I have extremely mixed feelings about the recent Florida district court’s striking down of the Constitutionality of Obamacare. While the child in me, the one who believes that the world actually works the way we want it to work, quietly applauds an apparently thoughtful attempt to remain faithful to the enumerated powers clause, I cannot say that I am much pleased with the entire direction of this discussion and process.
The “enumerated” powers cat is out of the bag. It is important to respect that part of the Constitution. But it has been summarily abused. And having this sort of a pick and choose decision be the basis for the reading of the law is undesirable in my view. I am worried about this for two reasons. First, how come it took a monstrous health care bill to “finally” get people to see the light about the trouble with not respecting enumerated powers. Going back as far as Wickard v. Filburn (or perhaps much further) Congress has pretty much dismissed this clause as relevant – but no popular uprising happened. I’d like to, for example, have seen a case where the left supported the limitation of Congress’s power on the same grounds. Second, I am troubled that if this gets to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court reverses the lower court ruling, then it will take the steam out of the legislative possibilities for restraining their own powers – a possibility I was beginning to take seriously in the wake of the major fiscal crises and public sector union problems that are destroying many of them. Kiss that goodbye.
Finally, I am concerned that people are taking their eye off the ball. I will never get to live in the ideal political world (for me) nor will the hardcore lefties. How can we craft a set of arrangements that are tolerable, and that will allow the horse of innovation and wealth expansion to outrace it, even as we stifle it at every chance. So, the insurance mandate is not nearly as horrific as opponents like to suggest (even as it cuts against the very core foundational principles I hold). It is applied equally to all. It does not seem arbitrary. People seem to be able to plan with some certainty regarding it. Yes, the insurers get a good deal here, but it is a rule that is pretty consistent with the Rule of Law. Further, on the scale of repulsive things he government does, it is nowhere near the top. What ever happened to the cutting of grand political bargains? Where is the statesmanship that we used to read about in our grade school textbooks? The health care problem is complex, and the insurance mandate will not do much to fix it, but absent far more fundamental reforms, it may be a reasonable program to implement (even if there are much cheaper ways to improve people’s health, such as improving education, but let’s not let good economics get in the way here).
Keep the mandate, and get rid of the post office, for example. That on net would seem to be a massive improvement. Keep the mandate, but get rid of the compulsory unionization laws. That on net would seem to be a massive improvement. Keep the mandate and relax the ridiculous immigration rules we have today. Keep the mandate and then lower the corporate income tax and reform the regular tax code. Keep the mandate and end farm subsidies. It will never happen, I know.
But this issues is just a Team Nike v. Team Reebok foodfight, with lots of fancy decorations to make it look like it is something else. When will “we” get to have the real serious discussion about the proper role and scope of government? We won’t. We have to just muddle along, and accept that these sorts of theatrics are the best we can do.