COMMENT & ANALYSIS
Justice Roberts’ cellphone Court arguments expose weakness of Obamacare’s foundation
If the federal government can make individuals buy health insurance, there’s nothing to stop it from forcing everyone to purchase a particular cellphone. As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. argued Tuesday, there’s no difference between saying everyone must acquire health insurance to cover catastrophic medical needs and saying individuals have to carry a mobile phone with the ability to notify authorities in the event of a car crash or similar catastrophe.
Now that the Supreme Court has wrapped up oral arguments in the Obamacare case, the stakes couldn’t be clearer. Allowing the individual mandate to stand opens the door to a new phase of nanny government — literally. Justice Stephen G. Breyer proposed that the very act of entering into the world as a newborn babe could be construed as “commerce” that invokes federal regulatory authority. “The question is when you are born, and you don’t have insurance, and you will in fact get sick, and you will in fact impose costs, have you perhaps involuntarily — perhaps simply because you are a human being — entered this particular market, which is a market for health care?”
The question was not rhetorical. The Obama administration wants to expand its cradle-to-grave power over the nation. This drive has accumulated $15.6 trillion in debt plus unfunded liabilities estimated by the Medicare and Medicaid trustees at an additional $56.2 trillion. That adds up to $628,000 in debt per household. So it’s not an exaggeration to say the economic future of our country is on the line. Creating yet another federal entitlement not only deepens the pool of red ink, it also establishes a fatal precedent that won’t stop at cellphones. Forget “cash for clunkers.” We’ll all be on the hook for buying miserable electric cars from Government Motors in the name of stimulating the economy.
Going into this case, some liberal pundits predicted a slam-dunk for the administration. President Obama’s solicitor general, however, dodged and evaded under tough questioning from the court’s intellectual powerhouses, Justices Antonin Scalia and Roberts. Liberals on the bench predictably attempted to save the discussion by reciting the litany of big-government precedents in place since Franklin D. Roosevelt, but even that may not be enough.
Swing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested Wednesday that if the individual mandate were struck down, the rest of the law would have to go. He said it would be “an awesome exercise of judicial power” for the courts to cut out the law’s central feature while leaving what’s left to wreak unknown havoc on the cost and quality of health care.
Justice Kennedy has it right. Yet even a decision striking down the whole of Obamacare leaves the country far from where it needs to be, given the magnitude of the looming debt crisis. The courts and Congress need to restore the Founders’ vision of limited government if America is to survive.