Since the Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate, and even prior to, many people have been regurgitating this overblown argument that it is a ‘great expansion’ of socialism upon American Politics, and more importantly the Constitution. This is fascinating because many people seem to always resort to calling anything ‘good’ or ‘progressive’ as being also ‘socialist’, but this is just another way of expressing the fear and anxiety associated with being ignorant while also speaking their mind on topics. This of course is my own opinion based on my own observations. Regardless, I was in a conversation a few days ago that began with a simple question:
“So do homeless people have to pay for health insurance?”
My original response was:
“Depending on their eligibility, they will get reduced prices on health insurance so that they can afford it. For those who still can’t afford it they won’t have to pay the tax/penalty as long as they have a waiver, or prove that they’re 100% below the poverty level. So, the answer is both yes, and no.”
To further support this, read 26 USC Section 36B, 42 USC Section 18084, 42 USC Section 18091. 
In any case, someone else responded with:
“…my guess is the rest of us, who can’t stand the thought of being on the street and/or sucking on the government teat (meaning hard working Americans) will be paying for them, just the same as we pay for free housing, welfare, medicaid, food stamps, ad infinitum, ad naseaum.”
This provides us with powerful bias, but regardless of this, my response was both towards this individual (Respondent 1), and something else that Respondent 2 asked in regards to PPACA fixing the old system. This was my response:
“Well, just because someone’s poor doesn’t mean that they aren’t hard working American’s, that’s a false stereotype that has perpetuated a lot of problems. To Respondent 2’s point, this is supposed to be a fix of the old system in a variety of ways, and anyone who took the time to read the bill would see that. But, this is only a remedial fix at best. Corporations want less regulation, but they don’t deserve it. Much of the reason behind the high costs of premiums is thanks to errors and waste that’s done on the part of doctors and hospitals – about $2 trillion actually. To make up for lost profits, and having to help anyone regardless of their ability to pay, has been the problem. Well, PPACA is supposed to tackle some of these issues. I don’t agree with the bill in its entirety, and I don’t agree that it will fix all of the problems. There’s nothing universal about it, which ultimately scraps the idea that it’s even remotely socialist. But I do think that it’ll get rid of a lot of discrimination, and that it will reduce prices by stimulating classical economic approaches to Capitalism rather than the Rand-Friedman approach.
Of course, not everyone agrees with me on this issue which can be seen from the following statements. First, Respondent 1 replied with:
“I think that you may be correct in that the current law may not NECESSARILY be socialist. However, I do think that it is “one giant leap” toward socialism. My biggest concern is with the SCOTUS determining that the law is a tax. If it is a tax, what’s to keep the federal government from telling everyone that they have to buy a certain automobile or pay a large tax/penalty? My biggest issue is, where does it end? The federal government has already assumed so much power that the constitutional authors did not intend for them to have that now they will think they can control everything. Where does the constitution grant the federal government to regulate education? Agriculture? Firearms? Alcohol? Tobacco? If you ask me, these are issues best handled at the state level. Indeed, the founders INTENDED for them to be handled at the state level.
Sorry that this got so long winded, but this decision has really troubled me. Especially since Justice Kennedy, who is not a bright, shining light of smaller government, said that it should be thrown out as unconstitutional.”
Much of his response, in my opinion, is stereotypical of those who haven’t read the text of the bill, or read the text of SCOTUS ruling. It’s disheartening to think that such perspectives exist, and they exist predominantly out of ignorance. In any case, in order to fully grasp the context and flow of the conversation, and my upcoming response to the three of them, this is what ensued, first was Respondent 2:
“You really think healthcare initiatives should be handled by state governments? Look at what happened to TennCare when the federal government simply handed funds to the state government and told TN to put the money to good use… Millions of dollars were stolen and the perpetrator fled the country never to be seen again. The federal government may be overly large and cumbersome, but I believe state governments are full of good old boys and crooks who put people in charge more because they owe a favor than because the person is actually qualified to do the job. With the rampant corruption in local and state governments, why would you WANT them to handle healthcare regulations?
My point is, state governments don’t have the oversight to handle corruption on many of these issues. Hell, several states are already on the verge of bankruptcy! You think that if they can’t balance their own budgets that they have the ability to handle other issues that the federal government has assumed control over?”
Respondent 1 responded to 2 with:
“Respondent 2, and the federal government isn’t broke/near bankruptcy? I’m sorry sir, your argument doesn’t hold water. Every time the federal government tries to run something that started out good, they have ruined it. I am 54 years old and have been paying into Social Security for almost 40 years. Because of the “good” that the federal government has done, I will probably not be able to draw Social Security, which by rights, is MY money, not the governments!”
Respondent 3 responded with:
“Respondent 2 is clearly a believer in the Utopian framework who thinks big government bureaucrats are incorruptible at the federal level… even though all of the evidence points to the fact that they’re even more so than their state brothers because they’re even further removed from any direct accountability. It’s not like the feds don’t was billions of our tax dollars every year…”
And finally, I responded to Respondents 1-3 by stating:
“Respondent 1, I still disagree heavily on your argument that it’s one giant leap for socialism. People throw this word out with little understanding of it. One example which I feel must be made, are ‘state enterprises’. Interestingly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are both ‘state enterprises’ by virtue of the fact that it’s a business run by the federal government. To your argument, states should only have the right to regulate such things, taxes, insurance, and what have you. One example would be state lotteries, there are 46 jurisdictions and 43 states that participate – but these lotteries are government corporations – ‘state agencies’. State agencies are vital components of ‘socialism’ but under your argument, such an agency is ultimately protected under the 10th Amendment as a right delegated to states. PPACA did not create a national healthcare bill, in contrast all they did was get rid of prejudice that disproportionately effects a lot of different people in specific groups (women, poor). As a matter of fact, no ‘state enterprise’ was created – had this been contrary, I would agree with you that it was a giant leap towards socialism. Seeing as this bill did not do as mentioned, nor does it attain universal coverage (as compared to the Netherlands, Canada, or Sweden), there’s nothing ‘socialist’ about it other than the expansion of Medicaid. Whether a state does it under an enumeration of the U.S. Constitution, or the Federal Government, doesn’t change the fact that it’s ‘socialist’ in nature. You just prefer state based socialism rather than federal.
I don’t know how many people have read the SCOTUS ruling, but if the statistics on how many people have read the actual bill (or understand it) are an indication of such a question – I reckon that even fewer have read the ruling.
As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court had limited government in mind; “Applying the Government’s logic to the familiar case of Wickard v. Filburn shows how far that logic would carry us from the notion of a government of limited powers.” This is true, and Wickard has been deemed the most far reaching example upholding Congressional use of the Commerce Clause.
To further quote SCOTUS: “Under Wickard it is within Congress’s power to regulate the market for wheat by supporting its price. But price can be supported by increasing demand as well as by decreasing supply. The aggregated decisions of some consumers not to purchase wheat have a substantial effect on the price of wheat, just as decisions not to purchase health insurance have on the price of insurance. Congress can therefore command that those not buying wheat do so,just as it argues here that it may command that those not buying health insurance do so. The farmer in Wickard was at least actively engaged in the production of wheat, and the Government could regulate that activity because of its effect on commerce. The Government’s theory here would effectively override that limitation, by establishing that individuals may be regulated under the Commerce Clause whenever enough of them are not doing something the Government would have them do.”
Further still: “To consider a different example in the health care market, many Americans do not eat a balanced diet. That group makes up a larger percentage of the total population than those without health insurance…The failure of that group to have a healthy diet increases health care costs, to agreater extent than the failure of the uninsured to purchase insurance…Those increased costs are borne in part by other Americans who must pay more, just as the uninsured shift costs to the insured…Congress addressed the insurance problem by ordering everyone to buy insurance. Under the Government’s theory, Congress could address the diet problem by ordering everyone to buy vegetables…People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do thingsthat would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—canreadily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act…That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.”
Had the Supreme Court accepted the Government’s argument that it had the right under the commerce clause, then I could certainly see an overreach of authority – such limitations for which Madison envisioned would have become eroded into non-existence. Wickard v. Fillburn is a supreme court case dealing with the regulation of the wheat industry, and it was upheld, so this answers your question in regards to what gives Congress the right to regulate it. This ruling discusses Congressional authority as well. You should also check out Garcia vs. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985), South Dakota vs. Dole (1987), New York vs. United States (1992), Printz vs. United States (1997), and States vs. Lopez (1995). These all deal with issues regarding the 10th Amendment. Indeed, another point to be quoted: “The Commerce Clause is not a general license to regulate an individual from cradle to grave, simply because he will predictably engage in particular transactions. Any police power to regulate individuals as such, as opposed to their activities, remains vested in the States.”
What the Supreme Court stated that the Commerce Clause gave Congress the enumerated authority to REGULATE commerce, but not to compel it. While Justice Roberts makes a distinction here, the mere act of regulation can in essence be a method to compel – albeit in a backwards sort of way. The point, though, is that Robert’s is still placing a limit on congressional authority here while also protecting the 10th Amendment. It was even struck down under the Necessary and Proper Clause.
Justice Roberts relied on 146 years of rulings in which something was considered a tax, even though the word ‘tax’ was not used (License Tax Cases – 72 U.S. 463 (1866), as well as in New York v. U.S. (1992)). Essentially, it doesn’t matter what it’s called as long as it’s function is within scope. The individual mandate functions like a tax, it is, in effect, a tax hike on those who choose not to have health insurance. Just as having a higher income grants you a higher tax rate. Taxes have been used to regulate commerce in a sense. Roberts cites that federal and state taxes combined essentially make up half the cost of cigarettes – this is done so in order to compel – it not regulate entirely – the purchase of such products with the intention of reducing the demand. This isn’t anything new, as Roberts points out…accurately I might add. Check out U.S. v. Sanchez (1950) and Sonzinsky v U.S. (1937) where regulatory measures were upheld as taxes regarding marijuana and shotguns.
The PPACA does not make it illegal to be absent of health insurance, there’s no penalty for not paying the tax, as a matter of fact – it in effect allows people to make a choice, and for many of the 4 million who will be subject to that fine, paying the fine will be substantially less while still participating in a shared responsibility. One might call that socialism, but Romney refers to it as preventing free-loaders. A common argument against Welfare, actually, the free-loaders (which is kind of silly given what the program is meant to do).
Roberts explains how calling it a tax doesn’t automatically mean that Congress can therefore start taxing people on everything in order to control behaviors – even though that’s what taxes are in some ways meant to do…and have always been used for other than collecting revenue.
What Justice Roberts did was approach the PPACA with a very CONSTITUTIONAL approach. He upheld State’s Rights, Congress’ authority to tax people, Citizen’s rights to purchase affordable healthcare, while also maintaining his ETHICAL REPONSIBILITY AS A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE to find the lesgislation lawful where it may be deemed as such. Chief Justice Robert’s isn’t being hounded by conservatives for siding with the liberals, he’s being hounded for doing his job – for maintaining an ethical responsibility. 10th Amendment Advocates and advocates for Limited Government should be pleased in one scope because Roberts outlined how limited Congress’ powers are, and had it not been for the fact that the Government ASKED Roberts to construe the mandate as a tax, the PPACA would have been ruled as unconstitutional. People need only read what he wrote to understand this.
Lastly, I don’t agree with liberal naivety that Federal Government is the means for which all problems should be solved – actually I quite disagree (To Respondent 2’s point). On the other hand, I don’t agree with conservative naivety that Federal Government is useless, and that state’s know best either (To Respondent 3’s point). Neither are true, and true reform quite literally lies in the balance between the two. Had it not been for the Federal Government, than Slavery would still exist, women wouldn’t be allowed to vote, blacks and Hispanics wouldn’t be allowed to vote, etc. In many cases, states abridge the rights of its citizens more often than does the federal government, albeit in different ways. The federal government cannot FORCE a state to do anything – which was upheld under this case.
This SHOULD NOT be construed to suggest that the Federal Government doesn’t infringe upon the foundations of liberty, but to suggest that states’ prove people with an abunRespondent 2ce is a fallacy and most arguments aren’t about 10th Amendment limited governments, but essentially a revisit to the articles of confederation. If the founding fathers wanted us to essentially have an extremely weak and useless government, I reckon they would have maintained those articles – alas they did not. They knew that they couldn’t possibly tackle every issue, and to do so would have led to more problems than good. This is why the constitution is the way it is.”
Respondent 2 then said:
“Wow, that was quite possibly the most informed post about the new legislation and the best description of the SCOTUS decision that I have read. You should repackage those two posts onto Reddit, Oliver… I’m sure it would go viral in no time.
To rebut Respondent 3’s post (in which he put words in my mouth), I don’t believe that big government can solve all of our problems… I simply don’t trust state governments to effectively handle policy judgements nearly as much as I trust the federal government to do so. I understand that there is and always will be corruption at ALL levels of government, but I believe that the corruption is more prevalent at state and local levels because there are fewer watchdogs as government gets smaller.
I’ll admit I am also biased against my own state government… I am a blue voter living in a red state, and I don’t feel that my voice is truly represented in the TN state legislature. Why would I want them to make major (currently) federal-level policy decisions if I know that my opinion as a voter doesn’t mean squat?”
For which Respondent 3 rebutted with:
“And You Respondent 2 failed apparently to get my point, WHY do you trust that the completely fallible and human folks at the federal level are any more trust worthy than those at the state level? Can you come up with an affirmative reason as to why you trust them more than those at the state level?
Because if you reason it out you shouldn’t trust ANY un-elected suits period, but the further removed they are from someone who is directly accountable to you the less you should trust them and the federal suits are infinitely more removed from any direct accountability to you than a state suit is.
And for the record your opinion as a vote means alot more at the state level than at the federal, you wanna talk about not mattering, at the federal level you’re one voice out of 250k and chances are your Rep is in Washington DC most of the year the best you can do is to maybe talk to his local secretary.
At the state level it varies but in my experience the reps spend a majority of their time in the state if not in their home district and the chances of you being able to actually speak with them directly if you’re determined to do so are far higher. It’s one of the reasons the founders set things up the way they did, they knew that the government that’s closest to the people should be the one with the most power and that the one most removed from it would be the one most prone to abuse that power.
Oliver, I agree with you, if we could find that balance between the federal government and the state government things would be much better all around for us but that balance was stripped from the constitution in the early 1900s by the Woodrow Wilson lead progressive movement. The additions of the 16th and 17th amendment completely destroyed the balance that the founders had created between the state and federal governments in favor of the federal because it was at the federal level that the progressives could wield the greatest and most long-lived level of authority and they’ve been slowly pushing that authority ever wider since then either through the congress or the presidency and if those fail the courts… The founders would be appalled to see what we’ve allowed teh federal government to do, they never intended the limited federal taxing authority they created to be used and abused in the ways it is now and they said as much in the federalist papers.
This ruling however else you wanna chop it up gives the feds the right to force us into commerce we might not have otherwise engaged in or beat us over the head with a tax of their choosing. How long do think this idea will spread to all of the other penalties and fees in government? Till we’ll have some well intentioned idiot in the executive branch passing regulations that have the force of law that saw if you don’t buy a hybrid car we’re going to penalize you 2% of your income or 2000.00 bucks. I give it 6 months if Obama gets re-elected…”
For which Respondent 2 agreed with by stating:
“Respondent 1, your last paragraph precisely states my whole argument! Now the federal government has the ability to control nearly everything we do by merely modifying our behavior through a “tax” or “penalty”.”
I then followed up with:
Respondent 3 and Respondent 1, I don’t buy into this apocalyptic and prophetically damning attitude of President Obama. Respondent 3’s assertion that Obama will, within 6 months of being re-elected, pass a law demanding that everyone buy a hybrid car or face a 2% tax hike, or pay $2,000 is vile and absurd. It is overwhelmingly unconstitutional, because such a scenario breaks away from the fundamental workings behind what led Robert’s to view this as a tax (basing it off of language, and how it functions).
The Supreme Court has rejected claims similar to yours in past rulings.
And as I cited before, as well as Justice Roberts, that Congress has a broader authority to tax than it does to regulate commerce dating back to the License Tax Cases of 1866. Respondent 3’s assertion would more likely fall under the commerce clause than it would the taxing power or the necessary and proper clause, and even if your claim here were to be true, it would most likely still be shot down based on what Roberts said: ” Even if the taxing power enables Congress to impose a tax on not obtaining health insurance, any tax must still comply with other requirements in the Constitution.”
The 26 states that filed suit against the Government on the basis that PPACA was unconstitutional (two separate states filed against the Government on the basis that it infringed upon their constitutions), made the argument that the individual mandate was a direct tax. The Supreme Court has maintained that direct taxes include personal property (Eisner v. Macomber (1920), Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co (1895)). Hybrid vehicles are personal property which means that any tax levied on them would be a direct tax. What this means, is that if Congress passed a bill doing what Respondent 3 asserts Obama will do – it would be struck down for infringing upon Article I, Section 9, Clause 4. Everyone will eventually need health care, and because the price of premiums are certainly determined by those who do have health insurance as well as those who don’t, it can be regulated, and it can be taxed. Taxes are in a sense a form of shared responsibility, which although Roberts’ didn’t clearly state this, it can be inferred. Let’s say that every person in the United States just scrapped their health insurance, they would ALL have to pay a tax. Unless they are in poverty of course. There’s nothing inconsistent with this law under the basis of taxation.
Furthermore, this penalty doesn’t affect everyone…only 4 million people. For everyone to throw a pissy fit over it is ridiculous. Those who have health insurance already have nothing to worry about, and in fact, should look forward to lower premiums and costs on that insurance.
So, to Respondent 1’s point, that “now the federal government has the ability…” – wrong – it’s always had the ability. Although Roberts only cited back to 1866, that authority was always there. And to Respondent 3’s point that this bill gives the feds the right to force you into commerce is also false – had that been the case, Roberts would have accepted the Government’s argument on that very matter. So both of your points are overwhelmingly false.
This constant Obama Bashing, Liberal Hating, and Naivety that the Federal Government is just so terrible takes away substance from the greater scheme of things, and blaming just ONE MAN is pointless, and baseless. There are 535 members of Congress who partook in writing that bill, amending it, and what have you – even the Republicans. The PPACA was not birthed entirely out sincerity and a want to reform – it was born out of a state of drama, fighting, and partisan politics.
As for the other points, I believe that both Respondent 2 and Respondent 3 are right in respect to voting simply based on their merits. I thoroughly agree with Respondent 3 that people are better represented in their state and local elections. Those elections can be won with a difference of 13 votes. On the other hand, I don’t agree that this provides more accountability. While I agree that the more distance there is from the electorate and their representative, such distance does not necessarily require a shift in branch. There are some local politicians – many, actually – that are more difficult to get a hold of than federal which is an unfortunate circumstance. Some local people are useless, and yet still win because the same vile destructive methods of being elected (or re-elected) in national politics has infiltrated local politics. To Respondent 2’s point, being liberal and living in a red state means that liberal’s won’t exactly be represented. Or a better way of putting it, they’ll be represented with politics that they don’t necessarily support or agree with. Then again, the south isn’t exactly a bastion of educated voters, or turnout for that matter. Both of your points on this matter are valid. But what’s not valid are your points regarding the PPACA and the SCOTUS ruling as much of what’s been said is based in ignorance. I certainly understand the argument surrounding the 10th Amendment, but the 10th Amendment was strengthened in some ways thanks to the Supreme Court, not destroyed.”
And Respondent 2 simply said:
“Oliver, I totally disagree with your argument, but spent 20 years in the US Army defending your right to your opinion. I would gladly spend another 20 defending that same right. I say that we won’t agree, so there is no changing each others mind. For what it’s worth, I disagreed with the Patriot Act passed under Bush for the same reason that I disagree with the PPACA. In my opinion they are both unconstitutional.”
Respondent 1 and myself both agreed to disagree, but then delved into another conversation regarding conservative principles which I may well post later. I didn’t post this conversation to share drama, I shared it because it was debate about Socialism, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Capitalism, Constitutional Law, and the Supreme Court ruling on the matter. I chose to cite the whole thing so that you, the reader, may grasp the concepts and context for which this is taking place. I changed individuals names for privacy reasons.