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]
6 thoughts on “American Independence Day and The Supreme Court Decision”
Excuse me if my comment is not really on the central issue of your post (the SC ruling on Obamacare and its consequences), but on something you said at the end; “it will not be he Republic of 1776.”
I never quite understood why most Americans, especially conservatives, have this view of the early days of the republic and its founding documents as something to be regarded with quasi-religious devotion. I do realize the amazing progress that the birth of the US and its founding documents represented, and how they established a new paradigm to be emulated. However, 236 years later, I would think it is not a bad thing this is no longer the Republic of 1776.
I am not questioning the validity of the Constitution, but the idea that one has to look at it and interpret it through the eyes of those who created it. Those guys, forward-thinking as they were, could not imagine a world without slaves, or a universal suffrage that included women and people without property, to name just the most evident instances of a necessary broadening of who was supposed to be “We, the people.” Likewise, they had no ways of foreseeing the advent of a truly global economy or the complete detachment of finance from the reality of production of goods and services. They had no knowledge of the harmful impact of some human activities on the environment (no, I am not speaking of climate change, but of the less controversial and blissfully ignored threats of massive pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and the loss of agricultural soil). They could never think that international treaties could in fact lead to the development of dysfunctional, wannabe-World Governments.
Sometimes I get the impression those founding documents are treated as some kind of secular Holly Scriptures, and their authors as Prophets, and that seems to contradict the spirit of what they represented.
I’d just like to point out a couple of things:
The constitution was an international treaty up until the end of the US Civil War, and the framers took the precautions they did because of the fears of “dysfunctionality.” There is a great book on this subject that I’d highly recommend: Peace Pact….
And on and on. I find this argument to be tiresome. The framers could imagine all of the things you spoke of Juan. In fact, this is why they designed the constitution the way that they did. Well, this and the fact that they had to reach a compromise in order to satisfy all parties present.
1 – This is an interesting way of looking at this. I’d never heard this argument before – the Constitution as international treaty. You have certainly picked my curiosity.
2 – Pardon my ignorance, but even if you find the argument tiresome, I don’t think your response is self-evident. Do you care to elaborate? I agree the framers did have a very good knowledge of history, political philosophy, economics, etc, which allowed them to have, to a limited extent, a glimpse of the future, and thus create an astonishingly advanced system of government. But if you are implying they were able to write a document and created a system so perfect it would be able to resolve the conflicts arising 200+ years later, as long as we followed their interpretation of it, without explaining how is that so, you are reinforcing my view that you believe they did have prophet-like powers. Of course, that would also support the religion-like aspects of Americans’ relationship to the framers and the Constitution, and you can simply disregard my puzzlement before this phenomenon as a product of my utter inability to see the (constitutional) light.
But then, you finish by saying they had to compromise to satisfy all parts present. That points to the contextual nature of the document, which would be clearly opposed to the idea of permanence. In such case, I would be inclined to believe that, rather than prophets, the framers were great negotiators in addition to possessing the above-mentioned intellectual qualities. Perhaps what is lacking today, rather than religious adherence to the past, is the same sense of urgency and the intelligent leadership to negotiate agreements that reach a similar degree of satisfactory results for all parties involved?
Emphasis mine. Ah, yes, here I can see where we have gone wrong.
I don’t see anything in my point about implying that the US framers were prophetic. Nothing. You are trying too hard, Juan BP, to make US conservatives and libertarians look like religious zealots. I’ll repeat myself:
Re-read it again and again Juan and don’t come back for more until you have!
I said Americans, especially [but not only], conservatives have a quasi-religious approach to the constitution and the framers. That includes liberals, too. And I never mentioned libertarians (which I believe are a very different political animal than conservatives, but I guess I am wrong on that one, too), and never equated quasi-religious or religious-like attitude with fanaticism. Don’t attribute my words a meaning they don’t have.
I did read and re-read and you still think your point is self-evident or that I am so dumb I don’t deserve a real answer.
If that is your way to show me the door, it’s quite rude. I sure won’t come back for more.
Adhering to the rule of law is a “quasi-religious practice”? Attitude?
Speaking of the quasi-religious, you wrote, Juan BP, the following:
To which I responded:
All of the items you mention could be imagined by the US framers. They crafted the treaty they did because they did not like, or it was not politically feasible to implement, the world that you and I live in. This does not mean that they could not imagine it. The US framers did the best that they could, and were far-sighted enough to ensure that the federal constitution would be both flexible and rigid enough to ensure a peaceful, progressive society dedicated to the protection of the individual.
They did a hell of a job, too.