Supreme Court ruling is a threat to Americans’ freedom of choice

I missed writing a column last week and, when a couple of people asked me why, I answered as I usually do in such situations: liberal media suppression.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that dramatic. I was out of town and my editor quite understood. But given the temper of the time, I thought it a good opportunity to jump on the victimization bandwagon. One can’t really navigate modern American society these days without being identified with some oppressed group.

So this was my mindset as I read through the columns and letters that had been published during my absence, particularly those after the Supreme Court’s decision last Thursday. Difficult to parse out a particular group when almost everyone is a victim in this situation. There was some pretty good writing about impacts of the decision, but I have to say it’s not just the economics of the situation I object to. It’s the serfdom.

Not that everyone is going to be dressed in drab homespun garments, hoeing potatoes under the watchful eye of an aristocratic overlord. That clearly is the scenario for the modern environmental movement. My issue is the American public being pulled down a couple more rungs on the ladder to liberty.

We can discuss the nuts and bolts of the Obamacare decision, and there appears to be plenty of nuts in its drafting. But essentially, giving your government vastly more coercive power cannot increase the liberty of an individual and must, by its nature, diminish individuals’ freedom of choice.

The idea that a citizen is free to choose lies at the basis of liberty and is the engine of economic growth for societies that improve the lot of mankind. One recent analyst approached the issue by commenting that forcing insurance companies into health care exchanges, which are part of this bill, will encourage competition and choice, which is good for the consumer.

I think this normally could be true. However, the exterior regulatory framework here makes it economically infeasible for companies involved in these exchanges to stay in business. This, I think, is at least partially by design.

It is abundantly clear the drafters of this bill wanted to push the nation to a Great Britain-like, single-payer health care model, but just could not quite deliver the legislative coup de grace.

So, it seems the framework in which the insurers were to operate was constructed in such a way that premiums would either become unreachable for much of the population or the providers would simply be forced from the market.

In either case, it will certainly become the job of a benevolent government to rescue the citizens from this self-created catastrophe by implementing a single-payer system of the type that has resulted repeatedly in bloated bureaucracies, physician shortages and rationed care.

The larger problem with the legislation and the court opinion upholding it is not the individual mandate, but the permission granted by the Supreme Court to the national government to order people and institutions to do almost anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s done by a penalty, tax or a magic wand. The result is the same.

There is also another casualty of this decision and that is the relative freedom of the states to conduct their own business. The idea of the states being little laboratories of democracy seems quaintly left in the past as requirement after requirement is overlaid on them by the national government, although they do share some blame as most of the requirements come attached to money from Washington and anyone with any sense knows that government money never travels alone.

Additionally, almost every state will need more bailing out from the functionally broke national government due to the increased Medicaid participation forced on them by 2016.

It seems a valid working hypothesis that after the mauling the court took from the left with the Citizens United decision and the withering attacks within the Beltway on the court when it looked like they would strike down Obamacare, Chief Justice John Roberts took a safe way out. Anyone who thinks the court doesn’t look out the window to the Washington scene might want to remember FDR’s court-packing plan.

It’s little wonder the decision’s message to most Americans is: You fix this in November.

Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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July 5, 2012

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
734 South 7th Street
Grand Junction, CO 81501

Dear Editors:

  Rick Wagner’s latest offering – “Supreme Court ruling is a threat to American’s freedom of choice” (July 5, 2012) – reflects Republicans’ continuing consternation over Chief Justice Roberts’ anomalous “change-of-heart” in upholding “Obamacare”.

  “Obamacare” enacts recommendations originating from the Heritage Institute – a “conservative” think tank – which were embraced by Republican’s beginning in 1992, and were implemented as Massachusetts’ “Romney Care” in 2006.

  In 2009, President Obama eschewed progressives’ demands for a “public option” (“Medicare for all”) and advocated the Republican approach to health care reform – hoping for bipartisan support.  No Republicans voted for “Oromney Care”.

  Republican policy prescriptions included an “individual mandate” administered through the tax code and an increase in the Medicaid eligibility standard to 133% of the poverty level.  As a result, today almost 100% of Massachusetts’ children and 98% of its population are covered by health insurance.  “Oromney Care” seeks to achieve similar results on a national scale – even without Republican support.

  Meanwhile, a recent poll showed that 41% of Americans don’t even know yet that the Supreme Court last Thursday upheld the constitutionality of the “individual mandate”—much less that Medicaid eligibility expansion was declared “optional” for the States.

  While 85% of Americans are currently covered by some form of health insurance, some 55 million Americans are not.  “Obamacare” improves the reliability of existing   insurance policies by prohibiting the “sharp practices” engendered by the “profit motive”.

  “Obamacare” thereby eliminated some 1300 “death panels” financed by private insurers, but 20+ Republican governors are now taking on that role – proclaiming that they will not opt for Medicaid expansion or implement state “insurance exchanges”.

  “Obamacare” hopes to extend health insurance coverage to some 30 million more Americans, while the Republicans’ Romney-endorsed “Ryan Budget” reaches 3 million.

  No wonder pseudo-“conservatives” like Wagner seem haplessly confused – equating their own policies to “serfdom”.

              Bill Hugenberg (257-1998)
Word Count = 300         543 Rim Drive, GJ 81507

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