The Supreme Court has decided many landmark cases that have had a generational impact on our society. The Dred Scott vs. Sandford Case (1857) determined whether all Americans would be protected by the Constitution. Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) declared state laws that segregated blacks from whites in the public school system unconstitutional. The court agreed in Roe vs. Wade (1973) that the “due process” clause of the 14th amendment extended the right of women to choose to abort their babies. These momentous decisions determined the projectile of the future of cultural America. Decisions of the Supreme Court have impacted the income tax system in 1895, the Social Security Act in 1937 and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965.
The docket of our land’s highest court this year will include immigration, voting rights, gay marriage, and affirmative action. Perhaps the most important case to be considered by the court this year has been the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which was passed into law on March 23, 2010. The importance of this review is enormous considering its effect on the future of all Americans. Proponents of this law get back slaps for attempting to offer insurance for 30 million uninsured Americans. The methods chosen to enforce the new law have been debated for months. The Supreme Court’s decision pertaining to the constitutionality of the law will have repercussions on the re-election campaign of our sitting president as well as the power of our Congress to regulate commerce.
There are certain provisions in the law that would seem to be very beneficial and humanitarian at face value. Seniors would benefit from free wellness exams. Children up to age 26 (why are 26 year olds being categorized as children?) may be covered on their parent’s policies. Proponents of the law will argue that it is justified by the right of Congress to “regulate commerce” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3). It is their opinion that this bill will improve the general welfare of Americans. The Constitution states that the imposition of taxes is necessary and appropriate in order to reach the goal of improving the lives of American citizens. So why have 26 states coalesced to oppose the measure?
The authors of this bill determined that it could not be effective unless all Americans participated. The majority of Americans are troubled by the fact there is no provision to opt out. Many consider the requirement for all to buy healthcare to be a contradiction to the principles of our capitalistic, free enterprise system. Beginning in 2014, everyone must have bought into the health insurance plan or pay a tax penalty of $95 in 2014 to increase to $695 in 2016. The penalty for a family that hasn’t bought in by 2016 will be $2,085. The fee is identified as a ‘penalty’ in an attempt to avoid using the word all Americans have learned to hate, ‘tax’.
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., representing the government in the Supreme Court, has made the argument that Congress clearly has a right to regulate commerce. Healthcare must be provided. It must be financed, and an ‘individual mandate’ that requires the purchase of healthcare is necessary for the physical and financial health of the nation.
Opponents of Obamacare will question the government doing something it has never done before: requiring Americans to participate in commerce. Our Constitution was written to limit the powers of the government. They see the passage of this law as a trespass of the government into the pastures of individual liberties.
The Supreme Court generally leans slightly conservative. Justices Antonia Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts are more likely to vote against the bill while Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan can be trusted to support it. To pass muster in the Supreme Court, the bill needs to convert at least one conservative to acquire a 5-4 vote.
That may prove difficult considering Mr. Verrilli was only three minutes into his defense of the mandate when Justice Kennedy began some strong questioning: “Are there any limits?”, he asked. If the government can make us buy health insurance, what else might the government make us buy? Will we be forced to buy Chevy Volts to save on the consumption of oil? Will we be forced to buy healthy vegetables and prohibited from purchasing donuts to insure we don’t draw too heavily from the nation’s health insurance plan? Will the purchase of cigarettes become illegal by penalty of law?
Adam Smith would be spinning in his grave if he could see the amputation of his ‘invisible hand’. The government has already wrested control of our education system from the American people. Will Americans allow their healthcare system, which represents 18% of the entire U.S. economy, to be hijacked by their government? We are no longer creeping toward socialism; rather, we are leaping and bounding toward a socialistic, government controlled society.
The justices must finally decide if the bill is constitutional. If it is not, is it only the individual mandate that makes it unconstitutional? If the individual mandate is cut from the bill, does it then become constitutional? The court’s decision regarding Obamacare will be known near the end of June, just in time to influence the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. It may be a lose/lose situation for Obama. If the bill is struck down, his greatest achievement as president will go up in smoke. If the Supreme Court affirms the bill, it may be the impetus for unifying a divided Republican Party, which may then be a greater motivation to run a winning campaign against the incumbent president.
Photo Credit: Laura Padgett Creative Commons
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