Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Broccoli, Among Other Things

"Could you define the market -- everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli." - Supreme Court Justice Scalia.
Broccoli was mentioned more than once in today's case regarding President Obama's health care law, each time putting the law in an unfavorable light. Twenty-six states in the Union have brought their case to the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning ObamaCare. Al Mohler said it best this morning on his webcast that this might be the most important Supreme Court case in a generation. I mentioned the court case to a coworker today, who seemed beyond disinterested, to which I asked him if he knew the impact - either way - of the court's decision.

If the law is upheld we will first notice a decrease in the size of our wallets. Paychecks will be lower because all of our health insurance is going up. Everyone know this. The 30+ million people who will suddenly be covered under ObamaCare are not receiving coverage from private insurers out of the goodness of their hearts. No-siree-Bob. You and I will be picking up the tab on these millions of new subscribers.

Liberty is the real underlying issue that Democrats won't touch with a ten foot pole. If ObamaCare is upheld, our personal freedom and liberty to make these decisions for ourselves will be stripped away. We will be required to buy insurance for ourselves, regardless of whether we want it or not. Then the question becomes: is there anything the government can't tell us to buy? This is the precise argument made by Justice Scalia: if the government can compel us to buy private insurance, what's stopping them from compelling us to buy broccoli? 
Justice Kennedy: "And here the government is saying that the Federal Government has a duty to tell the individual citizen that it must act, and that is different from what we have in previous cases, and that changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in a very fundamental way."
Chief Justice Roberts: Well, the same, it seems to me, would be true, say, for the market in emergency services: police, fire, ambulance, roadside assistance, whatever. You don't know when you're going to need it; you're not sure that you will. But the same is true for health care. You don't know if you're going to need a heart transplant or if you ever will. So, there's a market there. In some extent, we all participate in it. So, can the government require you to buy a cell phone because that would facilitate responding when you need emergency services? You can just dial 911 no matter where you are? (Bold MINE).
Mr. Verrilli (defending the Obama gov't) was repeatedly interrupted by the various Supreme Court Justices, and I gotta hand it to the guy because it must have been difficult making a case with such interruptions. However, this was to be expected in this extreme example of a law which would be one of the greatest expansions of government and reductions of personal liberty.

The argument was made by Mr. Verrilli, and indirectly supported by other Democratic Justices, that what makes the individual mandate (requiring everyone to buy insurance) different from saying one must buy another private product is that everyone else pays the bill for the uninsured. Holes were shot throughout this argument by the Supreme Court with other examples:
Justice Alito: "All right. Suppose that you and I walked around downtown Washington at lunch hour and we found a couple of healthy young people and we stopped them and we said: You know what you're doing? You are financing your burial services right now because eventually you're going to die, and somebody is going to have to pay for it, and if you don't have burial insurance and you haven't saved money for it, you're going to shift the cost to somebody else. Isn't that a very artificial way of talking about what somebody is doing?"
Mr. Verrilli responded by stating he believes it is "completely different" because "you don't have the cost shifting to other market participants."

Justice Alito: "I don't see the difference. You can get burial insurance. You can get health insurance. Most people are going to need health care, almost everybody. Everybody is going to be buried or cremated at some point ... because if you don't have money, then the State is going to pay for it or some ... A family member is going to pay for it."
Is that not brilliant or what? Never in a hundred years would I have come up with such a spot-on example. In fact, it is almost too perfect. Both are forms of insurance; both are examples of expenses that might be passed on to others if provisions aren't taken in advance.

On a personal note, the sad reality surrounding this debate is that there are serious problems with our current health care system. In between jobs health insurance might be up in the air. It is expensive. Many fellow citizens ... good, upstanding citizens ... are without insurance for understandable reasons. We need to find a meaningful solution to this problem. But the solution is not to take away our freedom of choice, or by indirectly punishing those of us who have responsibly purchased insurance which will ultimately create a single-payer system. All the insurance companies know this is what will happen; it is inevitable.

Rivaling for first place as my favorite quote from this lengthy exchange is the following quote:
Justice Kennedy: "Well, then your question is whether or not there are any limits on the Commerce Clause. Can you identify for us some limits on the Commerce Clause?"
Something about a Supreme Court Justice asking a lawyer to identify some limits of the government regarding the Commerce Clause just rubs me the right way. Try and picture this scene. I'm laughing it's so funny to me.

But honestly, this question is one of the key questions so far in the proceedings. Are there any limitations on government? Or can it make Americans buy anything? This is a fair question, and as much as Democrats don't want to go there they should wake up and smell the coffee. Open your eyes and notice that this isn't a little game of politics we're playing - this would affect every single American. It would take away more of our liberty and even more money by means of taxation!

I will close with this inspiring quote from Justice Scalia:
"The argument here is that this also is -- may be necessary, but it's not proper, because it violates an equally evident principle in the Constitution, which is that the Federal Government is not supposed to be a government that has all powers; that it's supposed to be a government of limited powers. And that's what all this questioning has been about. What -- what is left? If the government can do this, what -- what else can it not do?" (Bold MINE).

Thanks for reading,

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