Obamacare Mistakes "Needs" for Constitutional "Rights"
Hope and Change ... the Constitution
By Larry Elder (Archive) · Thursday, March 25, 2010
We live in a fundamentally different country from that which existed only days ago. The government now requires that every American purchase health insurance. The Constitution has been attacked, interpreted in a way beyond its original intent. Therefore, we must change it.
Ignoring the will of the majority of the American people, the discouraging experiences of countries with socialized medicine, and the already staggering amount of entitlement debt, President Barack Obama and the congressional Democrats "reformed" health care. Once a nation under a Constitution that restricted government intrusion, we now want government to provide for our "needs" by calling them "rights."
We now ask government to prop up failing businesses, make student loans, guarantee mortgages, build and maintain public housing, financially support state education from preschool though graduate school, fund private research, provide disaster relief and aid, pay "volunteers" and on and on.
Many in our nation happily submit to this bargain. They consider the Big Three entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- "rights," their absence unimaginable in a modern "caring" society. It is out of the question to expect people, families and communities to plan for retirement. It is beyond reason to expect medical care, like any other commodity, to follow the laws of supply and demand -- for prices and choices to allocate resources and for competition to drive down prices and improve quality. It is simply too much to expect the compassion, morality and spirituality of humankind to aid those unable to care for themselves.
We ignore history's numerous examples of how good intentions produce bad results. Almost 50 years ago, another "transformative" president used government to launch a War on Poverty. But for many welfare recipients and their families, poverty became "structural." People became dependent on government. After the government finally placed some restrictions on welfare, dependency declined. Much to the surprise of those who denounced welfare reform as cruel, people changed their behavior.
We ignore the experience of price controls. Government can dictate prices, but cannot dictate costs. Price controls result in rationing, drive producers out of business and cause lower quality and less innovation. America, because its citizens enjoyed greater economic freedom, built a superior health care system -- which ObamaCare now threatens to dismantle.
Communism collapsed under the romantic but bankrupt notion of "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive does damage to the incentive of both parties. European countries -- "social justice" democracies -- produce comparatively few private-sector jobs. Europe suffers from high taxes, choking union agreements that make it virtually impossible to fire unproductive or unneeded workers, and government policies that mandate paid vacations and other job-killing benefits.
Into this statist abyss we willingly jump.
Former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern left the Senate after 18 years and bought a small business. It went under. He wrote: "(I) wish I had known more firsthand about the concerns and problems of American businesspeople while I was a U.S. senator and later a presidential nominee. ... Legislators and government regulators must more carefully consider the economic and management burdens we have been imposing on U.S. businesses. ... Many businesses ... simply can't pass such costs on to their customers and remain competitive or profitable."
President Obama, like many members of Congress, has little experience in or understanding of the private free-market economy. Obama never started a business, ran one or struggled to meet a payroll. He shows little respect for the hard, long hours people put in to build successful businesses that compete to provide goods and services to customers and that hire people. He believes that unequal outcomes are unjust and that government exists to right this wrong by "spreading the wealth."
If this means telling doctors how to practice, so what? If this means that people will be less likely to improve themselves through education and training in order to get "good" jobs with benefits, so what? If this means we make employers less likely to hire for fear of fines should they fail to offer health insurance, so what? And if the "wealthy" invest less and create fewer jobs because of higher taxes and expensive regulations, so what?
Now what? As many as 39 state legislatures have taken or will take action to block the mandate. Thirteen state attorneys general immediately filed suit, arguing, among other things, that ObamaCare's insurance mandate violates the Constitution's commerce clause. Expect more states to sue. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court broadly interprets the commerce clause -- wildly beyond the intent of the Founders -- to allow just about anything.
So, the Constitution must be changed. It must be amended to make what was once clear absolutely, positively, unavoidably clear. Two-thirds of the states can call for a constitutional convention, where an amendment can be proposed to prohibit the forced purchase of health insurance. Three-fourths of the states could then ratify it.
Implausible? So was ObamaCare.