The mandate is front and center in the constitutional challenges to Obamacare’s requirement that everyone purchase health insurance or suffer penalties.
I’ve been posting about the mandate since last summer, since the mandate for the first time punishes and taxes the failure to engage in economic activity.
Although Obama opposed a mandate during the campaign, it should not be a terrible surprise that he would trumpet a law requiring people to engage in economic activity he deemed central to his overall health care plans:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
One source of the impending constitutional challenge to the Obamacare mandate is that exceeds the enumerated powers granted to Congress under Article I, section 8….
Does Congress have the infinite power to control people’s behavior (such as by ordering them to engage in commercial transactions) via the tax power? I suggest not. When the Bill of Rights was being debated in front of Congress, the skeptical Rep. Theodore Sedgwick of Massachusetts asked if there should also be an enumeration that “declared that a man should have a right to wear his hat if he pleased; that he might get up when he pleased, and go to bed when he thought proper.” 1 Annals of Congress 759–60 (Aug. 15, 1789). Sedgewick’s point was that national laws about bedtimes and hat-wearing were self-evidently beyond the authority of Congress.
However, if the tax power means that Congress can order citizens to buy something they don’t want to buy, why does Congress not have the power to assess taxes on people who get too little sleep, or too much sleep, and thereby harm their own health and the public fisc? Or who wear hats so little that they increase their risk of skin cancer? Or who wear hats so often that they dangerously reduce their levels of vitamin D?
If the government can force people to purchase private health insurance under threat of penalty because such purchase is necessary for the health care insurance system to work, then why not have Congress decree weekly “Blue Light” mandates to further various legislative purposes.
How about requiring people to replace the brakes on their cars, even if not yet worn out, to lower the risk of accidents? Or reversible ceiling fans to lower energy use? Or two shovels, one for themselves and one for a community shovel ready project (if they can find one)?
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