Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The End of the Road

This will, hopefully, be the last Free Will post on health care for a while. Yes, yes: repeal and replace, November 2010, etc. I'm sure something will come up. But, with the signing of the bill(s) into law, the fight from the last 14 months is over, and I don't want to have to rehash those arguments for the time being.

Still, there are some loose ends to tie up from the weekend. First, there was the matter of certain Congressmen claiming that Tea Partiers were yelling racial epithets during the weekend rallies. There was absolutely no evidence that this occurred, of course. Not only that, the fact that these sort of rallies were happening during the passage of a bill was itself unusual, if not unprecedented. But liberals and the media were quite happy to ignore this and focus on hearsay claims made by hostile witnesses. This was simply of a piece with the left's approach to any and all objections to the bill(s), and should not be forgotten: The Establishment Is Offended
One hesitates to weigh in on this mud-slinging for fear of getting muddy oneself. But neither should commentary on Republican and tea-party reaction to Sunday’s House vote be left to the suddenly self-righteous Democratic left: After all, it’s their appalling disregard for democratic principles and processes that gave rise to the weekend’s demonstrations and outbursts.
The symbolism of the Democratic left’s hostility to the “tea baggers” should not go unnoticed. The tea party movement’s roots are in the American Revolution. These ordinary Americans are protesting the Washington ”Establishment” — which presently is the Democratic juggernaut – much as American Patriots were protesting the oppressive British Establishment that was “eating out their substance” with “a long train of abuses and usurpations.” The Democratic left should think long and hard about those parallels. The times they are a-changin’.
There were a million reasons why someone might join the protests against health care reform but they ultimately boiled down to these: people didn't want to pay the higher taxes that are in the bill(s) and they had rational reasons to believe their health insurance costs would go up and their access to care would go down once the bill(s) was implemented. Not only did Democrats not address these objections, everyone who raised them was treated with the full panoply of PC invective: selfish, greedy, racist, tea-baggers, etc.

No doubt, Dems told themselves that these were insurance company stooges and Limbaugh dittoheads, but they forgot one thing: these were also taxpayers and are the people who will be paying for the bill(s) that the Dems have just passed. The amount of disrespect that Democrats showed towards the tax-payers who pay for big government's operations was bizarre to say the least. No business could keep its doors open if it treated its customers this way, but of course Big Government is not a business. Democrats are correct that repealing an entitlement will be very difficult, and will grow more so with each passing year, but taxes can certainly be cut, and voters will have the final say in this matter, not Barack Obama.

And, all of you who are counting on the courts to overturn the bill(s)? Well, that's going to be tough given how the expansive manner in which courts have interpreted the Commerce Clause since the Thirties (this was essentially the dispute FDR had with the Supreme Court that led to his court packing scheme. he lost that battle, but finally won the war). While judicial precedent changes slowly, that does not mean it never changes. And, despite what you may think, the courts are not in the driver's seat in these sorts of things. Dave Kopel lays down the basics: Is The Tax Power Infinite?
Constitutional change occurs because Americans persuade each other about the best meaning of constitutional text and principle in their own time. These debates and political struggles help generate Americans’ investment in the Constitution as their Constitution and they create a platform for the possibility – but not the certainty of its redemption in history.”

Americans today are not bound to meekly accept the most far-ranging assertions of congressional power based on large extrapolations from Supreme Court cases that themselves come from a short period (the late 1930s and early 1940s) when the Court was more supine and submissive to claims about centralized power than was any other Supreme Court before or after in our history. American citizens, in the political process and in their personal lives, will ultimately have the final word on the Constitution.

A large and permanent majority of the American people immediately accepted Social Security as a constitutional solution to poverty among the elderly and to massive unemployment (since Social Security would open up jobs by encouraging people to retire sooner). The American people have not accepted Obamacare as a constitutional solution to health insurance problems. If the American believe that there is a “crisis” about the high cost of health insurance, then the American people can also believe that the solution is not to punish people for refusing to buy overpriced insurance that they don’t want. The American people can reject the notion that our Constitution should be contorted and distorted to accommodate such a destructive and intrusive scheme.

It is eminently within the authority of We the People to act politically on our constitutional beliefs that the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce does not extend to forcing people to buy a product which Congress has forbidden to be sold across state lines; that the power to regulate interstate commerce is not the power to compel a person to participate in instrastate commerce; and the that power to levy income or excise taxes does not include the power to impose punishment in the form of punitive taxes on persons who choose not to buy something–or who choose whether to wear hats and when to sleep.

So, it could happen. But, we will need what Roosevelt had back in the Thirties: years in office, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, veto-proof majorities in Congress, a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, etc. In other words, we need realignment combined with philosophical confidence. It can happen, but it won't happen because the GOP works toward another 50% + 1 style political coalition.

UPDATE: And if the GOP is going to repeal the bill(s), it will have to do it in a country where millions of voters think along these lines (via Confederate Yankee): Having Insurance Is "Going To Be Like Christmas"
Uninsured Triangle residents said Monday that they eagerly await the overhaul of the nation's health care system.

"It's just going to be like Christmas," said DeCarlo Flythe, who lost health coverage for his family when he was laid off almost three years ago. "It's going to be great. You know, no worries (about) the bills. We are going to go ahead and pay our co-pay and be alright."

The poor bastard. No one has yet had the heart to tell him that the benefits don't kick in until 2014, certainly the president and his media enablers have not done so. But, he's got his "insurance" and will not give it up without a fight.

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