An Unhealthy Argument

Dr. Obama Joker - The Prescription is Death, Poverty, and DespairIt is truly amazing – horrifying really to any true American – the lengths to which Liberals and Obama cultists will go to justify ObamaCare.

Their arguments are not only false, in the sense that they’re not actual arguments, but they’re unhealthy and dangerous to America because they fly in the face of the Constitutional restraints placed upon the federal government.

Peter Coy’s commentary on US District Court Judge Henry Hudson’s decision in Virginia v. US Dept. of Health and Human Services is par for the course when it comes to these quasi- and non-arguments.

To win the legal battle—as well as the battle for public opinion—the Obama Administration must address directly the qualms about overreaching that Hudson expressed in his opinion. The way to do that is to make a persuasive case that mandatory coverage is not the first step on a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

The best case against the slippery slope argument isn’t even a legal one. It’s in an amicus curiae brief filed in November in a broader Florida case by 41 top economists, including three Nobel laureates, Kenneth Arrow of Stanford, Eric Maskin of Princeton, and George Akerlof of Berkeley. They argue that health care has unique characteristics that justify the congressional mandate—and since other markets such as food and housing don’t have those characteristics, Congress will never have any justification to intervene in them to the same degree.

The economists’ argument bears attention. Arrow, 90 years old, has been probing the peculiarities of the health sector since 1963, when he wrote a much-cited paper, “Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Medical Care,” that’s mentioned in the brief. Arrow and the other economists say—in agreement with the Obama Administration—that a health insurance system that must accept all comers but can’t require everyone to join will quickly enter a death spiral. Healthy people won’t opt in until they need coverage, so many or most of the insured will be sick and costly. As a result, insurers will have to raise rates, pushing the last few healthy customers out, forcing rates on the rest to go even higher, and so on until it leads to collapse. Amitabh Chandra, an economist at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who joined the amicus brief, writes in an e-mail: “We don’t let people buy car insurance after they’ve wrecked their cars, or after we find their house is on fire. For the same reason, the individual mandate is absolutely key.”

— Peter Coy
Commentary: The Health-Care Act on Trial

Firstly, this is a false argument. Judge Hudson did not state his ruling as being a bulwark against some “the first step on a slippery slope to totalitarianism.” His ruling was based on the Individual Mandate being, in and of itself, an unconstitutional expansion of government interference.

Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market. In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]

–U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson
Virginia v. US Dept. of Health and Human Services

Secondly, argumentum ad consequentiam has always been a piss-poor response to receiving an unfavorable ruling and, in this case it’s a dangerous argument to be used or entertained. There is never a valid justification for allowing the federal government to exceed its constitutional granted powers over the American people and that attempt at justification is all that these “economists'” amicus curiae is.

“Reviewing court must strike down unconstitutional law even though that law is “designed to promote the highest good. The good sought in unconstitutional legislation is an insidious feature, because it leads citizens and legislators of good purpose to promote it, without thought of the serious breach it will make in the ark of our covenant, or the harm which will come from breaking down recognized standards.”

– US SCOTUS Opinion,
Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., (259 U.S. 20), May 15, 1922

It doesn’t matter a whit whether or not ObamaCare is worthwhile or not; it matters even less whether or not ObamaCare will fail without the Individual Mandate. What matters is whether or not the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional – and the US Federal Courts have repeatedly, though not unanimously, decreed that it is not constitutional.

While it’s dangerous close to the “slippery slope” argument, I’ll put forth that ignoring our Constitution and the limits it places upon the federal government is a far more dangerous and unhealthy enterprise than anything that currently perceived as wrong with our overly intertwined health insurance and healthcare industries. I say this because legal precedents linger for a very long time and are often used to justify future rulings largely unrelated to the original cases.

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2 Responses to “An Unhealthy Argument”

  1. Merl Values Says:

    Jonolan, i agree with you re: the dangers of ignoring the constitution and about the merits of this particular system, but im curious as to whether you are totally opposed to the US having public health care?

    I may have misunderstood, but “Obamacare” seems to be a plan to force people to buy insurance, then subsidise them to do so with their own tax dollars. It will result in double/triple handling of funds, allow red tape and bureaucracy to flourish, will cost more than a public system and benefits no one but the leeches in the insurance industry.

    Bloody awful idea.

    In Australia, on the other hand, we have had “socialised” healthcare since 1975.

    We pay similar level of tax as you do in the US, due to our (relatively) efficient public system we actually pay half as much for health care per capita than you do in the US, but receive a far superior level of healthcare.

    Canada and the UK have the same sort of systems, and like Australia they have managed to do so without bankrupting their country, or falling victim to “creeping socialism”

    We pay less for a better level of service, no one is forced to choose between paying the rent and paying for health insurance, everyone receives the same basic level of care.

    If the rich want a higher level of service, they can go to a private hospital and receive the absolute best treatment available at their own (or their insurance companies) expense.

    It works all over the civilised world, surely you yanks are capable of achieving the same standards of healthcare as us antipodeans? 😉

  2. jonolan Says:

    OK, Merl; I’ll admit that I’m a little shocked. Most people, especially Aussies recently, don’t read as much of this blog at sitting as you do and this is a far more reasoned comment than your earlier flames.

    You’re right; amid a plethora of related and unrelated insults to Americans’ sanity, ObamaCare is a “a plan to force people to buy insurance, then subsidise them to do so with their own tax dollars.” Furthermore, it will result in exactly the debacle that you predict.

    You’re not really right about comparative levels of medical care and medical costs between our two nations though. That’s not because of any lack on Australia’s part – quite the opposite – but upon the sad fact that Americans’ approach to medicine and health is vastly different from yours.

    As for “public healthcare” – A single payer healthcare system, which is what the US calls what your describing, just won’t work within the US because of our normative approach to health and healthcare. That’s made worse by the sad fact that our government, pandering to those attitudes, would bollux the whole thing up for the sake of the next election – as they did wit ObamaCare.

    In your comment you describe what are essentially tiers of care, with the “public system” covering the lower, more fundamental tiers of that care and private care covering the rest for those who want it and can afford it.

    If the rich want a higher level of service, they can go to a private hospital and receive the absolute best treatment available at their own (or their insurance companies) expense.

    We actually already have that in the US. Nobody is ever denied true medical care and many would never have to pay for it. That wasn’t considered good enough by the Liberals, though.

    They want everyone to have access to a full range of subsidized medical services equal to what “the rich” would have – all subsidized by the taxpayer of course.

    Different countries, different cultures, different expectations, very different outcomes from attempting the same thing.

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