that Rick Santorum ascends the heights and dons the mantle. Suppose even your worst nightmare comes true and his vice president is—one gasps—Sarah Palin.
What might this pair feel must be born by citizens? They will know they have the power to ask Congress to coerce commerce of any kind. They may say to themselves something like this: Well, abortion is legal, but nobody should be allowed to have one without education of what abortion means, what it can do, and so forth. Since abortion is a right for all, education on this subject must be for all. Every citizen must therefore pay certain organizations—churches, probably, and their affiliates—to provide this education. Or they must pay a penalty.
That okay with you? You may retort that “They wouldn’t do this” or “They will never be elected”, but that sounds more like whistling past the graveyard than sure conviction. Maybe Santorum and Palin won’t grasp power, but it is surely only a matter of time before some right-wing government takes the reins. If the Supreme Court holds with Obamacare, with the individual mandate, then this right-wing government will have the power to coerce whatever commerce it favors. And you will have no choice but to pay.
All history—I use the word all in the sense of all—shows that once a government is awarded a power, they use that power, and with ever-increasing frequency and ever-widening reach. To argue that Congress will stop with a health care mandate is thus irrational, below wishful thinking.
If you truly desire “free” health care for all, then you should petition Congress to institute a tax. Be sure to ask that the tax is large enough, though. Costs under Obamacare are already mushrooming, with no end in sight.