By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 07/01/12
Well, it’s official. It’s now constitutional for politicians
to tell huge lies, and not only get away with it, but be rewarded for it. The
Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare this week confirmed what most of us
realized all along, that President Obama and congressional supporters of the
“Affordable Care Act” lied to the nation, to all of us! They told us that it
was not a tax increase, ardently, vehemently, and ad nauseam, yet that’s the
very justification the Supreme Court used to rule it constitutional this week.
While debating the Act in congress, proponents claimed
constitutional authority for the hostile takeover of the health care industry
based on the commerce clause. And when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued
the case in front of the Supreme Court justices, the Act’s constitutionality
was based on the commerce clause, not on its merits as a tax.
But the end result is that one of the largest and most
regressive tax increases ever, $1.76 trillion over ten years, according to
updated figures from the Congressional Budget Office, has been thrust upon the
taxpayers, courtesy of Obama and congressional Democrats. In a bizarre twist of
irony, it’s their lie that allowed it to be ruled constitutional! And from a
constitutional basis, we’re supposed to ignore the fact that as a tax bill, it
originated in the Senate, another strike against its constitutionality.
Prior to Obamacare’s passage in 2010, Obama denied it was a
tax. In September 2009, Obama told ABC News that the law “is absolutely
not a tax increase.” In fact, in nearly every major sales pitches for the Act
he would reassert, "for us to say that you've got to take a responsibility
to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.”
And he was not alone. All the congressional Democrats sang
the same tune. Notably, the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, declared in
2010 that not only was it not a tax increase, but it certainly didn’t violate
Obama’s pledge of absolutely no new taxes on the middle class. We all remember him
promising in every campaign stop through the 2008 campaign, “I can make a firm
pledge – under my plan, no family making less that $250,000 a year will see any
form of tax increase.” Yet, of the 21 taxes included in the Act, nearly half
will affect the middle class; the economic stratum that Obama promised no tax
There is one truly significant aspect to the ruling Thursday
that is actually encouraging. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts
ruled the “individual mandate,” relative to the commerce clause, was in fact unconstitutional.
Roberts wrote, “The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing
commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in
commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so
affects interstate commerce.
Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to
regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new
and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already
possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable
Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to
regulate what people do not do.”
The significance of this aspect of the ruling is nearly as great
as upholding of the Act itself. This means there is now judicial precedence
limiting congress’ authority to compel American citizens to purchase anything,
or to be fined or otherwise punished or regulated for not engaging in certain
behavior. They simply cannot mandate citizen behavior under the Commerce
Clause. Those of us thinking the entire Act would be ruled unconstitutional
because of the mandate were right. Little did we know that it would pass muster
based on the taxing authority of congress.
Regrettably the Act is much more than a tax, as it takes complete
control of our health care delivery mechanism. Tom Price, a congressman from
Georgia and a medical doctor, said on Friday, “We clearly chose in 2008, and
we’re now as a nation living under the consequences of that political choice.
But as a physician, I can tell you that the doctors and the patients of this
land are very troubled. Because this law violates every single principle we
hold dear as a nation in health care. Whether it’s accessibility or
affordability, or high quality care or choices for patients, this law violates
all of those things and makes them more difficult.”
The oxymoronic title of the Act has already proven, in two
short years, that it is anything but “affordable,” as premiums and health care
costs have skyrocketed in anticipation of full implementation over the next two
years. It was the wrong prescription for the ailments of health care delivery,
and there were many less intrusive and cheaper ways to provide insurance to the
uninsured, short of a hostile takeover of the entire industry.
Perusing the Roberts ruling from the NFIB v. Sibelius
decision, there is a very strongly worded line in there that goes to the heart
of the issue for those of us who are strict constructionists. He said,
"The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing
nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it.
Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal
Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual
mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.”
He continues, "The most straightforward reading of the
individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But,
for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that
“The Federal Government ‘is acknowledged by all to be one of
enumerated powers.’ That is, rather than granting general authority to perform
all the conceivable functions of government, the Constitution lists, or
enumerates, the Federal Government’s powers,” he wrote.
Although we perceive the ruling to be a loss to the
constructionist argument, the first few pages of Robert’s explanation is a
reaffirmation of the limits of federal government authority, based upon
enumerated powers. He really gave us a gift, for by ruling as he did, he’s reaffirmed
the constitutional limitations of the federal government and motivated the
masses in revolt against the current regime. For as Roberts said later, whether
the government should even be involved in mandated health care is a political
question, one that we can address at the polls.
It seems sadly ironic that we would learn of the
constitutionality of the one piece of congressional legislation most
restrictive to personal freedom and liberty ever, on the eve of our national
observance of our Independence Day. We can only hope that with a change in the
White House and gains in the House and Senate in the November election, that
this onerous legislation can be rewritten or repealed. For as it stands now,
Obama’s win with the Supreme Court is a loss for the American people.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is
President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in
Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political
Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial
Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.