There has been enough time now, the dust has settled around the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, the US-wide health care reform passed by Congress and signed into law more than two years ago.
Note: Today, I am going to be very explicit because I flatter myself that I have readers around the world who may not be completely familiar with American politics or with American political processes.
As usual, Rush Limbaugh, the much insulted, much decried and always underestimated conservative talk-show host has instantly demonstrated more lucidity that did pundits with better intellectual credentials: There is no silver lining, my friends.
Don’t confuse my meaning with others’. I think American society will survive well the disorder and the increase in cost of living the Obama health care reform will impose. I think health care will cost more and be of poorer quality for almost all Americans. The alleged uninsured were never really uncared for so, ObamaCare was a solution to a non-problem in this respect. The most heart rendering parts of the descriptions justifying the reform in the first place turn out to be also urban myths. The main one concerns people with a pre-existing condition who couldn’t get coverage and therefore care. Never happened except in tiny numbers that could have been dealt with a with a simple high-risk insurance pool as those that states maintained for horrible drivers.
Yet, as I said, this is a prosperous society even in a period of crisis such as this one. The economy will not collapse. We will just all be a little less prosperous than we should have been. Our children will not experience the subtle optimism that comes from living in times of growth. But, I am still waiting for someone with a bucket and some rags to walk up to my door and to propose to clean all my windows for a set fee. And farmers in my area complain that they don’t have enough people to harvest their crops. Reports say that good pickers earn $12 -13/hour, far above the minimum wage, by the way. We are not poor by any standard. The worst application of ObamaCare set of bad ideas is not going to make us poor, by any standard.
I believe that Obama’s co-plotters’ goal was always a nationalized, single-payer system. Unless the Republican Party obtains a vigorous big margin victory come November, in the Presidency and in both houses, 20% of the national economy will fall under federal management in short order. That’s “unless.”
What the US would look like with so much of its economy nationalized is not difficult to guess. It would look like Spain, perhaps. With luck, it would like Germany or like the Netherlands. Those are countries where a big role of government in the economy does not prevent periodic reforms that keep the statist system going. I have to say this explicitly because many conservatives live in a half-sleep inhabited by childish nightmares of ill-defined “socialism.” The fact is that Germany, and, to my taste, especially the Netherlands, are productive and civilized societies. They are not even close to hell. The problem with both countries, and with all Western European countries (with the possible curious exception of France), is that they are so lacking in vitality that they are disappearing before our eyes. Or they will become Muslim countries because Muslim immigrants there reproduce while other elements of the population don’t. (I wish I remembered which French-speaking Muslim commentator quipped that the Netherlands would be under Sharia law before Algeria.)
The third consequence of the Supreme Court decision regarding ObamaCare is related to but distinct from the last. The Supreme Court showed that if a law is unconstitutional, as passed, you can always make it constitutional after the fact. You can do this even without tweaking any part of the text itself. You can do it by merely by re-naming a cat a dog. “No cats allowed” “No problem, this ain’t a cat, it’s really a dog.” No problem, the way you wrote the law, it’s not a penalty, it’s really a law. And there is no doubt that the federal government possesses broad taxation power.
The Supreme Court has paved the way for unlimited exercise of federal power. Most government action costs money. Until now, many believed that the federal government powers were constrained by two factors (2). First was the doctrine of enumerated power: The Fed. Government may not do what is not explicitly given to it to do. Second, there is always a political cost involved in creating new taxes or in raising old ones in support of any new policy, however constitutional the policy may be in itself. The recent Supreme Court decision showed the current and any future federal government at once how to by-pass enumerated powers and how to sidestep the risks inherent in raising taxes.
It’s not obvious to me that the Republic can survive this new attack on constitutional government. There will be a United States of America, no doubt but it will be a sort of common hybrid. It will not be the Republic of 1776.
[Editor’s note: this essay first appeared on Dr. Delacroix’s blog, Facts Matter, on July 4th 2012]