Well, it’s official. It’s now constitutional for politicians to tell huge lies, and not only get away with doing so, but be rewarded for doing so. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare this past week confirmed what most of us realized all along, that President Obama and congressional supporters of the “Affordable Care Act” lied to the nation and to all of us! They told us that it was not a tax increase, ardently, vehemently, and ad nauseam; yet, that’s the very justification the Supreme Court used to rule it constitutional last week.
While debating the Act in Congress, proponents claimed constitutional authority for the hostile takeover of the health care industry based on the Commerce Clause. And when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued the case in front of the Supreme Court justices, the Act’s constitutionality was based on the Commerce Clause, not on its merits as a tax.
But the end result is that one of the largest and most regressive tax increases ever, $1.76 trillion over ten years according to updated figures from the Congressional Budget Office, has been thrust upon the taxpayers, courtesy of Obama and congressional Democrats. In a bizarre twist of irony, it’s their lie that allowed it to be ruled constitutional! And from a constitutional basis, we’re supposed to ignore the fact that as a tax bill, it originated in the Senate, another strike against its constitutionality.
Prior to Obamacare’s passage in 2010, Obama denied it was a tax. In September 2009, Obama told ABC News that the law “is absolutely not a tax increase.” In fact, in nearly every major sales pitches for the Act, he would reassert that “for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.”
And he was not alone. All the congressional Democrats sang the same tune. Notably, the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, declared in 2010 that not only was it not a tax increase, but it certainly didn’t violate Obama’s pledge of absolutely no new taxes on the middle class. We all remember him promising in every campaign stop through the 2008 campaign, “I can make a firm pledge – under my plan, no family making less that $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.” Yet, of the 21 taxes included in the Act, nearly half will affect the middle class-the economic stratum that Obama promised no tax increases to.
There is one truly significant aspect to the ruling last Thursday that is actually encouraging. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts ruled the “individual mandate,” relative to the commerce clause, in fact unconstitutional. Roberts wrote: “The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce.
“Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do.”
The significance of this aspect of the ruling is nearly as great as the upholding of the Act itself. This means there is now judicial precedence limiting Congress’ authority to compel American citizens to purchase anything, or to be fined or otherwise punished or regulated for not engaging in certain behavior. They simply cannot mandate citizen behavior under the Commerce Clause. Those of us thinking the entire Act would be ruled unconstitutional because of the mandate were right. Little did we know that it would pass muster based on the taxing authority of Congress.
Regrettably, the Act is much more than a tax as it takes complete control of our health care delivery mechanism. Tom Price, a congressman from Georgia and a medical doctor, said on Friday, “We clearly chose in 2008, and we’re now as a nation living under the consequences of that political choice. But as a physician, I can tell you that the doctors and the patients of this land are very troubled. Because this law violates every single principle we hold dear as a nation in health care. Whether it’s accessibility or affordability, or high quality care or choices for patients, this law violates all of those things and makes them more difficult.”
The oxymoronic title of the Act has already proven, in two short years, that it is anything but “affordable” as premiums and health care costs have skyrocketed in anticipation of full implementation over the next two years. It was the wrong prescription for the ailments of health care delivery, and there were many less intrusive and cheaper ways to provide insurance to the uninsured, short of a hostile takeover of the entire industry.
Perusing the Roberts ruling from the NFIB v. Sibelius decision, there is a very strongly worded line that goes to the heart of the issue for those of us who are strict constructionists. He said, “The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.”
He continues, “The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power.”
“The Federal Government ‘is acknowledged by all to be one of enumerated powers.’ That is, rather than granting general authority to perform all the conceivable functions of government, the Constitution lists, or enumerates, the Federal Government’s powers,” he wrote.
Although we perceive the ruling to be a loss to the constructionist argument, the first few pages of Robert’s explanation is a reaffirmation of the limits of federal government authority, based upon enumerated powers. He really gave us a gift; for by ruling as he did, he’s reaffirmed the constitutional limitations of the federal government and motivated the masses in revolt against the current regime. For as Roberts said later, whether the government should even be involved in mandated health care is a political question, one that we can address at the polls.
It seems sadly ironic that we would learn of the constitutionality of the one piece of congressional legislation most restrictive to personal freedom and liberty ever, on the eve of our national observance of our Independence Day. We can only hope that with a change in the White House and gains in the House and Senate in the November election that this onerous legislation can be rewritten or repealed. For as it stands now, Obama’s win with the Supreme Court is a loss for the American people.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.