Reader Opposes Health Care Bill
Editor, The Herald:
It was with great interest that I read your editorial of July 6th (It's the Law, Constitutional, Let's Make it Work). While you admit to being surprised that the individual mandate was upheld, I was disappointed that you didn't share your critical analysis of what the ruling actually means for every citizen of this nation. Think about it for a moment…the individual mandate was not upheld under the Commerce Clause, as the President had asserted all along. Rather, Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, reasoned that the penalty for an individual NOT having health insurance was within the TAXATION powers of the Congress. The government taxes incomes that we earn, among other things. Earning money is a demonstration of some form of activity – labor or investment. A person provides labor, or a skill, or a service and someone else pays them, then the government taxes that income. Now with the weight of Supreme Court precedent, the Congress of the United States can tax the income of citizens for NOT engaging in commerce. Taxing income based on commercial inactivity! What level of mischief will this allow both parties in Congress to achieve? I submit to you that the mischief will be often, pernicious and awful.
Your editorial also quotes the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis with regards to Virginia and the costs of implementing the Affordable Care Act. The Institute's analysis may be non-partisan, but it seems to me that it is also incredibly naive. The assertions by the Commonwealth Institute that “Millions of dollars in federal funding will pay for state implementation of the exchange. The federal government will fully fund the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and will continue to pay for the vast majority of its costs in the years to follow.” Really? Which federal government is the Commonwealth Institute analyzing? The only one I know of is in debt to the tune of $15.8 TRILLION dollars and counting. In fact, if you want a real scare go to USdebtclock.org (non-partisan), and you will see how tremendous the U.S. debt crisis has become. You will actually see that the unfunded liabilities of the U.S. Government equals over $1 million dollars per taxpayer! This does not include the impacts of the so-called Affordable Care Act.
Calling on everyone to accept the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) resonates on one level, but not on another, more important one. On the one hand, more than 200 years of jurisprudence in this country is based on the doctrine of stare decisis – that court precedents should be maintained. But on the other hand, blind acceptance of any SCOTUS ruling denies the fact that the justices are humans and are, therefore, fallible. It also fails to recognize that the SCOTUS is supremely political – as political as either the Presidency or Congress – and that decisions of the high court are as subject to political intrigue as anything a congressman or senator might do. Calling on politicians to stop being, well, political, ignores the current landscape in this country with respect to this issue – as a people we are deeply divided on the matter of health care reform.
According to Real Clear Politics.com, averaging all polls since January 2011, the percent of people who want the law repealed has never dropped below 48% while the percentage of those who oppose repeal has never gotten over 42.7% with the current 4-month average of polls showing a 10 percentage point spread between those who favor repeal (50.6%) and those who oppose repeal (40.2%). We elect presidents of both parties on narrower margins – including President Obama who won by 7.2%, so opposing a piece of legislation as controversial as this on a 10% margin doesn't seem all that unreasonable.
In an orderly society based on laws it is true that we have to follow them, and I advocate nothing less. But we also have the God-given right to oppose bad laws and bad court rulings through legitimate civil channels and here are the options before us. There are only two ways to overturn a SCOTUS ruling and one way to nullify it:
1. A Constitutional amendment can overturn a SCOTUS ruling – the 11th amendment and the 26th amendment were the results of bad SCOTUS rulings. This is not likely in the present case.
2. The SCOTUS can overrule itself in a subsequent case – examples abound but a notable example, Plessy vs. Ferguson, established separate but equal (segregation) in 1896, but in 1954 that horrible doctrine was overturned by Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. Thank God that those political justices in 1954 were courageous enough to overturn the bad ruling made by their judicial/political predecessors!
3. A SCOTUS ruling may be nullified if the law that was upheld by the SCOTUS is repealed by the Congress. This is the most likely path for those who disagree with the court's ruling in the current case. This nullification would not remove the precedent set in the SCOTUS ruling, though – remember taxing commercial inactivity!
Like you, I do not want to see one person suffer or die because they do not have access to health care. As a person who volunteers in my community, I routinely encounter people who are in dire circumstances and they need help. In my opinion, there are better ways to provide affordable care to people than the 2,000 page behemoth that the SCOTUS upheld. Sadly, two reforms that could do a great deal to lower health care costs routinely get little attention from politicians or the media: 1) Implement severe limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits, and; 2) Dismantle federal laws that block competition for health insurance across state lines- competition drives prices down. Most economists agree that these two actions would go a long way to bringing health care costs down in this country. Add to these two actions protections for people with pre-existing conditions and we would be off to a reasonable start to fixing the problem.
I'll bet that these reforms could be achieved in less than 30 pages, not 2,000. Even congressmen and senators have time to read a 30-page bill before voting on it. Perhaps the politicians in both parties are too beholden to the trial lawyers and the insurance companies to try something as simple as that. Shameful.