What is the real danger of Obamacare? We have seen the problems with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from the website crashing, the broken promise from the President about being keeing our current health care plans and the plans not being all that affordable. But with all this the biggest problem with Obamacare is another danger waiting in the wings.
At yesterday’s Congressional hearing on the problems with the Healthcare.gov website and other issues, Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made the statement “Some people like to drive a Ford not a Ferrari, and some people like to drink out of a red solo cup, not a crystal stem.” She made this statement while grilling HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the problems so far with Obamacare. This morning on Fox News she expanded on that same theme. Whether Blackburn realizes it or not she was just hitting the tip of the iceberg on the real danger of Obamacare.
When the ACA was passed in 2010 it wasn’t long before lawsuits were filed challenging whether or not the law was constitutional. One of the points argued was whether the government had the power to force citizens to purchase any goods or services under the threat of a penalty. The case argued in front of the Supreme Court in March, 2012 and decided on June 28, 2012, challenged the “Individual Mandate” section of the law which penalizes any individual who doesn’t buy health insurance. The suit argued this was unconstitutional under both the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause (Article 1, Section 8) of the US Constitution which allows Congress to “regulate commerce.”
Obamacare’s Real Danger
In the majority decision Chief Justice John Roberts ruled the act was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause because the ACA doesn’t “regulate” commerce instead only compelling individuals to become active in commerce. He argued that the government could not regulate the purchase of goods or services because the Founding Fathers gave Congress “the power to regulate commerce not to compel it.” He also said the Necessary and Proper clause was not a “proper” in how it was expanding Congress’ power.
But Roberts found a way around all this by finding that these “penalties” were actually a tax and therefore Congress could “lay and collect” taxes. By doing this Roberts, in what is now called the Roberts’ decision, set precedent for Congress to mandate the purchase of other goods and/or services simply by calling them a tax, this is the hidden danger of Obamacare. All that would be needed to do this would be any special interest group to lobby Congress, get enough support, i.e. votes in Congress and a bill could be passed. For example if the oil companies could gain enough support they could have Congress mandate the purchase of only gas powered vehicles, taxing anyone who does not purchase one.
Is a Constitutional amendment the answer?
There is at least one effort to stop this from happening, passing an amendment to the United States Constitution, making this practice illegal. A bill has originated in the House of Representatives. Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) has filed a bill called “The Right to Refuse Amendment” (H.J. Res. 28) which states “Congress shall make no law that imposes a tax on a failure to purchase goods or services.” The bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. This is the first step in what could be a long process of adding an amendment to the Constitution. Palazzo has received endorsements from several groups including CATO, Americans for Tax Reform and Center for Individual Freedom. Florida Senator Marco Rubio has also sponsored a similar bill in the Senate.
There have been over 11,000 proposed amendments to the Constitution since 1789 with only 27 of them being passed. There are two ways to propose an amendment to the Constitution, either through Congress, the process Palazzo has begun, or by a constitutional convention convened by the approval of two thirds of the state legislatures. The last amendment passed was the 27th Amendment ratified on May 7, 1992 dealing with Congressional salaries.
There is at least one independent group working to pass this amendment as well, called the “Right to Refuse Amendment” which has been reaching out to people in all the states to begin the process from the constitutional convention side. On their website, this non-partisan group has addressed the issue from all sides and why partisan groups of all kinds should be wary of the Roberts’ decision.
Another related effort to amend the Constitution, while not specifically aimed at Obamacare has been started by a group called the “Citizens for Self-Governance.” This group is calling for a convention of states as outlined in Article 5 of the Constitution to limit the power of Congress, including spending restraints.
The Congressional hearings this week show that there is a real danger with Obamacare other than just the problems with the website, the misleading statements by the President and his subordinates and the increasing costs. Will the citizens of the United States wake up or not is yet to be seen.
Commentary by: Paul Roy
Full Disclosure: The author is affiliated with the “Right to Refuse” group
Right to Refuse