Monday, June 11, 2012

Obamacare’s “Out-of-Control Activism”

Writing in the New Yorker, author Ryan Lizza’s latest article examines what a re-elected Barack Obama might attempt to accomplish in a second term as President.  The piece discusses immigration, fiscal policy, and energy, but also includes an interesting passage on health care, and how the Administration might respond should the Supreme Court strike down Obamacare’s individual mandate, but leave the rest of the law in place:

Obama would face a choice: replace the mandate with a new policy or remove the remaining market reforms.  One option for replacing the mandate is to push the uninsured into the new system by requiring them to sign up for insurance when applying for other government services, such as food stamps or school loans.  But the prospects for this sort of legislation are bleak.  “We looked at this,” a former Obama aide said.  “We thought it was less constitutional than the mandate.  Among the moderate Democrats, the idea that you would pass a bill like this is unimaginable.”

Whether the Supreme Court overturns the law in part or in full, the White House will need to respond publicly.  “The strategy is to just go on the offensive and say, ‘Look at Citizens United, look at the health-care decision, look at Bush v. Gore,” the former aide said.  “We have an out-of-control activist court….That’s Plan A.  Plan B is nothing.”

This passage includes two incredible statements.  First, the Obama Administration has examined the idea of forcing individuals to prove they purchased government-approved health insurance every time they interact with public officials – a step not far removed from a “Show Me Your Papers” requirement on every American citizen.  The fact that the former Administration official quoted in the piece dismissed such a policy largely on grounds of political expediency – moderate Democrats in Congress would never vote to enact these requirements – speaks volumes to how far the Administration may go to compel individuals to obey its commands.

Yet the liberals who would require individuals to purchase government-approved health insurance – and use the full coercive power of the state to enforce such a requirement – are the same individuals who are prepared to criticize conservatives for “out of control activis[m]” if the Supreme Court strikes down some or all of Obamacare.  Imposing an unprecedented mandate to purchase a government-defined product certainly qualifies as activism.  And the Obama Administration’s idea of forcing citizens to comply with a new “Show Me Your Papers” regime to enforce government-defined health insurance is out-of-control by any reasonable definition.  That’s why it’s so critical for the Supreme Court to strike down the individual mandate, and all of Obamacare – not as a measure of judicial activism, but as a way to impose constitutional restraints on an out-of-control Congress and executive.