I was almost certain Obamacare was going to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, especially given that President Barack Obama’s legal team did such a poor job defending it during the hearings. I had even planned on writing a column about how finally, for the first time in a long time, the court was acknowledging that we actually have a Constitution that prevents the federal government from doing things it’s not supposed to do. Forcing Americans to purchase healthcare is undoubtedly one of those things.
Or as dissenting Justice Anthony Kennedy said: “The values that should have determined our course today are caution, minimalism, and the understanding that the federal government is one of limited powers … But the court’s ruling undermines those values at every turn. In the name of restraint, it overreaches. In the name of constitutional avoidance, it creates new constitutional questions. In the name of cooperative federalism, it undermines state sovereignty.”
Siding with the three other dissenting justices — conservatives Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas — Kennedy added, “In our view, the act before us is invalid in its entirety.”
And it is invalid. According to the Constitution, the only things the federal government is allowed to do are found in Article 1, Section 8. If it is not in Article 1, Section 8, the federal government cannot do it.
That said, most of what the federal government does today cannot be found in Article 1, Section 8, which means our national government has been wholly lawless for a very long time. But even Kennedy, not exactly a conservative, recognized that the individual mandate, the heart of Obamacare, took this lawlessness to another level, one that could set a dangerous new precedent concerning what kind of power the federal government can wield.
Many Americans laugh at silly New Yorkers who try to regulate the size of sodas and some of the other similar nanny-state nonsense that has characterized that town. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that it is his job to dictate the health of NYC citizens. With the Supreme Court ruling, our federal government has similarly mandated what it has determined to be good for American citizens. And indeed, it is good for Americans to have health insurance, just as it is better for New Yorkers not to drink lots of sugary soda. The point is not what’s “good” but who has the right to determine what’s “good,” and do they have the right to enforce it by law. The question is: In what ways should government be limited?
The concept of unlimited government is prevalent among political elites. When Justice Elena Kagan was being confirmed to the Supreme Court, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) asked if she believed the Constitution gave the federal government the right to make Americans eat their vegetables. Kagan initially dismissed the question, but finally admitted that, yes, she did believe the federal government had such power. Kagan’s notion of a virtually unlimited federal government was reflected in Nancy Pelosi’s comments right after the passage of Obamacare. When then-House Speaker Pelosi was asked by a reporter if the government mandating healthcare was constitutional, she replied, “Are you serious?” Well, yes, Mrs. Pelosi, the Constitution is serious business. You took an oath to uphold it. Your colleagues are supposed to follow it. The Supreme Court is supposed to obey it. And with Obamacare, I thought they actually would. I thought wrong.
People have often compared being forced to purchase health insurance to being forced to purchase car insurance. But you don’t have to own a car. Also, states can mandate things that the federal government is explicitly prohibited from doing by the Constitution.
What this decision does is declare that our already rogue federal government is only getting started when it comes to determining what’s “good” for all of us. The liberals who are amused that conservatives are upset by the Obamacare ruling will not be amused when a Republican president or GOP-controlled Congress tries to determine what’s “good” for them as well. These liberals may be fine with Obama looking out for what’s best for everyone, but will they be comfortable with, let’s say, a President Rick Santorum doing the same?
The entire purpose of having a Constitution is that it limits the federal government’s power. With this decision, federal power in America is more unlimited and unrestrained than perhaps at any other time in our history. And while each one of us should be concerned about our health, when it comes to the health of this once free republic, we should all be equally concerned — and very much so.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.