Obamacare gives Congress license to micromanage every facet of our lives
The Obama administration has never offered a principled explanation of how to square the health-care law's individual mandate with the Constitution. If Congress can force us to buy health insurance, what can’t it order us to buy?
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Practically any individual decision to buy something, or not to do so, has some theoretical effect on the economy as a whole. And if that’s all that’s needed to justify federal intrusion, limitless dictates could be imagined. For example, what’s to stop Congress from forcing us to buy spa memberships – or electric cars – in the name of making us healthier, or more fuel-efficient, consumers?Skip to next paragraph
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As Federal District Court Judge Henry Hudson, who ruled in favor of Virginia’s challenge to the individual mandate in December 2012, put it: The argument for the mandate’s constitutionality “lacks logical limitation.”
THE MONITOR'S VIEW: When the Supreme Court takes up the Obama health-care law 'mandate'
Remarkably, the Obama administration has never offered a principled explanation of how to square the mandate with constitutional principles of limited federal government.
Instead, Americans are offered more semantic games. We’re told the mandate only moves forward a purchase that would have happened in any case. People will now pay up-front for health care that they would have eventually paid for, on their own, when they received it.
But again, this is a rationale without “logical limitation.” Some version of this argument could be offered for practically any kind of forced purchase. If Congress commands you to buy something because lawmakers deem it “good for you,” then almost by definition, it’s something you might have bought on your own, eventually – so, voila, the mandate isn’t really a mandate at all!
Bottom line: Upholding the individual mandate would set a treacherous precedent by licensing Congress to start micromanaging every facet of our lives.
Striking down the mandate, on the other hand, could pressure Congress to finally get creative about reforming America’s ailing health care delivery system. With the mandate off the table, Congress could be forced to de-emphasize rigid bureaucratic prescriptions in favor of market-based reforms to expand competition and consumer choice.
So this case is not just a pulse check for constitutional principles of limited government. The health of health care could also be on the line.
Timothy Sandefur is a principal attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation. Along with the Cato Institute and other limited government advocates, PLF submitted a brief urging the Supreme Court to hold the individual mandate unconstitutional. Mr. Sandefur is author of “The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law” (Cato Institute, 2010), on unconstitutional restrictions on free enterprise.