It’s kind of astonishing, even as it is entirely to be expected, that the SCOTUS upheld the Affordable Care Act and its “individual mandate”.
You can read the whole hot mess here.
At this point it might be accurate to characterize the concept of federalism (Note wicki’s phrase: it’s an “evolving relationship”. That’s putting it mildly, after today’s ruling.), which really is central to the original constitutional scheme, as largely vestigial. If Congress’ power to “lay and collect taxes” is as unlimited as the SCOTUS’ decision today indicates, then Washington is the seat of a central government, not a federal one, with plenary authority over every person it chooses, so long as the exercise of that authority can be characterized as a “tax”.
But here’s a guess: federalism will continue to be harshly invoked and scrupulously observed in other contexts, when the SCOTUS feels like it, such as in federal habeas corpus cases. Federalism may have been reduced to a quaint vestige, but it will continue to depend on whose ox is being gored.
Unless I missed it in my somewhat breezy reading of the opinion, Chief Justice Roberts did not explain why, if Congress’ power to lay and collect taxes can encompass this “individual mandate” thing, the constitution had to be amended to give Congress the power to impose an income tax.
But never mind.
The idea that the government should provide health care for everyone, while profoundly un-American in a traditional sense, has had an air of inevitability about it for a long time. I may have noted elsewhere that socialism, or maybe socialism-lite, has at this point a claim to a significant slice of the nation’s history (Ed. note: I sure did! Pretty different context, though.). It’s been operative in the way our government has functioned since at least the 1930’s; arguably longer than that, since both the Federal Reserve Act and the 16th amendment date from the 1910’s. That would be nearly 100 years out of a little more than 200 that the US has been at least dabbling in socialism.
I would really prefer that if the central government is going to get into the health care business it should just do so directly, build hospitals and clinics that anyone can go to for free, and leave everyone else alone. It would be far less expensive, far less intrusive in the personal autonomy sense, and the mobilization of resources for highly standardized mass undertakings is a more traditional government function that governments can actually pull off well sometimes. That’s how they field armies and dispatch navies.
But again, never mind. I remember proposing that as an alternative, years ago, in conversations with various liberal types who wanted to see “government guaranteed” health care. To a man, they objected that the proposal would result in a terrible disparity of health care: the direct-delivery government health care would suck, they said.
I didn’t and don’t see any reason why that would be so; or why, even if it were true, “government guaranteed” health care would be any better than “government run” health care.
This is one of those areas where many people just want what they want, and they expect reality to bend to their wants, and no amount of reasoning gets through or changes anyone’s mind.
There are times I not only don’t envy “powerful” politicians, I am positively sympathetic to them. People can behave like spoiled children sometimes.
Nothing is free. Every product or service costs somebody something, and the demand for something for nothing is at bottom a demand to oppress others.
We have too much of that as it is.