July 02, 2012
That's what I am, a libertarian leech. A fiscally conservative federalist (I'm with Hamilton about a strong central government, but Jefferson was right about imperial overreaching) who's fine with gay marriage (better than a patchwork of fifty "marriage-lite" compromises), and legalizing all recreational drugs less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.
I loath the abuses of the Commerce Clause in the name of unrestrained Washington do-gooding. The Commerce Clause was intended to prevent the states from behaving like separate countries at their economic borders, which makes the reasoning of Chief Justice Roberts rejecting Commerce Clause reasoning as significant as the rest of the ruling:
Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.
As James Madison himself explained:
[The Commerce Clause was] intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government.
Roberts allowed the individual mandate as a tax, but nobody likes taxes, especially President Obama, who in a 2009 insisted that the mandate was "absolutely not a tax increase."
Regardless of what anybody calls it, the ACA makes the penalty for not buying insurance so slight ($695 or 2.5 percent of income, automatically qualifying for Medicaid at 133 percent of the federal poverty level) that a starving artist would be a fool to not pay the penalty until necessary. Ditto companies with fewer than 50 employees.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, states can pull the same stunt. Chief Justice Roberts says nobody should feel guilty about that at all. From his majority opinion:
Indeed, it is estimated that four million people each year will choose to pay the IRS rather than buy insurance. That Congress apparently regards such extensive failure to comply with the mandate as tolerable suggests that Congress did not think it was creating four million outlaws. It suggests instead that the shared responsibility payment merely imposes a tax citizens may lawfully choose to pay in lieu of buying health insurance.
Except when all those starving artists have to fork over those fines (oops, "taxes"), there's going to be a whole lot of hollering going on. "Dude! What happened to my tax refund!" Whereupon compassionate liberals will hurry to expand Medicaid all the more, bankrupting the system all the faster.
Chuck Saletta of The Motley Fool points out:
As long as your income falls below the level of 400 percent of federal poverty guidelines, your out-of-pocket premiums for "silver" level coverage are capped on a sliding scale that gets to be no higher than 9.5 percent of your income. The rest of the costs of insuring you are covered by taxpayers.
Thanks, everybody! There is, perhaps, no better example of legislative sausage making in history. It should have been done in a piecemeal manner, where each morsel was tasted first and and chewed on a bit, instead of being wolfed down whole, giving the country a bad case of continental-wide indigestion.
Either way, I'm not a rebel, nor am I one for causes. I vote every two years. That's it. So in a few years I'll shrug and start lapping up Social Security (yes, it's a Ponzi scheme; if Madoff could tax his clients when funds ran short, he'd still be in business too) and Medicare. The Affordable Care Act now gives me a ten-year head start.
Mickey Kaus does make a compelling capitalistic argument for universal healthcare. The problem is that the ACA just happens to be the very worst way to go about achieving it.
Better the reforms had started with HSAs and high-deductible plans available across state lines (like every other form of insurance). Divorce insurance from employment so the tax benefits accrue equally to small and big businesses and the self-employed. Require health care providers to normalize and publish pricing information.
For the time being, my gutless stand is that I have little to lose and a lot to gain. We've put the pedal to the metal on the road to a Greece-style fiscal meltdown, but I'm counting on Big Brother grandfathering in leeches like me. We late baby boomers aren't going gently into that good night. We're bringing down the whole system with us.