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ObamaCare and the Death of Constitutionally Limited Government and Federalism

April 3, 2010

Several state Attorneys General are proceeding with legal action against the recently passed health care “reform” bill, most notably on the grounds that the individual mandate is a gross violation of the expressed powers of Congress and a usurpation of state’s rights granted them under the Tenth Amendment.

SCOTUS long ago bastardized the Commerce Clause’s text in an effort to place a wide swath of economic activity under the purview of Congress.  Most notably in Wickard v. Filburn SCOTUS ruled that a private farmer, growing wheat on his private farm, for his privately owned livestock, entirely for his own private consumption, was in violation of the Agricultural Adjustment Act and that Congress was within its right to order the destruction of the excess crop and payment of a fine by Mr. Filburn because the activity “affected” interstate commerce.  The reasoning was: Mr. Filburn would have purchased the excess wheat on an interstate market.

Notwithstanding the gross overreach of both Congress and SCOTUS, does anyone see a pattern forming?  Congress discerns a “problem”, an “injustice”, or “shortcoming” in normal market fluctuations and economic cycles, deems itself the only body capable of ameliorating said crisis, and when it invariably exacerbates mild crises or creates real problems, they point their fingers at the market and claim that further intervention is necessary.  But I digress.

ObamaCare ostensibly makes the same sort of argument for the individual mandate and penalties that the SCOTUS affirmed in Filburn.  The power of the legislature under the Commerce Clause has already been stretched well beyond the Framer’s intent. 

I predicted this months ago.  Under the auspices of “health care reform”, there is no facet of human activity that won’t be deemed to fall within the scope of regulation and coercion.  Arguably, the Court already damned us with Filburn.  If, taken on the aggregate, economic decisions that merely have bearing on “interstate commerce” are able to be regulated by the federal government, the same can be said of an individual’s decision to abstain from participation in a given market.  In the case of ObamaCare, the government is using a distant and dicey proposition: if you get in to an accident, or get sick and can’t pay out-of-pocket, other people pay your costs–often across state lines.  (When it comes to liberalism, if ‘if’ were a spliff, we’d all be stoned.)  What if I don’t get into an accident or get sick?  What if I just inexplicably drop dead when I’m old and gray–does my family get my money back?  See, this question used to make sense through the novel prism of the “free market”.  Insurance was predicated on risk and community pooling.  Now, it’s based on Congressional fiat.

What about my decision not to buy a car?  Surely that affects interstate commerce.  I’m denying a car manufacturer money that would have gone toward their product, which involves commerce between the states.  Can I be compelled to buy a car?  More to the point, my dietary decisions “affect” my health and therefore my health care and insurance requirements.  Can I be compelled to purchase health food, dietary supplements, or be denied certain foods based upon my health?

And then there’s the matter of ObamaCare’s usurpation of state’s rights.  Under this legislation, states effectively become appendages of the federal government.  They are burdened with onerous Medicaid requirements that essentially make state government workers into federal government employees. 

If the Commerce Clause can be used to compel the purchase of a private product as a condition of legal residence, and if the Tenth Amendment is nothing more than a symbolic nod toward the states–yeah, yeah, we know you’re supposed to be “sovereign”–then there are no such things as Constitutionally limited government or federalism.  The legal issues raised by Attorneys General all over the place aren’t cynical and desperate political posturing–they’re valid objections to poorly reasoned argumentation from the left and tyrannical overreach on the part of the Congress.  Even given the liberal wing of the Court’s slavish devotion to stare decisis, I’m confident ObamaCare will be found unconstitutional.  It’s either that, or the Constitution holds no real meaning anymore.

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