In the wake of the decision by Judge Rodger Vinson yesterday to strike down “Obamacare”, or if you prefer, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, Public Law No. 111-148, I find myself wanting to join in and throw my two cents worth into the maelstrom of comment and thought on this huge yet very simple issue.
Simple in that it is not really about “Affordable Care” at all. In spite of what the Mandarins in Washington say on the issue, this law is really about the exercise of power; nothing more and certainly nothing less.
The nation was given a great gift by the Hon. Roger Vinson: A truly well thought out and sound legal decision based on rule of law and not on emotional tirades or blatant liberal bleating from activists in the public or private sector.
We were also treated not only to great legal and political theater, but to great statesmanship from the bench as well. It all began in the first few lines of the decision when Judge Vinson quoted James Madison in Federalist Papers, specifically Federalist 51, where he said:
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself”.
And so began what was to become in essence and in fact, a civics primer. One who’s material, substance, and spirit should have been familiar to the 111th Congress who passed this law in the first place as well as to the President who signed it into law, but was plainly found lacking in spite of the massive objections of most of the American people.
Not content with simply quoting one of the founding fathers of this nation, Judge Vincent then went into a tireless study of case law going back to Marbury v. Madison in 1803 to present day case law.
The issues in contention were wide ranging. They included but were not limited to the individual mandate, Medicaid funding, the standing of plaintiffs, and to Severability.
The individual mandate has been by far, the single biggest issue due to the government's contention that it is enforceable under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. In his decision, Judge Vinson stated,
"Never before has Congress required that everyone buy a product from a private company (essentially for life) just for being alive and residing in the United States."
Until the “New Deal” was instituted in the 1930’s the Commerce Clause was understood to exist as a way to keep the several states from creating trade and commercial barriers between themselves. This understanding was violated when the Roosevelt Administration coerced the Supreme Court to expand that interpretation during the initial days of the “New Deal”. This was accomplished by threatening to “pack the court” with new, more sympathetic judges who would allow nearly everything the Executive Branch and the Democratic-controlled Congress wanted. The then chastised and weakened Supreme Court inflated the clause into a general license for anything a majority party happened to favor.
Now we find ourselves with a law even more sweeping and more dangerous to the nation than the “New Deal” of the 1930’s. Not only is it dangerous to individual freedom and the concept of Federalism, but to the very survival of limited government in this republic. If this law were to stand, the precedent would be set and there would be literally no restraint on what the federal government could compel and command a citizen or private enterprise to do. Simply put, the government could, by fiat, or by regulation, demand that a private person or enterprise enter into contracts or engage in commerce as it deemed necessary. For example, should a majority of Congress and a President decide that electric vehicles are necessary to the preservation of a clean environment and demand that all automobile owners replace their internal combustion powered vehicles with electric vehicles as they are used in, and necessary to interstate commerce. In another example, they could make it obligatory to sell housing, even at prices below cost, to the homeless by the simple expedient of declaring homelessness a detriment to interstate commerce. The legal contortions are literally limitless and yet frighteningly real when one considers the thousands of laws that are passed in hundreds of jurisdictions nationwide.
Judge Vinson’s ruling brings all this and more into stark relief and hopefully, in the coming months and not years as some predict, this law will be permanently sent to the ash heap of history; a cautionary lesson in just how close we came to destroying our own nation and the freedoms we enjoy.