TimManBlog

Whatever I'm Thinking

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Obamacare Judicially Reviewed

Pete Spiliakos provides a nice review of Solicitor General Verrilli’s attempts to defend Obamacare in front of the Supreme Court this past week (“What Part of ‘Because I Said So’ Don’t You Understand?”).  Most tv and print pundits say the government’s lawyers (Verrilli) did a poor job defending the law in front of the court and many blame Verrilli personally.  In the final analysis however

 …Solicitor General Verrilli did his pitiful tap dance about how the health care market is “different” and how the federal government has the power to compel you to buy health insurance but not a cell phone or burial insurance.  And the result was that the more conservative Justices pounded him into the ground.  The problem wasn’t Verrilli.  It was the quality of his arguments.

From the day it passed I assumed Obamacare would be struck down by the courts as an unlawful abuse of Congressional power.  Article I of the Constitution enumerates the specific powers of Congress; the power to force purchases on people is not among that enumeration.

Although Article I grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, that power does not extend to forcing people to participate in commerce — so that they can then in turn be regulated!  Here I’m reminded of the climactic scene in Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.” Eastwood’s character points a rifle at a frontier journalist who sputters “certainly you wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man!” Eastwood then points to a gun lying on the floor and growls “See that rifle there?  Pick it up!”  That’s the Pelosi-Reid Congress at work — Join the national health market so we can regulate you!  Or else!

A proper judicial review should thwart such an abuse of power.  In doing so the Court would exercise its proper role of oversight first used in Marbury vs Madison over 200 years ago. That’s judicial review in its proper place.  In case you’re wondering, should the Court strike down Obamacare it could not be justly accused of judicial activism — the judicial exercise of power not found in the Constitution.  Remember forced bussing of school children back in the 1970s?  That was judicial activism.  Obamacare is simply an unlawful abuse of power which needs to be vacated.

For more on the Obamacare arguments see also “I Wonder Why Solicitor General Verrilli…”

For a more practical (rather than legal) explanation of why Obamacare (or any other centralized planning solution to health care) is a foolish idea please see Walter Russell Mead “The Health Care Disaster and the Miseries of Blue.”

Finally, I think it’s important to remember why Obamacare is key to November’s election. The health care law is President Obama’s signature legislation. It’s also the perfect archetype of all he stands for: central planning, centralized government control of markets and industries, all supposedly for the benefit of the people yet in actuality at the people’s great expense and for the benefit of those who fund and support the party in power.  In an age of rapid technological advancement such policies are the exact opposite of the direction that America should take for the protection of individual freedom and the protection of individuals against the tools available to those who would seek despotic power.

All four remaining Republican candidates are running against Obama by running against Obamacare and the implications of Obamacare for government power.  Although Mitt Romney is the frontrunner he has failed to close the deal largely because of his association with “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.  Rick Santorum has said that the danger posed by the implications of Obamacare compelled him to enter the Presidential race (see “Rick Santorum — The Servant“). His stump speeches focus on freedom and resonate with the crowd (See Daniel Henninger’s “Santorum and Freedom“).  Gingrich and Paul are also strong opponents of the law.

I’m not in the prediction game; I’m lousy at picking football games against the spread and I won’t try to handicap the Supreme Court vote.  I just know how they should vote.

Lincoln: Address to the Young Men’s Lyceum

During this election year our major political figures make speeches every single day.  As winter caucuses turn to spring primaries these addresses can become small and tedious. They are often filled with jabs at an opponent’s gaffes made yesterday but certainly to be forgotten tomorrow, or delivered solely for the purpose of posturing on some particular issue. Therefore I thought it might be useful at this time to step back and consider a larger view of the health of American politics.

On January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on the subject of “The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions.” The Lyceum was a kind of debating society, a sort of voluntary educational institution of the prairie. Lincoln was 27 at the time he gave this speech. His biographers quote it often. Here I’ve excerpted some passages which I find most poignant these eight score and fourteen years later.

As a subject for the remarks of the evening, the perpetuation of our political institutions, is selected.

…We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them — they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors.  Their’s was the task…to possess themselves, and through themselves, us, of…a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only, to transmit these…undecayed by the lapse of time, and untorn by usurpation — to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How, then, shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger?…Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!  All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined…with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions…Accounts of outrages committed by mobs, form the every-day news of the times…Whatever, then, their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.

…But, it may be asked, why suppose danger to our political institutions? Have we not preserved them for more than fifty years? And why may we not for fifty times as long?

…That our government should have been maintained in its original form from its establishment until now, is not much to be wondered at. It had many props to support it through that period, which now are decayed, and crumbled away.  Through that period, it was felt by all, to be an undecided experiment; now, it is understood to be a successful one. Then, all that sought celebrity and fame, and distinction, expected to find them in the success of that experiment…Their ambition aspired to display before an admiring world, a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition, which had hitherto been considered, at best no better, than problematical; namely, the capability of a people to govern themselves…They succeeded.

…But the game is caught; and I believe it is true, that with the catching, end the pleasures of the chase.  This field of glory is harvested, and the crop is already appropriated.  But new reapers will arise, and they, too, will seek a field…And, when they do, they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion…The question then, is, can that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others? Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress…but such belong not to the family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle.  What! Think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caeser, or a Napoleon?  Never!…Is it not unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us?  And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.

Distinction will be his paramount object; and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.

Here then, is a probable case, highly dangerous, and such a one as could not have well existed heretofore.

History shows that Lincoln’s ominous warnings were uncomfortably accurate. It is in fact more than reasonable — it is inevitable — that some Caesar or Napoleon will spring up among us; the only uncertainty being that man’s exact description and circumstances. I will look in particular for one who finds satisfaction in “pulling down.”

Crony Capitalist Contraceptives

Peter Schweitzer has an excellent article on the recent controversy over the health care mandate requiring employers to provide contraceptives free of charge, free of copays.  As one might expect, the driving force is money, not morals.  I’ve copied the gist of the argument below. (read the whole thing here.)

You’ve heard of crony capitalism? Well this is America’s first example of crony contraceptives.

Forget for a minute the religious question and look at who wins big here: Big Pharma. This mandate is not really about condoms or generic versions of “the pill,” which are available free or cheap in lots of places. This is about brand-name birth control drugs and other devices that some consumers swear off because they are too expensive. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires health-insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for all “FDA approved contraceptive methods.” It does not insist on generics. And it does not offer any cost containment.

What’s more, the mandate prevents health-insurance companies from having copays or deductibles for the benefit. This is the perfect set up for Big Pharma. Since the drugs will be paid for by a third party (insurance companies, who will pass the cost on to employers and the rest of us), the consumer won’t worry about the price. Expensive brand names will no doubt see demand rise.

So how does Big Pharma get such a sweet deal? Read on:

It’s important to point out that among President Obama’s biggest financial backers are precisely the Big Pharma companies who benefit from the mandate.  Sally Sussman, head of government affairs for Pfizer, is one of his biggest campaign bundlers, who co-hosted a fundraiser for Obama on Thursday night. Pfizer sells numerous contraceptives that now must be covered by health-care plans.  Obama’s financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry run deep. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he collected three times more in contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers than John McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  And he will no doubt win the money race again during this election cycle.

There’s more:

Back in the nation’s capital, Big Pharma has spent a lot of money over the past couple of years, keeping an army of lobbyists employed. As Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner pointed out last year, since the Obama administration took office, “the drug industry’s $635 million in lobbying exceeds that of Wall Street and the oil and gas industry, combined.” And the lesson seems to be clear: it is money well spent. Not only did they get largely what they wanted from Obama’s health-care-reform law (no caps on drug prices, no reimportation from Canada); now, President Obama’s mandate is broadening the market for their products. With drug prices so high, the best way it can increase demand for its products is to get the federal government to mandate payment for it.

Of course, also consider the following, but remember that crony capitalism on the federal level causes far greater damage than can be done on the state level:

President Obama’s not the only one who has mandated certain health-care requirements for the benefit of companies with which he has close ties.  Back in 2007, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed an executive order that required school girls in Texas be vaccinated with Gardasil, which fights against a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer (the full cost of the three-shot vaccine is $360). Again, forget the culture war politics for a second.  Instead of looking at the bedroom, follow the money to the corporate boardroom: Gardasil is produced by pharma giant Merck, whose chief lobbyist in Texas at the time had been Perry’s chief of staff.  Merck was a campaign contributor, and had also made contributions to the Republican Governors Association while he headed that organization. Again, a corporation supports a politician who in turn issues a mandate that creates a bigger market and larger profits for its product.

Obamacare is all about Crony Capitalism. So is Obama’s energy policy — subsidizing major donors through those donors’ green energy companies. Barack Obama’s Presidency is as fraught with failure as Jimmy Carter’s was, but at the same time it is as corrupt as Richard Nixon’s.

Post Navigation