Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Obamacare and the supremes

Today the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on Obamacare. What is unusual about this case is that since it has not been implemented, no one has be overtly harmed. Generally, the court hears cases in which an aggrieved party sues claiming a violation of constitutional rights. In this instance, there is no aggrieved party unless it is the constitution itself. That is the crux of the matter and makes this one of the most important cases of our lifetime if not the lifetime of the country. In essence, if the court rules in favor of the administration then the power of the federal government is deemed to be unlimited. The founders had structured a federal government whose power was constrained by the rights of the individuals and could not be superceded by the feds. If the federal government has the power to mandate that the citizens purchase a particular product, then the governmental power is basically no longer limited. It is interesting that the supremes, the administration and the congress swear to uphold the constitution. All therefore could be in violation of that oath. Although I am no legal scholar, I would have thought that this case would be a slam dunk and thrown out on a unanimous vote. I am of course naive. Nonetheless, a majority vote in favor of the administration will fundamentally change the role of the federal government and fundamentally change this country. On the other hand, a vote against the administration will call into question a plethora of legislation and federal government actions. I remember hearing James Clyburn of South Carolina saying in an interview that much of the legislation passed by the congress violated the spirit - if not the letter - of the constitution because the document as written was not applicable to modern times. Thus if enough members of the supremes think this way - that the constitution should be a living rather than static document - then we all will find ourselves living in a different America subject to the whims of the times. In that case it will be almost impossible to change. Even if there were a republican president and a republican majority in both houses of congress, it would be difficult to repeal intrusive legislation. The republicans would not likely have 60 votes to repeal in the senate and I am not convinced that the majority of republicans would even try. I hope it does not come to that and Obamacare will be found unconstitutional. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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