We have all had this conversation.
Whether it be around the dinner table with our distant relatives, while pondering politics with close friends or with 200 complete strangers in that introductory political science lecture.
Whenever the issue of the Affordable Care Act, or what many refer to as “ObamaCare,” pops up in a conversation, things get nasty.
“Barack Obama is a communist who wants to control our every move.”
“Is that right? At least I don’t think he was born in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, or wherever!”
Despite the emotional arguments made by both sides, the truth is, the Affordable Care Act stretches the elastic commerce clause much further than ever before.
The individual mandate that allows the law to be effective, requires citizens to buy health insurance, or pay a punitive fee that is designed to cost the same amount.
Later this month, from March 26-28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law.
However, the 1971 case of Perez v. United States and the more recent United States v. Lopez in 1995 both made it very clear: The federal government of the United States can only regulate three areas under the interstate commerce clause:
The channels of interstate commerce (roadways, airways and railways), the instruments that travel through those channels (cars, planes and trains), and activities that have a substantial affect on interstate commerce.
Is the choice not to buy insurance now considered an activity? Is choosing to do nothing, literally making no tangible action, something the government can regulate?
Obama says “yes,” but as citizens that value individual choice and liberty, we should give this idea a second look.
The Affordable Care Act, if enacted into law, may possibly be very successful in providing affordable care to millions of Americans. I will go as far as saying it may in some ways be a good thing for the country. However, any professor of law will tell you, in determining whether law sets a good precedent, legal experts never look at the people — they look at the legal precedent being set for future cases.
And the precedent that is being set forth is that the federal government can regulate both “activities” and “in-activities.”
So, what is next? Where is the line in the sand now? Is there even a line? These are some difficult questions to answer.
Proponents of the law will lean heavily on the 1942 Supreme Court case of Wickard v. Filburn, which is a key post-New Deal economic case.
In Wickard, the government regulated someone who was already involved in an economic market. In order to drive wheat prices up in the U.S., the government deemed that farmers like Filburn could not produce extra products on their farm because of its affect on the supply. Essentially this decision made farmers buy the extra harvest they needed on the open market.
But someone that makes a conscious choice to not buy the service of health care is not akin to a farmer that is actively participating in the farming business.
Whether Obamacare will enact positive “change” in the United States is not the issue before the Supreme Court later this month. The “wisdom” and “workability” of a law is not up to the nine justices in robes to decide. That was the job of Congress.
The Justice’s job is to determine the constitutionality of the law, particularly the individual mandate that is designed to widen the health care pool and make health care more affordable.
Protecting the health of U.S. citizens should be a strong government interest, but there has to be another way besides making a mandate.
Of course, today we as Cal State Fullerton students only have the opportunity to voice our opinions in classes, our communities and around the dinner table with our family.
But for the women and men in black that take the bench — in the interest of our liberties, let’s strike this one down.