Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Mandates and the Constitution

Upon the passage of the health care reform bill, the opponents are already planning to file lawsuits or seek repeal based on the idea that the American people don't want the bill and the mandate to buy insurance is unconstitutional. Certainly, I don't claim to speak for the American people, as it is a varied voice. It's the last part that has me a bit baffled.

While the government has passed reform based on the ability to regulate inter-state commerce - certainly a reasonable idea considering the GOP always offers "buying across state lines" as the panacea for reform - critics argue that citizens can't be forced to buy insurance. They claim it as a "tax just for living." They argue that is unconstitutional, and that it will not stand up in court?

Just how do they explain FICA? What about Medicare and Social Security? Citizens are already taxed to participate in an insurance program - one is medical, the other retirement. Citizens are already automatically enrolled in federal programs as a matter of birth. Clearly, the requirement that citizens participate in these insurance programs has been upheld as constitutional for thirty-five and seventy-five years.

Am I missing something here?

18 comments:

steven said...

What you're missing, Michael, is that it's immoral to use force against someone that is not harming or threatening anyone else. That means that it's immoral to force someone to buy something just because you think that they should have it. I couldn't care less whether it's constitutional or not. It's immoral. Period. That shouldn't be a very difficult concept to grasp. You're a very sharp guy.

Anonymous said...

Steven, I think what he's saying is that we are already forced to pay taxes, and now people are saying that mandated health insurance is a tax for living and is unconstitutional. If people think forcing someone to pay money is unconstitutional, then why haven't they been trying to abolish all the other "taxes on living"?

steven said...

I know, anonymous. The people who are yelling the loudest about this health care legislation being unconstitutional would just as willingly use force to impose their values on others - they just have other values they want to impose. So I'm not on either side. I'm opposed to the use of force against peaceful individuals.

mazenko said...

Oh, Steven.

Outside of your ideology - which I enjoy and you have taught me a lot - I still, as a conservative, believe in the rule of law and an ordered society.

Thus, while some will always oppose all taxes, I'm just wondering about members of the GOP who think this is unconstitutional, as it doesn't seem so to me.

I believe in the Constitution and the rule of law.

steven said...

I think an argument could be made that most of what government has done for the last 150 or so years is in violation of the limits placed on the government by the constitution (not that I care about the constitution). So some of the arguments offered by these GOP buffoons may have some validity. And if FICA taxes violate the constitution then they violate the constitution, even though they have been around for some time. Chattel slavery existed in the United States for some time, as well. That didn't ever mean that it was justified.

mazenko said...

Yes, but I live in the current society where the law of the land maintains an ordered society.

Now, if we eliminate the law of the land - the Constitution - then I'll make decisions based on the lack of law.

Reality is, of course, something which requires our attention

steven said...

Michael, I believe in liberty and equality. I believe that all persons are created equal and that all persons have equal rights. And if we really believe that all persons are created equal and that all persons have equal rights, then we must acknowledge that no individual person should ever be forced to sacrifice any of their individual rights for the sake of the group or for the sake of any other person. Because if some individuals are forced to sacrifice any of their individual rights for the sake of the group or for the sake of any other person, then we don't have equality. We have injustice.

mazenko said...

Hmmmm.

Nope - you are using a huge generalization outside of pragmatic understandings of society to criticize taxation in the abstract.

Not buying it.

steven said...

Well, I don't buy the idea that any of us ever has the right to use other people as objects with which to make society conform to our values, whatever those values may be. Which is exactly what this health care mandate is all about.

mazenko said...

That's OK. You can believe that.

And, of course, citizenship in the United States of America is not mandated. You are free to exit a system that doesn't fit your needs or desires.

This, however, is a nation of laws based on a Constitutional republic which is subject to judicial review.

I'm not arguing a "love it or leave it" position. Simply pointing out the freedom of Americans.

steven said...

Including the freedom to propose improvements to the existing system. Just because things are much worse in other places doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to make things better here (by better I mean more acknowledgement and respect for the rights of individuals). And if people don't propose those improvements then they will probably never come about.

Which is why I vent. And I do thank you for the opportunity to vent, Michael. Sorry if I get off the topic sometimes.

mazenko said...

Not a problem at all, Steven.

I enjoy the conversation - and you have taught me a lot.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Michael, it is instructive that Republicans are now calling unconstitutional an idea that originally came from Republicans. Any time I hear a Republican speak these days, I want to throw up. It seems to me that if it would benefit them politically, they would be content to see the country collapse. I'd say the same is true for the Democrats, but they just passed a bill that puts a number of them in political peril. The only reason health care reform was passed was because Democrats had a temporary supermajority in the Senate. That may not happen again for either party for quite awhile. That being the case, how in the world are we ever going to be able to tackle problems that threaten to ruin us like Social Security and our deficits?

mazenko said...

Dennis,

Good points, and great to hear from you.

As far as SS and deficits, I recommend David Walker's book "Comeback America" and Bruce Bartlett's "The New American Economy."

If there is a will, there is a way out of this mess

Queen Lucy said...

Perhaps those things are unconstitutional as well? I don't know, but it seems to me that your logic is faulty. Just because someone has not complained about ANOTHER thing, does not mean that this thing is really constitutional.

mazenko said...

We have a system of judicial review in our system. Those institutions have been challenged and held up as constitutional under judicial review for forty-five and seventy-five years. Legal precedence is a significant aspect of our system. My logic is not only sound, it has been validated by decades of court decisions.

Darren said...

The other taxes you mentioned are on income; conceivably it's possible to live in this country without income. Mandated health insurance truly would be a tax just to breathe, which makes it not only different from the others, but more vile.

mazenko said...

And, of course, the health care tax could only be assessed on income as well. The "taxed to breath" expression is no more applicable than it is to Medicare.