An Honest Question for Lefties

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

First, read Julian Sanchez on the health care mandate and the Commerce Clause.

Next, I posed this question to Chris Hayes on Twitter, so I’ll pose to those of you who read this site who are outraged by the Hudson ruling: Putting aside what’s codified Bill of Rights, which was ratified after the main body of the Constitution, do you believe the Constitution puts any restrictions on the powers of the federal government?

If your answer is yes, what restrictions would those be? And what test would you use to determine what the federal government can and can’t do? I’ve written this before, but after Wickard, Raich, and now, if you support it, the health insurance mandate, it’s hard to see what’s left that would be off-limits. I mean, during her confirmation hearings, Elena Kagan couldn’t even bring herself to say that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to force us to eat vegetables every day. (She did say it would be bad policy — but that’s a hell of a lot different.)

If your answer is no, that is, that the Constitution puts no real restraints on the federal government at all, why do you suppose they bothered writing and passing one in the first place? I suppose an alternate answer might be that the Constitution does place restrictions on the federal government, but those restrictions have become anachronistic given the size of the country, the complexity of modern society, and so on. To which my follow-up question would be, do you believe there should be any restrictions on the powers of the federal government? Let’s say, again, beyond those laid out in the Bill of Rights.

I guess to get at the meat of the disagreement, I should ask one more: Do you buy into the idea that the people delegate certain, limited powers to the government through the Constitution, or do you believe that the government can do whatever it wants, save for a few restrictions outlined in the Constitution? It’s not an unimportant distinction. I’m not sure it’s consistent to believe that the government gets its power from the people, but the people have gone ahead and given the government the power to do whatever it wants.

I’m not trying to be cute. I’m genuinely interested in how people on the left answer these questions. Rep. Pete Stark, a liberal Democrat, said a few months ago that he believes there are no constitutional restrictions on what the Congress can do. To hear from a sitting Congressman was refreshingly honest. And terrifying.

Think about what it means.  We have two parties who have rigged the game to ensure that someone from their ranks wins every election, nearly every time. And every 10 years, they gerrymander the districts so as few of us as possible even get that choice. All of which is why reelection rates usually top 95 percent, even though approval ratings for Congress rarely rise above 30. So Congress doesn’t really have to answer to the voters. And it really doesn’t have to answer to the Constitution.


Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

191 Responses to “An Honest Question for Lefties”

  1. #1 |  Mark Buehner | 

    I have a more specific question for those who disagree with Hudson: do you agree with what James Madison wrote in Federalist 45 (cited above and reproduced here)?

    “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

    What is your reaction to this and how does it jive with the current question? Are the Constitution’s powers few and defined?

  2. #2 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “If your answer is no, that is, that the Constitution puts no real restraints on the federal government at all, why do you suppose they bothered writing and passing one in the first place?”

    The Constitution was written to guarantee the interests of the establishment. Since it is not self-interpreting, there are no practical limits on the power of the federal government, save for public opinion. The federal government can do anything it decides as long as the risk from public opinion is sufficiently low to provoke popular revolt. It was written because it is a convenient fig leaf for federal power, that is, without it, the government would be unable to pretend it is anything other than tyrannical.

  3. #3 |  flukebucket | 

    #85

    If the mandate takes effect, it will become illegal to have no money.

    “I just spent 60 days in the jailhouse for the crime of having no dough and now here I am back out on the street for the crime of having nowhere to go”
    Sorry. When I read the statement the song just popped into my head.

    And there are no limits to what the government can or cannot do. Just read history and take a look around you. The question answers itself. #98 pretty well summed it up.

  4. #4 |  Mattocracy | 

    “I guess my ultimate point is that I wish there were more and better arguments AGAINST the mandate than this nonsense slavery/tyranny/unconstitutional crap that won’t convince anyone and won’t result in anything.”

    It’s not nonsense, its the thruth. Again, you just don’t want to admit the the obvious truth that making people do things against their will is tyranny. It’s not silly, its not nonsense, its the truth.

  5. #5 |  Travis Ormsby | 

    I’m posting here again since my original comment seems to have been deleted somehow.

    I don’t think these are serious questions that Balko is really interested in hearing answers from liberals about. As evidence of this, I think it’s extremely odd that he would explicitly exempt the Bill of Rights from a discussion of the limits of federal power.

    So the argument goes something like this:

    Outraged Libertarian: So what are the limits on federal power?

    Confused Liberal: Um, the Bill of Rights. I would have thought that was obvious.

    Outraged Libertarian: Well if you exclude the limitations on federal power, what are the limits then, huh?

    Confused Liberal:

  6. #6 |  Mattocracy | 

    The constitution was written by federalists. The anti-federalists wrote the bill of rights. All of the protections we are supposed to have from an over zealous government is in the first 10 amendments. The original document said nothing about free speech, privacy, trial by jury, etc. The original writers weren’t concerned about any of this. They just wanted a stronger central gov’t than what was provided by the Article of Confederation. If it wasn’t for Jefferson, we’d have lost all of our natural rights a long time ago.

    Keep in mind the Alien and Sedition Acts were past after the country was barely ten years old and Alexander Hamilton originally proposed a government with life time appointments with little to no oversight. A lot people never had any intentions of supporting individual rights or restraining gov’t. That battle has been raging since the end of the Revolutionary War.

  7. #7 |  MMonides | 

    I find the Right’s inability to comprehend the clear meaning of the Bill of Rights amusing. In the “it makes me cry that you guys don’t get things that most 8th grade history students do.”

  8. #8 |  MMonides | 

    I mean seriously fuckwits, you all supported torture, supported outing CIA agents, and supported serious fuckwittery with the 2000 election, but you get your panties in a bind over Mandates, an idea that conservative think tanks spent 20 years selling. HFS you are all dumber than a Palin raised on lead paint Taco Bell gorditas.

  9. #9 |  J.S. | 

    “I guess such hyperbole just doesn’t impress me.”

    Thats ok Herb, hyperbole that health insurance is just like car insurance mandates and mortgage tax breaks just doesn’t impress me.

  10. #10 |  Brandon | 

    Well, the first 4 responses from self-proclaimed liberals all avoided the actual question and accused Radley of immaturity for asking it. Fairly typical partisan “debate.”

  11. #11 |  Also, what was your problem with Dubya seizing power in ’08 and refusing to leave office? « The TrogloPundit | 

    […] what was your problem with Dubya seizing power in ’08 and refusing to leave office? Radley Balko has a question for all the “living document” liberals out there: “If your answer is no, that is, […]

  12. #12 |  Comment of the Day | The Agitator | 

    […] note, it’s always fun when a highly-linked, somewhat divisive post brings in new readers. Like this guy: I mean seriously fuckwits, you all supported torture, supported outing CIA agents, and supported […]

  13. #13 |  Irving Washington | 

    Mattocracy, that’s insane. Monroe opposed the BoR initially because he thought it was redundant and might lead to the argument that those were the only rights protected. The original drafters thought of the Constitution as defining the limit of federal power beyond which it simply didn’t have the People’s consent to act.

  14. #14 |  alkali | 

    I think the question is misconceived.

    The Federalists who supported the Constitution without a Bill of Rights (e.g., Hamilton) contended that the federal government could not legitimately do things which violated people’s natural rights, and so there was no need for the Bill of Rights. Supporters of the Constitution who wanted a Bill of Rights (e.g., Jefferson) contended that limitations on the power of the federal government should be set forth explicitly to the extent possible.

    So if the question was, “Absent the Bill of Rights, could Congress ban pamphlets advocating political position X from being shipped in interstate commerce,” the answer for Hamilton was something like “No, because a law that infringes freedom of the press is ipso facto illegitimate,” and not “No, because that wouldn’t be a regulation of interstate commerce.” The answer for Jefferson would be something like, “Congress might try, so that’s why we need the Bill of Rights.”

  15. #15 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Francis,

    To Steve Verdon: do you think that analogizing your political opponents to fascists is in any way useful? And by the way, have you yet stopped beating your wife?

    If you think that way, it pretty much makes you a fascist–i.e. I’m pointing out that those who think that way are in agreement with at least one significant aspect of fascist thinking. That is a quite a bit different than calling all my opponents fascists. For example, below I disagree a bit with Mattocracy. Will I call him a fascist? Not until after he calls me an ignorant slut.

    Mattocracy,

    I think a better question is how people define freedom. As someone stated above, some people see freedom as freedom from something, some see it as freedom to do something. Free from high rent, high medical costs, tainted foods, risky behaviors. Freedom from these things are worth any price, even stealing from your neighbor.

    We have a word for that, its called parentalism and it isn’t freedom. Its being taken care of by another. It isn’t really a type of freedom when you get down to it. I agree with you some people think its freedom and some like it so much they are fine surrendering ever more of their liberties to attain these “freedoms”.

  16. #16 |  J. P. | 

    Agitator, I think I see where you’re pointed with your question. I usually phrase it as whether one’s paradigm depends on the real existence of a single big pie, such that participation in the communal allocation of slices is one’s natural activity and orientation.

    Sorry for the wordiness, I’m too lazy to edit, but is that similar to your intent?

  17. #17 |  Mattocracy | 

    #113 | Irving Washington,

    Many of the original framers might have said that as you stated above, but they were lying. Just like politicians do now. They say one thing, then do the other. Hamilton had no intentions of limited government and protecting rights. Read about what he did during the Quasi War. As I said, these are the same people who passed the Alien and Sedition Acts.

  18. #18 |  SJE | 

    For those who cite to Jefferson, I note that while he was clearly brilliant and great with the lofty rhetoric about men’s rights etc, he wasn’t exactly great when it came to implementing those rights. Not least of which was allowing almost all of his slaves to be sold after his death, unlike G. Washington, who freed all of his slaves.

  19. #19 |  greg | 

    Based on, well….lots of different governments throughout history and around the world (specifically great britain), and their “tyrannical” bent, it seems that one over-arching theme when forming a government here, was the idea to restrain the federal government. You can see this by how often the subject was addressed in the federalist papers, for example.

    I think Steve nailed it. Some people place a very high value on freedom / liberty. For others, things like security and consistency is more important. We all approach the question of “constitutionality” from this frame of mind.

    For those on the liberty side of the debate, we pretend as though a piece of paper would actually be effective at restraining men with guns. While on the other side people are able to rationalize away any conflicts because of their pre-conceived idea of what is important. (yeah, we both do it…..if I were living in a country where our governing document explicitly gave the government vast powers over every aspect of life, I’d do my damndest to argue around it, as I find being free the ultimate goal).

    Wow, that all sounds so cynical when I re-read it.

  20. #20 |  Herb | 

    “Again, you just don’t want to admit the the obvious truth that making people do things against their will is tyranny. ”

    So you’re saying you don’t want to buy health insurance? See, I thought you found the mandate onerous because of abstract ideological reasons, but as it turns out…you just want to be a free-rider. Good to know.

  21. #21 |  Desiderius | 

    My (related) question for our lefty commenters:

    At what point do you estimate that the doctrine of enumerated powers (for the government) was abrogated in favor of the doctrine of enumerated rights (for the people)? Your comments here nearly unanimously show that you’ve adopted the latter.

    Do you (still? given the evidence of the intervening years?) consider such a change progress?

  22. #22 |  Desiderius | 

    Travis,

    “Outraged Libertarian: So what are the limits on federal power?

    Confused Liberal: Um, the Bill of Rights. I would have thought that was obvious.”

    It is an interesting feature of our present time that ignorance is so often mistaken for obviousness. Have all times been so?

    You’re confused because you evidently weren’t paying attention in civics class when the doctrine of enumerated powers was discussed. I wonder how many lefties would now support the abrogation of that doctrine if they were actually aware of the issues involved?

  23. #23 |  red | 

    …. the Founders decided to draft a Constitution in the first place, or place any special magic with that document, which has had to suffer several amendments to guarantee even basic freedoms to huge swaths of our population. …

    This is a feature not a bug. The amendment process was anticipated as necessary and accomplished the expansion of liberty. It is historical revisionism to not recognize that the entire world accepted slavery when the Constitution was adopted.

    The Constitution prevents lefties from running roughshod over the rest of us, for example controlling the internet, banning new sources that they disagree with, dismantling foundational societal institutions like marriage.

  24. #24 |  Dave Johnson | 

    I don’t think you accurately describe the President health care mandate as “lefty.” “Lefties” wanted Medicare-For-All. They hate that the government was bribed by big corporations to require us to purchase the product of those big corporations.

    The mandate is Romneycare.

  25. #25 |  Desiderius | 

    red,

    Moreso, though, given the history you cite, it prevents non-lefties from doing even worse things, and might better do so were more, including the left, inclined to (re)adopt an enumerated powers reading of it.

    There was a time when those on the left did so, after all.

  26. #26 |  nicrivera | 

    Herb,

    What you posted in #120 in response to Mattocracy is a complete non-sequitor.

    In the comment that you quoted, Mattocracy made absolutely no mention whatsoever of whether he did or did not want to buy health insurance. He was simply making a general point that “making people do things against their will is tyranny.

    Personally, I would rephrase Mattocracy’s comment to say “Making people do things against their will is coercion, and coercion is antithetical to freedom.”

    But regardless of whether Mattocracy’s comment is 100% accurate or not, it doesn’t change the fact that your simply twisting his words around–attributing to him words that he neither said nor implied.

  27. #27 |  t1 | 

    “All of which is why reelection rates usually top 95 percent, even though approval ratings for Congress rarely rise above 30. So Congress doesn’t really have to answer to the voters. And it really doesn’t have to answer to the Constitution.”

    ————

    You seem to suggest that the unelected lifetime appointments on the judiciary are more responsive to the public than Congress

  28. #28 |  Herb | 

    “Personally, I would rephrase Mattocracy’s comment to say “Making people do things against their will is coercion, and coercion is antithetical to freedom.””

    “your simply twisting his words around–attributing to him words that he neither said nor implied.”

    Am I?

    If the healthcare mandate is coercing/forcing people to buy health insurance against their will, then the implication is they don’t want to buy health insurance. After all, they’re being forced –against their will– to buy health insurance. Right?

    And who are these principled shirkers of health insurance? Are they all rich enough to pay out of pocket for their own health care? Will they pledge to never go on Medicare/Medicaid, sticking the taxpayers with a lifetime of health mismanagement? They won’t declare bankruptcy if the bills are too big, sticking a hospital or doctor with a big loss?

    In the absence of an alternative that answers some of these questions, the “You can’t make me buy health insurance” crowd starts to sound like Harry telling Lloyd that you can’t triple stamp a double stamp.

  29. #29 |  Terrorific | 

    Herb (#128)

    I’m required in Japan to buy health insurance, and refuse to. When I get sick, I pay in cash, and it’s much cheaper in the end.

    Are you willing to come and personally put me in jail for not buying health insurance?

    This is the main question. Unless you’re willing to incarcerate people for not buying health insurance, you certainly can’t be for a mandate.

  30. #30 |  Philip Wilson | 

    I’m puzzled why I should care about the Tenth Amendment at all, beyond at best a sort of urgent need to repeal the stupid thing.

    Remember, the Tenth Amendment is not part of the basic structure of the Constitution. It’s an amendment, an add-on, a later modification. In fact, it could be argued that the Tenth is a vague attempt to undermine the Constitution proper.

    But in any case, the Tenth Amendment was proposed as a way to sell the Constitution to the east coast landowners who were in power under the previous government, the Articles of Confederation. No one from west of the Appalachians voted for it; no one who worked for a living; no one who had grown up in the USA as a nation. It was a sop to slavers & worse to let them think that things wouldn’t get too radical.

    Now, one could condemn the entire Bill of Rights, the entire Constitution before amendments, as a product of the same privileged class, & be correct. The difference is that some of those serve some rational purpose. The Tenth, on the other hand, is utterly a product of its particular era & the political concerns of that era. It doesn’t add one useful thing to the function of a modern US government. In fact, by encouraging split sovereignty, it would if taken seriously turn governing into an irritating game of wars over which government has a prerogative–undermining the ability to write laws even when those laws are useful or even vitally necessary.

    No, it’s time for the Tenth Amendment to go.

  31. #31 |  Herb | 

    “I’m required in Japan to buy health insurance, and refuse to. When I get sick, I pay in cash, and it’s much cheaper in the end. ”

    Awesome for Japan. Paying out of pocket in the US is unlikely to be “much cheaper in the end.”

    “Are you willing to come and personally put me in jail for not buying health insurance?”

    Even in the worst case scenario, no one’s going to jail for not buying health insurance. You’ll be assessed a tax and if you don’t pay the tax, then there may be penalties but even then, jail time is unlikely.

    “you certainly can’t be for a mandate.”

    I’m not for the mandate. I’m just against all these weak arguments. I’m also against paying for other people’s healthcare and I don’t understand why telling the uninsured (estimated to be around 50 million people) they have to get health insurance is a bigger abridgment of freedom than telling the 250 million people who HAVE insurance that they have to pay for the 50 million who don’t. Anyone have an answer to that one?

  32. #32 |  freedomfan | 

    Herb:

    “Again, you just don’t want to admit the the obvious truth that making people do things against their will is tyranny.”
    So you’re saying you don’t want to buy health insurance? See, I thought you found the mandate onerous because of abstract ideological reasons, but as it turns out…you just want to be a free-rider. Good to know.

    Others point out that what Mattocracy has said doesn’t imply he doesn’t want to buy health insurance. You respond:

    If the healthcare mandate is coercing/forcing people to buy health insurance against their will, then the implication is they don’t want to buy health insurance. After all, they’re being forced –against their will– to buy health insurance. Right?

    Wrong. A law forcing you to do something you would do anyway can still be a bad law and be worth opposing. For example: I like pizza and I buy pizza, but I am opposed to any law forcing people to buy pizza. Do you see how the fact that I oppose a policy of forcing people to buy pizza doesn’t in any way imply that I don’t buy pizza myself?

    (And, yes, I understand that the analogy could be improved. But, the underlying point remains clear: One can be opposed to a policy of general coercion, even when one otherwise willingly does the thing being coerced.)

  33. #33 |  M. Simon | 

    And I don’t know how you meaningfully grant the power to regulate without also granting the power to ban.

    See the Tim Leary (yeah that one) case on pot possession that went to the SC.

    I believe it made that very distinction. Congress “got around it” by dealing with drugs as a medical issue. The Controlled Substances Act.

  34. #34 |  M. Simon | 

    Will they pledge to never go on Medicare/Medicaid, sticking the taxpayers with a lifetime of health mismanagement?

    So the real problem is not insurance. It is government meddling in the Health Care market. Forcing some people to pay for other people’s problems.

    I’m 66 and in good health. When my time comes I’m willing to go without the aid of government services. But the government won’t let me. They insist on providing me services I’m not interested in and charging the earners for my privilege. Pay up suckers. You owe me.

    Feeling better now are we? I hope so.

  35. #35 |  M. Simon | 

    I do not see the Constitution as holy writ

    I hope you take the same attitude about laws against robbery. Once they cease to be holy writ in your State give me your address. I’m sure it is a State I have always wanted to visit. Your neighborhood in particular.

  36. #36 |  freedomfan | 

    Herb:

    I’m also against paying for other people’s healthcare and I don’t understand why telling the uninsured (estimated to be around 50 million people) they have to get health insurance is a bigger abridgment of freedom than telling the 250 million people who HAVE insurance that they have to pay for the 50 million who don’t. Anyone have an answer to that one?

    Sure, end any and all government regulations that say you have to pay for other people’s health care and any regulations that remove a health care provider’s choice as to whether to provide that health care. Then people will have to pay for their own health care (either directly or through insurance) or rely on the willing charity of others to provide it for them or to pay for it for them.

    (BTW, as a side note, a system forcing every individual to pay for health insurance won’t solve the problem because there will still be some people who can’t afford it and the rest of us will still be stuck paying for them. Ultimately, a better solution is one in which health care is more generally affordable. Dumping the parts of the current system the government distorts the market with tax policy to favor third-party payer insurance would be a great start. Cost containment is going to be a problem for any system in which the cost of a service is hidden from the people receiving it.)

  37. #37 |  M. Simon | 

    I do not see the Constitution as holy writ

    i.e. Laws have no meaning.

  38. #38 |  M. Simon | 

    Ultimately, a better solution is one in which health care is more generally affordable.

    Ultimately you do that by restricting available treatments. i.e. Death Panels, etc. Not to worry they are in the works.

  39. #39 |  Neddy | 

    speaking as a certified wingnut I would like to express the usual disdain for “you libs”. While wishing you a Merry Christmas which you don’t believe in because you are out to destroy traditional white societal values.

    and to let you in on a little secret: we don’t really like Sarah Palin, we’re just trying to pump up her value so we can sell her on Ebay.

  40. #40 |  M. Simon | 

    Where’s your question about the unconstitutional standing army?

    1. Where exactly does the Constitution prohibit a standing Army?

    All I can find is that funding must be on a biannual basis.

    http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0612d.asp

    2. Given that nukes could be delivered in 30 minutes or so with current technology is it wise to develop retaliatory capacity after the nukes have landed?

    3. Are we currently at war?

    4. Given that the US is currently the guarantor of peace in so many areas is it wise to pull back from global commitments? In America we managed to avoid the question in the aftermath of WW1. That got us WW2. Is the current military as constituted and used cheaper than a world war or more expensive?

    5. In order to avoid a Barbary War we paid tribute to the jihadis of the day. Should we revive the practice?

  41. #41 |  Herb | 

    “One can be opposed to a policy of general coercion, even when one otherwise willingly does the thing being coerced.”

    Sure, but then again “doing something willingly” and “being coerced” are mutually exclusive terms. If you do something willingly, you are –by definition– not being coerced.

    The uninsured WILL be coerced into buying insurance, of course, and I shed a tear for them, but do they cry when I’m THEIR hospital bills are priced into MY insurance premium?

    “When my time comes I’m willing to go without the aid of government services. But the government won’t let me.”

    Well that’s true. But then again, we live in an industrialized country in the 21st Century. Call 9-11, and the paramedics will come. If you need medical attention, they will give it to you. Go to the emergency room, you will be treated. I think this is true, even down in Galt’s Gulch.

    Since we’re not going the “Denial of service” route (and won’t be as long as we’re a modern country), we then have to figure out a way to pay for it.

    Which brings me to Freedomfan:

    “Ultimately, a better solution is one in which health care is more generally affordable. Dumping the parts of the current system the government distorts the market with tax policy to favor third-party payer insurance would be a great start.”

    I totally agree. But if after preserving the insurance-based system, we’re hearing this much outcry over the mandate, imagine the outcry you’d hear if Uncle Sam tried to get all up in the bizness of insurance companies.

  42. #42 |  Chris | 

    Herb

    In general I see your points. But your arguments are just as weak. Why should anybody have to pay for another person’s insurance? But you fail to answer why the alternative is that we all flip the bill. You have to make the case to me as to why I have to buy insurance because I’ll never use it. Others will and that’s what I’ll be paying for. I need a lot of good reason to buy a product/service at a loss to me at a time when I cannot afford it, and even if I could would still not be entirely wise for me to get. Our hospitals can’t turn away patients but do they need to treat them in the most expensive manner possible?

    I dislike the fact that I have to make an argument (a strong one just for you) as to why I shouldn’t have to give you my money. You should be making a stronger argument to me about why you need me to give it to you. preferably one that benefits both of us and not just one group.

  43. #43 |  freedomfan | 

    Herb,

    “One can be opposed to a policy of general coercion, even when one otherwise willingly does the thing being coerced.”

    Sure, but then again “doing something willingly” and “being coerced” are mutually exclusive terms. If you do something willingly, you are –by definition– not being coerced.

    Sheesh! I’ll try one more time. One can be opposed to THE POLICY of coercion, whether or not one would personally do the coerced thing willingly or not. To restate: It does not matter that I would buy insurance for myself for me to be opposed to a policy of forcing everyone to buy insurance. The policy requires coercion, regardless of whether or not a given individual would have bought insurance on his own. I’m not sure why it isn’t clear that someone can be opposed to a policy that won’t necessarily affect him directly.

    Meanwhile, I am not sure if we are taking the same tack on affordability or not. My approach is to get the government out of both the health care business and the health insurance business, in terms of regulation and in terms of tax policy that distorts in favor of employers providing $X in health insurance instead of that same $X in extra salary. What insurance people buy (either on their own or through a group plan, employer-sponsored or not) should be up to them. That wouldn’t eliminate the need for insurance companies, though a lot more people would probably buy catastrophic insurance and pay on a fee-for-service basis for more routine health care services. And, that would be a good thing, in terms of putting downward pressure on the cost of health care services.

  44. #44 |  JThompson | 

    As a lefty (libertarian leaning liberal), I find the mandate to be purest bullshit. My argument has been more or less the same as yours: If the government can force individual citizens to do business with a private corporation for one thing, there’s nothing preventing them from doing it for another. Next time a corporation is too big to fail I guess we’re going to have a “Buy X Shit You Don’t Need for the Good of America Act”, while the corporation jacks its prices accordingly: Just like the insurance industry is doing right now. Lefties didn’t do this, Third Way wankers did while lefties had fits.

    @Herb: The government’s unwillingness to get up in the business of insurance companies while forcing us to deal with them is part of the problem. The mandate would be softened somewhat if there were price controls put in place with it, or even a real public option that was run as a minimal profit organization. (Which would allow the private companies to continue to compete while keeping their prices down.) As it stands they’ve declared they want a free market solution while creating anything but. You can either have a free market solution or you can have a regulated, controlled system, but this bastard hybrid they’ve created is worse than either. So now it’s “Buy from these guys or else.” while these guys can charge you whatever they damned well please. For a lot of people it’s going to cost them what little health care they had, since they’re going to either be paying for insurance they can’t afford or fines they can’t afford. Either will be cutting into money they could have actually seen a doctor with. So it accomplishes the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to.

  45. #45 |  Herb | 

    “Why should anybody have to pay for another person’s insurance? …..You have to make the case to me as to why I have to buy insurance because I’ll never use it.”

    Chris, unless you are rich enough to pay out of pocket for all your healthcare needs or you’re immortal, you’ll be using health insurance at some point during your life. Count on it.

    Also, where’d you get this idea that the mandate says you have to pay for another person’s insurance? The point of the mandate is to ensure that other person is paying for their own.

    “I need a lot of good reason to buy a product/service at a loss to me at a time when I cannot afford it, and even if I could would still not be entirely wise for me to get.”

    When is it not wise to buy health insurance? As for the people unable to afford insurance, yes, I sympathize with them. They will be paying this tax, making insurance even more unaffordable.

    But the thing is….I’m not hearing a bunch of poor people here saying, “I can’t afford insurance, so why are you making me pay a tax???” I’m not even hearing people say, “I’m paying out of pocket for all my healthcare needs, so I don’t need this policy you’re trying to force down my neck.”

    No, I’m hearing people who already have insurance saying “You can’t force me to do what I’ve already freely chosen to do, nanny state!” Which, I’m sorry, is just ridiculous.

    As for this:
    “You should be making a stronger argument to me about why you need me to give it to you.”

    Hmm, not sure I get this. When I pay my premium, I’m not redirecting YOUR money anywhere. But when you show up at the hospital with no insurance….you’re redirecting MY money towards yourself. Right?

    I think what you want is an argument why insurance is a worthy product, and well….ask an insurance salesman.

    “One can be opposed to THE POLICY of coercion, whether or not one would personally do the coerced thing willingly or not. ”

    Why? Because of the word “coercion?” Sorry, man, but I shed no tears when a free rider is “coerced” into paying the freight.

    “My approach is to get the government out of both the health care business and the health insurance business, in terms of regulation and in terms of tax policy….”

    Prepare to be disappointed….

    “What insurance people buy (either on their own or through a group plan, employer-sponsored or not) should be up to them.”

    It should, you’re right. But again, what do you plan on doing with the free riders? Deny them services? That’s what you’d do with the guy who tries to get on the bus without a ticket. Kick him off. A hospital is not going to do that to an uninsured patient.

    So what else do you suggest? A mandate to deny services?

  46. #46 |  Herb | 

    Kudos to JThompson…

    “You can either have a free market solution or you can have a regulated, controlled system, but this bastard hybrid they’ve created is worse than either.”

    Yes, instead of using buzzwords like tyranny and socialism and coercion, here we have a substantive critique.

    Unfortunately, I’d much prefer the insurance mandate to price controls (which won’t work and come with their own problems) or trying to eliminate profit from the healthcare system.

    How come the libertarians don’t?

  47. #47 |  BoogaFrito | 

    Even in the worst case scenario, no one’s going to jail for not buying health insurance. You’ll be assessed a tax and if you don’t pay the tax, then there may be penalties but even then, jail time is unlikely.

    Tell that to Wesley Snipes.

  48. #48 |  Herb | 

    Ha!

    I’m not sure what the movie star going to jail for failing to file his tax returns tells us about what will happen to people who fail to buy health insurance….

    But my guess is nothing.

  49. #49 |  Challeron | 

    Herb@143:

    I’m not even hearing people say, “I’m paying out of pocket for all my healthcare needs, so I don’t need this policy you’re trying to force down my neck.”

    You’re hearing it from me: I’ve been unemployed for more than two years (and thus have received no extended UI benefits), and in losing my job I lost my health insurance; but I couldn’t buy an individual health insurance policy from anyone — even though I could afford it — because I have a “pre-existing condition” (I’m taking preventative treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, which runs in my family). I therefore had to learn to Suck It Up, and take better care of my own damned Health, and pay for my Ongoing Treatment in Cash, from the same Doctor I’d been seeing all along: He put me on cheaper medications, minimized the necessary office appointments, and actually charges me less money than he used to bill the insurance company (maybe he’s just being a Nice Guy, but I suspect it’s because not having to deal with a Third-Party Insurer in my case has lowered his paperwork costs in dealing with me).

    The most important benefit to me, something that you don’t seem to acknowledge, is that my Lack of Insurance has forced me to take better care of myself; and this is the very argument against Obamacare, which itself, after all, is little more than an extension of Medicaid to everyone: How about if people start taking responsibility for their OWN damned selves, instead of us hearing “Obama gonna buy my gas, and pay my mortgage” all the damned time?

  50. #50 |  Fargus | 

    If having people do stuff against their will is tyranny, then any and all government is tyranny. Period. And that’s pure bullshit.