Saturday, October 24, 2009

Yes, Madam Speaker, the question of individual mandates IS a serious one

First, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asserted that nobody questions the consitutional authority of Congress to impose individual mandates on citizens to purchase medical insurance. About a day later, it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) turn to say that asking whether Congress has such constitutional authority was not a "serious question".

Set aside for a moment the supreme arrogance exhibited by our congressional Democratic leadership with these statements and consider the constitutional question: Can Congress compel citizens to purchase something they may neither want nor even need? All the Democratic health care reform proposals before Congress include individual mandates requiring citizens to carry health care insurance. Failure to do so is punishable by a hefty fine. It's not clear to me what the penalty might be if one refuses to pay the fine, but that's not important. What IS important is that this legislation would require you to purchase something you may not otherwise have purchased.

The easy argument is that it's in everyone's best interest, so it falls under the general welfare clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. If that's the case, then where does it end? It would clearly further the interests of the "general welfare" if every adult volunteered 20 hours of community service each month. Does that give Congress the Constitutional authority to compel every citizen 18 and over to spend four or five hours every week working in a homeless shelter or picking up trash on the side of the road?

Now, extend this exceptionally far-reaching Congressional authority to an America with a national health care system in which the bad habits of broad segments of the population increase the health care costs for all. Promoting the "general welfare" might then mean outright bans on tobacco and alcohol, mandatory exercise regimens...who knows what else.

Yes, Mr. Leahy and Ms. Pelosi, many people question the authority of Congress to impose individual mandates, and yes, it is a serious question.

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