The Constitutionality Briar Patch

DrRich | January 7th, 2011 - 7:17 am


“Drown me! Roast me! Skin me alive! Do whatever you please!” cried Br’er Rabbit. “Only please, Br’er Fox, please – whatever you do, just don’t throw me into that briar patch!”
- Joel Chandler Harris

Quite a lot has happened on the healthcare front over the holidays, even in addition to the Telltale Pacemaker story, and DrRich suspects that more than a few of his readers – busily eating, drinking and being merry – may have missed some of it. But fear not. DrRich is committed to catching you all up.

One story even the most dedicated of you revelers might have heard something about is that a U.S. District Judge, Henry E. Hudson, has declared the Obamacare individual mandate to be unconstitutional.

This ruling has no immediate practical result, since the individual mandate is not scheduled to go into effect until 2014. But Hudson’s ruling has given a great boost to Tea Partiers, certain Republicans, constitutional fundamentalists, and other recalcitrants who keep trying to disrupt the modern Progressive program by invoking the Constitution, and other old-timey scripture, written by slave-holding, wig-wearing, pompous old white men who didn’t even like each other very much, let alone Diversity, and who had never even heard of Twitter or Facebook or 4G networks, and whose scribblings therefore cannot possibly have anything important to say to modern-day people like us. In any case, Hudson’s ruling is not dispositive, and the matter of the constitutionality of the individual mandate will finally be decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a related matter, also over the holidays, President Obama phoned the president of the Philadelphia Eagles to praise him for giving Michael Vick a second chance.

Some readers will not immediately see how President Obama’s phone call to the Eagles is relevant to Hudson’s ruling on the individual mandate, but that’s what DrRich is here for. You see, Dear Readers, Mr. Obama is a very brilliant and subtle man, whose actions and words can never be taken at face value, but which (like, as it happens, the actions and words of Christ) must be interpreted in the context of the entirety of his life’s work. Accordingly, his phone call to the Eagles can only be properly interpreted if one understands (as the President undoubtedly does) that Judge Hudson is the selfsame judge who sentenced Mr. Vick to the federal penitentiary for engaging in unsavory sporting activities involving dogs.

It should be clear then that President Obama’s real message, for those few of us who are perceptive enough to understand it, is: “Judge Hudson has a history of making rulings whose ultimate result is the precise opposite of what one might originally think. His Vick ruling was seen by everybody as an action that would ruin Mr. Vick’s career forever. But, as a result of that action, Mr. Vick dedicated himself as never before to becoming a great quarterback, and has already achieved heights he might never have reached if Hudson had been more lenient. So when Hudson says the individual mandate is unconstitutional, take heart! The final effect of his ruling will be – as in the case of Michael Vick – the opposite of what everybody thinks.”

The loud protests you hear from Mr. Obama’s side regarding the challenge to the constitutionality of the individual mandate, for the most part, are genuine. Most Progressives, lacking Obama’s subtlety, are outraged that something as important and as groundbreaking as Obamacare is threatened by mere scratchings made by old men in ancient days on a piece of cracked parchment. The official defense of the individual mandate made shortly after Hudson’s ruling, by none other than Kathleen Sebelius and Eric Holder, stresses this point. These eminences (one of whom is the Attorney General of the United States for goodness sake!) were utterly unable to come up with a legal or constitutional justification for the individual mandate, and based their defense entirely on the proposition that Obamacare is really, really important, and that the individual mandate is vital to Obamacare. The notion that if something is important enough the Constitution must be pushed aside (or, more accurately, “re-interpreted” in light of modern-day exigencies) is a given for Progressives, and they just don’t understand how any reasonable person could think otherwise.

Mr. Obama, DrRich believes, looks at it differently. Let us review some basic facts:

1) President Obama favors, and is working toward, a single-payer healthcare system. He has said so publicly many times. (Here’s one example.)
2) Obamacare places us on the road to a single-payer system – either a direct single-payer system run entirely by the government, or a single-payer system which is administered by minutely-regulated “health insurance utilities.”
3) The health insurance industry is currently running out the string on its fundamentally broken business model, and desperately needs Obamacare as a pathway to a graceful exit strategy.
4) The sole reason for the individual mandate was to get the health insurance companies on board with Obamacare, that is, the individual mandate buys the insurance industry a few more years of life – one last windfall – in return for which they will become heavily regulated utilities,  and likely avoid the ignominious and catastrophic failure their current trajectory suggests.
5) On the other hand, if we instead went to single-payer healthcare like the President and his Progressive friends want – such as Medicare for all – then the constitutionality of the individual mandate would immediately become moot.

If these facts – particularly the ones about the state of the health insurance industry – are correct (and DrRich believes he has amply demonstrated that they are), then declaring the individual mandate to be unconstitutional will actually play into Mr. Obama’s hands quite nicely.

If the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional and Obamacare becomes entirely defunct, the insurance industry will remain on their path to imminent disaster. They will be forced to price nearly everyone out of the insurance market, and themselves out of business, and we Americans will be left with no obvious choice but single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare by default, as the only obvious constitutional option. (There are, of course, other options – such as the one DrRich has proposed – but these likely will continue to be ignored.)

Mr. Obama will go on TV and say:

“We tried! Nobody can say we didn’t. We presented our nation with a healthcare plan that would cover almost everybody, and which would save the private insurance industry. But now, the actions of the Republican naysayers have destroyed the only mechanism that would have allowed the insurance industry to continue to function.  And now the insurance companies are falling like dominoes, and uninsured Americans will soon number over 100 million.  You and your loved ones and your neighbors face imminent death or disability from Republican neglect.  We must act, and we must act now.

“I and my Democratic colleagues did not want it this way. We fought hard for our centrist, market-based plan.  But our Republican opponents and their allies in the reactionary Court leave us no choice.  My fellow Americans, as a matter of national security, and of national survival, we must pass into law, within the next 30 days, my new program to expand Medicare to cover all Americans. All other paths have been closed to us. And if you don’t like it, as I myself do not, you know who to hold responsible at the polls.”

On the other hand, of course, the individual mandate may be declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. (DrRich does not understand how this could happen under the Constitution as written, and neither, apparently, does Mr. Holder. But given the “living document” proclivities of many justices these days, one must admit it is reasonably likely to happen.) And if the individual mandate is declared constitutional, then the federal government will have been granted the authority to dictate any behavior it wishes upon individual Americans, as long as those behaviors are deemed to be important enough by the government to the collective interest.

Either outcome to the constitutional challenge to the individual mandate, therefore, will be more than convenient to the ends of President Obama. He understands this very well as he stands there, entirely serene and above the fray, watching Sebelius and Holder, and his other minions, caterwauling over the constitutional challenge to the individual mandate.

“Please, Br’er Elephant,  whatever you do, please don’t throw my individual mandate into that briar patch!”

5 Responses to “The Constitutionality Briar Patch”

  1. Jupe says:

    “1) President Obama favors, and is working toward, a single-payer health care system. He has said so publicly many times. (Here’s one example.)”

    Another possibility (the “consensus” among non-elite progressives, actually) is that it was the progressive base that got played by Obama. Before Obama got elected, Ron Paul was saying that Obama is a neocon.

    So, yeah, public utility.

    Also, most “on the ground” progressives dislike Obamacare overall, but *hate* the mandate. Really, really hate it. We were also called “f***ing retarded” by Emanuel for opposing fake “centric” (actually, pro-vested interest) policies and politicians. Sigh.

  2. [...] The Constitutionality Briar Patch [...]

  3. LEM says:

    Only one problem with the above analysis. If the individual mandate (or ANY part of the ACA bill) is found unconstitutional, the entire bill dies and we are back where we started two years ago. Reason: the ACA bill does NOT contain a severability clause.

    • Dr. Mike says:

      Plenty of bills do not carry severability clauses, and many are still upheld in piecemeal fashion after sections are challenged in the courts. Urban myth.

      While Obama and many progressive really, really want single payer, its not gonna happen soon, if ever.

      1. Obama is likely a one term president, doomed by a sagging economy and poor jobs growth.
      2. Dems have lost control in Congress.
      3. No one except progressives want single payer in the US, and as long as our burden of disease continue to increase, no one will really price themselves out of the market.
      4. Single payer will fail in Europe, showing that gov’t cannot control healthcare costs, before we can get a single payer system off the ground here.

  4. Kristina says:

    Obamacare. No Comment. Too exhausting. Tired of hoping.

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