As Long as We Can Keep It
It was the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September, 1787, and expectations were running high. Having worked long and hard at crafting the document, and emerging from the room, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an anxious citizen, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”
Came the response from the wise old legislator, “A republic…if you can keep it.”
Implicit in the words of this esteemed Founding Father was this truth: freedom must be cherished, nurtured, and defended, sometimes even to the death. America took a big step toward losing freedom today with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that Obamacare passes constitutional muster. Never before has our government been allowed to mandate that Americans spend their money on penalty of taxation, and it doesn’t take any imagination to envision our arrogant powers-that-be determining many other things that we must be forced to do–or else! (By the way, don’t buy into the idea that purchasing car insurance or getting a driver’s license is a parallel; these each are examples of paying reasonable fees for the privilege of driving, not merely for being a breathing American human.) The buffoon who runs New York City, for instance, has proposed that fast food restaurants be limited with regard to the serving sizes of their drinks, on the basis that New Yorkers are more obese than he thinks they should be. Government, in his mind, is the all-knowing nanny, who knows better than you what’s good for you. What happens when this patrician thinking begins to carry the day in Washington? What can government mandate then? What can’t government mandate?
Who is to blame? It’s hard to know where to start. Let’s start with the Republicans. This health care problem didn’t begin with the Obama administration; it’s been building for a long time now. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, along with his do-nothing Republican cohorts on the Hill, did exactly nothing in eight years to address this issue. Nothing. If we think we should lay all of this on the shoulders of Democrats, or if we think we can now trust Republicans to fix the health care crisis when they did zilch for years upon years, we’re massively foolish.
We can certainly lay a lot of blame on Chief Justice Roberts, a Bush appointee, of course. What a convoluted line of reasoning; what an inexplicable thing that he would invent this nonsensical basis for upholding Obamacare. We knew the four liberal members would vote as they did, but we thought that a man professing to be an upholder of the Constitution would vote otherwise. Even the perenially wishy-washy Anthony Kennedy got it right. How and why the Chief Justice voted as he did is truly troubling, and bodes poorly not only for his legacy, of course, but for the future of freedom in our country (or what’s left of it).
Then of course there is Barack Obama himself. Give the man credit: he promised to fundamentally remake America when he was running for President, and doggone if he hasn’t! From his utter disregard for the rule of law, to his animus toward the First Amendment, to his determination to shove massive government down our throats, to Obamacare’s detrimental affect on our freedom as Americans, he can certainly claim credit for remaking our country. He promised hope and change; he sure got the last half right. Of course, if Barack Obama had a shred of integrity, he’d stand by his word–but then, why break new ground? He’s been lying pretty much from Day One, so why change? But if he were a man of his word, who promised us that his healthcare law, its mandate, did not entail a new tax, upon hearing that Chief Justice Roberts had based his ruling, not on the Commerce Clause but on Congress’ ability to tax (thus declaring this to be a new tax), he would reject the finding, and demand that this not be seen as a new tax. But why be consistent? Ah, to be a liberal and never be bothered by having to be consistent…
Now, we are supposed to do all that we can to elect Mitt Romney. Great. Here’s a mediocrity if ever there was one, a thoroughly uninspiring candidate whose chief virtue lies in the fact that mediocrity is preferable to disaster. Romney’s credibility isn’t exactly high on this healthcare point, given his Massachusetts misadventures. In that respect, it’s hard not to put at least a little of the blame for this monstrosity on Mr. Romney himself. Sure, I’ll vote for him; the Libertarian choice is Gary Johnson, who is unacceptable, and there’s at least a chance that Romney can win, and that if he wins, he’ll govern at least better than Obama (how could he govern worse?). It’s hard to imagine the damage that Obama could do if unfettered by thoughts of running for re-election, and for that reason, and for what must be admitted now to be a long shot, the overturning of Obamacare, we have to work for Romney’s election–and then work at least as hard, if not harder, to hold him accountable to some semblance of small government conservatism.
After today’s ruling, let’s be honest enough to admit that it’s a fair question to ask, “how much longer can we keep this republic?”
The problem with voting for Romney is that, if he wins, you won’t get a chance at something better in four years. Maybe you vote in some shoddy help for the next four years, but you’re voting against your opportunity to bring in a conservative candidate that you actually like in four years. And most likely the next election after as well. As Byron would say, “Something to think about.”
The more important political issue to me (somewhat related, I suppose) is the national debt and the budget deficit. And then if you want to prioritize moral issues… where does healthcare un/re-reform land in your priorities?
Yeah, I hear that argument, but the counter is to ask how much more damage will be done by re-electing Obama? At some point, we cross the point of no return (if we haven’t already). I don’t want to risk that.
The debt and the deficit are huge, of course; there are so many high priority issues that it’s difficult to choose among them. My issue with Obamacare isn’t first and foremost about healthcare, but rather about freedom (or the loss of it). As far as moral issues go, life is at the top of the list; I’d rank the preservation of marriage next. Fixing healthcare is somewhere after these two, but probably pretty high, maybe even next.
What do you mean by “freedom”? How do you reconcile that with Christianity (I’ll exempt you from that if you’re a Pelagian)?
p.s. for any ambitious readers who don’t know me, I’m not a fan of ObamaCare and I know that Byron’s not a Pelagian.
I haven’t had a chance to read the actual ruling yet (so my info is based only on media reports). I’m also disappointed by the ruling and its implications. While I supported the law, in general, I strongly disagreed with the mandate to buy insurance. Calling the fine (a penalty) for not purchasing insurance a “tax” sets a bad (and dangerous) precedent. By declaring it a “tax” rather than a “fine” (or penalty), it moves it from being a criminal matter to a civil one, and the rules of evidence are much different. Most importantly, the presumption of innocence and the right not to incriminate yourself. If you get fined for speeding, the government has to PROVE you were speeding, and further they cannot compel you to incriminate yourself (i.e. admit you were speeding). However, in the case of a tax, the government CAN say, “prove you have insurance or you have to pay this tax.”
Now taxing things that are bad for people isn’t new. If you smoke cigarettes, you pay a cigarette tax. If you drink alcohol, you pay an alcohol tax. And the tax code has also been used to encourage people to do things as well: insulate your house, get a tax credit; install an energy efficient furnace, get a tax credit. However, in both these cases, the tax (or credit) is based on specific purchases you make. One to discourage such purchases, one to encourage, but in neither case are you compelled to make the purchase. This case now says it is okay for the government to compel people to purchase (rather than encourage) things the government thinks you should. And more importantly, not because it is necessarily good for the individual, but because it is good for society (i.e. it is much better to have healthier people buying insurance than just the unhealthy people).
However, electing Mitt Romney won’t change this ruling (even if he could get the health care bill repealed), this ruling will still stand. And conservative politicians are just as likely to use it when it suits them (and decry it when it doesn’t) as liberal politicians.
I think you and I would be in almost complete agreement on the points you make. I do hold out some hope that it can be repealed, though I admit that it sure seems a long shot.
Ha! The shoe’s on the other foot now. At least Obama’s supposed attacks on the constitution have never involved “Free Speech Zones,” warrantless wiretaps, or torture. Although, to be fair, JC did call out the Obama-slamma pretty appropriately on the drone strikes just the other day.
I do share your concern with the thought of the federal government being able to tax us for non-actions, but I don’t follow you all the way down that slippery slope. Bloomburg’s state of mind is getting backlash from the left as well. Jon Stewart ripped his idea apart the other week calling it “draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect.” The full segment is worth watching.
Of course SC precedents have a way of morphing in unexpected ways as they’re applied in the future. Still, the plain language of Robert’s opinion gives me hope. Perhaps the SC will limit the power to very specific incidents and not expand it. Only time will tell. Regardless I doubt the American public would stomach many more applications of this rule of taxation. And Congress might pass a law limiting the additional application of such taxes in the future. Such a law would be in their authority.
Love him or hate him for it, Roberts kept legislative authority where it belongs with this decision. (Although the cynic in me says he’s trying to cover his buttocks after Citizens United).
My chief beef with Roberts’ decision is that after he rightly (with a 7-2 majority, of course) rejected the administration’s Commerce Clause argument, he then seemed to feel so compelled to uphold Obamacare that he engaged in judicial activism, arguing for the very thing that the president adamantly declared was not the case (a tax), and found it Constitutional. Now the administration is spinning for all it’s worth, of course. I find it appalling.
Jack Balkin wrote an interesting article on this here:
based on this piece (again I haven’t read the entire PPACA), I’m a little more comfortable with the ruling and the “mandate.” Balkin presents the insurance tax as a tax credit. And if Balkin is correct in how the tax works, I’m a lot more comfortable with it. Gotta see about getting my hands on a copy of the law and see if I can find the right parts of it now though.
I can’t believe that you would be naive enough to believe that simply because some politcian says something on camera it means he really believes it.
Roberts wasn’t supposed to consider anything Obama said on camera (and elsewhere) as part of his decision. He was supposed to consider what was presented to him in the court case. And Obama (through his lawyers) did argue that the penalty was a tax and it even said so in the law (which is why the IRS was the enforcement office for it).
If you want to complain that Obama said one thing and did another, well, welcome to the world of politics. Of course, Romney did the same thing in MA.
That’s probably a good point, Ken; trusting the words actually coming from a politician’s mouth is dangerous-enough business. And touche; I don’t believe that Obama actually believes MUCH of what he says…