Yes, Congresswoman Pelosi, We're Serious: On the Constitutionality of Obamacare
by DR. PAUL KENGOR
Apr 05, 2012 | 995 views | 1 1 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print


 


Yes, Congresswoman Pelosi, We're Serious:

On the Constitutionality of Obamacare


By Dr. Paul Kengor


 


America anxiously awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare. At the core of the decision is a simple question: Is the “individual mandate” in Obamacare constitutional? And thus, is Obamacare constitutional?


 


Several times during the debate and deliberation, my mind harkened back to the words of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Remarking on the original Obamacare bill, Pelosi infamously said that first “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”


 


Even more outrageous was another Pelosi observation, especially given the pivotal role of the Supreme Court. In October 2009, Pelosi was asked by a reporter if the healthcare legislation was constitutional. Here’s a transcript of the exchange:





Reporter: “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”


 


Pelosi: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”


 


Reporter: “Yes, yes I am.”


Pelosi’s incredulity at that perfectly reasonable question is as telling as it is stunning. She scorned the very thought, as if the reporter were either a total idiot, an unregenerate right-wing Neanderthal, or had flown in on a flying saucer from Neptune.


 


And yet, as Congresswoman Pelosi learned last week, the reporter had hit the crux of the issue. So did state attorneys general nationwide, who quickly filed lawsuits precisely on whether Obamacare is constitutional.


 


Pelosi’s contempt for that notion—apparently shared by many of her “progressive” colleagues—has come back to bite her and President Obama and the entirety of the progressive/liberal movement. Democrats who scoff at such questions do so at their own peril. There is another branch of government in this country; it’s called the judiciary. And that branch for over 200 years has been tasked with exactly such a duty: that is, reviewing the constitutionality of legislation.


 


Ironically, Pelosi’s behavior does a greater disservice to the goals of her own party than to conservatives. Liberals need to step back and understand what has unraveled with Obamacare: Their party leaders flagrantly ignored legitimate constitutional objections (and numerous other criticisms) raised by opponents. These objections were so well-placed that they now hold the potential to place a dagger in the heart of their prized legislation. If the individual mandate is struck down as un-constitutional, then the entire Obamacare legislation might be finished, given that the individual mandate is the chief funding mechanism for the entire program.


 


Even then, the constitutional problems don’t end there. Next up, probably next year, will be the Obama-HHS mandate requiring every American, including all religious believers and institutions—with the Catholic Church at the center of the controversy—to fund contraception and abortion drugs. Here, too, President Obama and his allies are pushing another mandate that will have to be reviewed by courts because of its blatant challenge to the Constitution—in this case, the First Amendment’s freedom of religion and conscience.


 


Alas, this brings me to a sincere query for liberals: Why do you tolerate Democratic Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi (among others)? I could literally write a book on outrageous Pelosi comments uttered just in the last five years, from amazing statements like those quoted above to her breathtaking remarks on her own Catholic Church and its teachings on human life.


 


Why do Democrats accept such shoddy leadership? They are making their dearest plans vulnerable to immediate rejection by the constitutional process. If I were a progressive dreaming of universal healthcare, I would be extremely disappointed. As noted by Joe Postell, a scholar on the progressive movement, progressives have been trying to implement “universal healthcare” since literally 1912, when those words appeared in that year’s Progressive Party platform. In 2009, they finally had their big chance, but may have blown it by ridiculing or ignoring—and not dealing with—their critics’ objections.


 


Or, on the other hand, do they have such disrespect and disregard for their critics that they don’t care what they say? If that’s the case, it isn’t prudent leadership. Think about your own life or career or home or company: For major decisions, don’t you at least consider possible obstacles or pitfalls?


 


Someday, “progressives” may have a solid majority on the Supreme Court and can blithely dismiss the original intent of the Constitution. If Americans keep voting as they do, such a majority is a distinct possibility. For now, however, they ignore realities at their peril. Simply calling conservatives idiots isn’t very smart.


 


Yes, Congresswoman Pelosi, we’re serious.


 


— Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."




© 2012 by The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. The views & opinions

expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City College.


 


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April 08, 2012
With or without Obamacare, we'll still have to deal with the hidden costs of our healthcare system and insurance. Consider:

Most of us drive our vehicles very carefully, even though we have insurance to cover accidents.

But suppose you had no insurance. (I periodically went without it when I was a young adult and earning a pittance.) Think how much more carefully you'd drive! And how much more slowly. Yes, you would. And you'd likely drive less. (And maybe walk more and become healthier for it.)

For many people, I suspect, the more auto insurance they have, the more they tend to drive and to drive faster and less guardedly. (For proof of that, keep imagining how you'd drive without insurance.) That means more accidents in which people are killed and injured. Although insurance is a wonderful thing — preventing, for example, countless bankruptcies and bestowing peace of mind — it might have the unintended consequence of causing more accidents and more deaths and injuries than if no one had insurance.

Now consider:

In a report on how to fight pandemics, the March 2012 Discover magazine says the secret to fighting them is “knowing their real cause: disease factories built by people. Ironically, hospitals turn out to be highly efficient disease factories. They allow the proliferation and spread of dangerous germs among patients, and the evolution of those germs to extreme levels of virulence.”

In that same vein, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated 12 years ago:

“America's healthcare system is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., causing between 230,000 and 284,000 fatalities per year, behind only heart disease and cancer.”

The report didn't say the third leading cause of death is poor health. It said the healthcare system itself. In other words, our country's third leading cause of death is the army of good-intentioned doctors, nurses, and others whose ultimate duty is to help us avoid death.

JAMA provides a breakdown of the deaths caused by healthcare:

- 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery

- 7,000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals

- 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals

- 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals

-106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs

Then add the nearly 200,000 patients that may be killed each year by blood clots following surgery or illness, the leading cause of preventable hospital deaths in the U.S. , according to David Goldhill, author of “How American Healthcare Killed My Father,” citing a report in The Wall Street Journal. (Watch Goldhill's video at http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=6597)

It makes one want to ask an absurd question: “Why don't we drop our health insurance and stay away from doctors?”

If no one had health insurance, lots of things could happen, good and bad. Here's a quirky thing I believe is possible:

In 2008, shortly after the economic collapse, I was watching a CNN reporter interview a woman on the street. She had just lost her job. The reporter asked how she was coping.

“Along with my job, I lost my health insurance,” she said [I paraphrase]. “Now I have to really be careful to watch what I eat, lose weight, exercise, and take better care of myself.” I got the impression that while she had health insurance, she tended to be a bit reckless with her health, figuring she was covered if she got sick.

Some people, maybe many, are like that, due to what is called the “moral hazard” (see http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2011/07/does_health_coverage_make_people_healthier.html, which says, “Insurance is also the source of what economists call ‘moral hazard,’ where those who are protected against the consequences of their actions take greater risks than they otherwise would.”)

Without health insurance, CNN's interviewed woman became like the driver without car insurance.

Enter President Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act (AHA), whose aim is to get everyone insured and require everyone to pay a premium.

A lot of young adults currently elect to have no health insurance (as I did years ago) because of its cost, or because they want to save money while they're young and healthy. Once forced to buy insurance under AHA, many can be counted on to frequently see a doctor for minor things simply “to get my money's worth.”

How many more people, BECAUSE they have insurance, will pay less attention to diet and exercise like CNN's woman on the street, and develop medical problems (such as diabetes) that require visits to the doctor that they would not have had to make while uninsured and cautious?

AHA will bring an estimated 32 million more people into the healthcare system (and will leave alone about 20 million of the 50 million uninsured to fend for themselves) and countless others into it more often. It's supposed to do that, because Mr. Obama wants to spread the health around. The upshot is that millions more will interact with the healthcare providers who are, according to JAMA, our nation's third leading cause of death.

These providers, unless there is a huge increase in their already insufficient number, will be stressed by the increased demand for services. Their error rate is likely to rise.

Could our healthcare system then become the second leading cause of death? Or even, in the greatest of ironies, the first?

Do we really know what we're doing?