The Supreme Court has ruled the individual mandate is constitutional as a tax. So the individual mandate is not a permissible use of the commerce clause; however, it is appropriate for Congress to levy a tax that essentially forces taxpayers to buy health insurance.
I will have to wait until I read the entire opinion before rendering judgment, but at first blush this looks like a terrible defeat for the rule of law.
By the way, it looks like it was a 5-4 decision. Kennedy voted with Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Let that sink in.
Correction: I am now reading that it was 6-3. Honestly, I’m reading a lot of conflicting reports, so I’ll refrain from further commentary until I read the opinions.
Correction to the Corrction: Nope, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas and Scalia would have decreed the entire act unconstitutional. It was John Roberts who saved Obamacare.
And now I offer my apologies to all those I scolded for critiquing the John Roberts selection. You were right. I’ve thus changed the post title.
Rush Limbaugh is famous for “demonstrating absurdity by being absurd.” His satire works because it usually exposes the ridiculousness of the thing being satired. Unfortunately for Missouri Democrat Stacey Newman, she doesn’t quite understand that satire doesn’t really work when it highlights your side’s stupidity.
A Missouri House member frustrated with recent legislative debates over birth control and reproductive health is proposing to restrict vasectomies.
Legislation sponsored by Democrat Stacey Newman would allow vasectomies only when necessary to protect a man from serious injury or death. Vasectomies would have to be performed in a hospital, ambulatory surgery center or health facility licensed by the state Department of Health and Senior Services.
The Missouri House last week approved a resolution objecting to the federal health care law and a requirement that most employers or insurers cover contraceptives.
Newman, who’s from St. Louis County, says that such issues affect women the most. She says men also must make family planning decisions.
This is priceless, and for a number of reasons, but three spring immediately to mind.
On the obvious level this doesn’t work because her bill doesn’t mirror the debate that is taking place. Just about no person is actually seeking to ban contraceptives; rather we are simply fighting attempts to mandate that all employers grant insurance coverage for contraceptives, even when they have moral objections to contraception. So it fails on a literal level.
Second, to the extent that there would be people interested in restricting access to birth control for moral reasons, they almost certainly would also support a ban on vasectomies. Guess what Ms. Newman, the Catholic Church is no keener on vasectomies than it is on artificial birth control. So if you were hoping to shame people into dropping their opposition to birth control, they would only hop aboard your bandwagon. So that’s your second fail.
Finally, the legislation itself highlights the fundamental problem with the HHS mandate. Leaving aside the issue of religious liberty, what is disturbing about the mandate is that the federal government is decreeing what is and, by logical extension, what is not to be covered by health insurance. Who is the government to dictate to insurers what they cover? A government big and powerful enough to make these decisions is certainly powerful enough to restrict access to certain procedures. So by introducing this bill, you’re actually proving the fundamental point that opponents of the HHS mandate specifically, and Obamacare in general, have been making. Yet another fail for you. But your failure is our success, so thanks.
As MJ posted yesterday, Pope Benedict was in the news this week in regards to health care this week. A couple things struck me as interesting about this article, and the debate that immediately sprang up around it here.
1. It’s Not All About US Politics
It’s not often that those in the Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter set get to rub their political opponents noses in something and play the, “You’re not a very good Catholic, are you?” game, so it’s hardly surprising if there’s been a bit of crowing in some circles. However, as is often the case, I think it’s a mistake to see this as primarily relating to recent US political struggles, much though Catholic Democrats would like to imagine that the pope is admonishing the USCCB for not supporting ObamaCare. Indeed, the pope’s sentiments should be rather castening to those of us in the developed world: Continue reading
When Catholics justified their decision to vote for Obama, they did so on two grounds: healthcare and foreign policy. The premise was Obama would actually save lives through healthcare and through his more peaceful foreign policy, thus outweighing the damage he would do through his promotion of abortion.
I never found that premise convincing. Not only did I think they underestimated the damage abortion does, but I also believed that they were ignoring what Barack Obama was actually promoting in his foreign policy. To make a long story short, I think most people assumed that since Obama was a Democrat who had opposed the war in Iraq that he would be the opposite of Bush when in truth their positions are very similar.
Since taking office, Obama has largely followed the lead of his predecessor. However today news is coming out that he has surpassed his predecessor in circumventing due process: Obama has authorized the CIA to kill a US citizen believed to be involved in terrorism (H/t Vox Nova).
The idea that an American citizen can be killed without a trial outside of battle is a troubling one, regardless of whether you voted for Obama or not. The death penalty is something that should be used only rarely (if at all-I’m w/ the bishops that it’s not good in modern America), and if used then used in the context of a trial. The rights of trial are not merely procedural technicalities but safeguards designed to protect the dignity of life: that is, regardless of what someone has done, freedom & human life itself are so precious that we take it away only after a deliberate and careful process.
To take away human life outside of self-defense is a power no one, including the President, possesses. One will hope that the media will publish this and emphasize it so that public pressure will dissuade Obama from taking this course of action. Unfortunately, one has to doubt that that hope will be realized.
With the vilification that the political left has done to the right, we Catholics also suffer from the same abuse. Take point in fact that U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spokesperson Sister Mary Ann Walsh demonized Pro-Life Catholics by regurgitating uncorroborated reports of racism against ObamaCare proponents and attributed them to Pro-Life Catholics with her blog entry.
Such blatant disregard for facts in order to advance your personal agenda has become the norm in the mainstream media as well. The Media Research Center has provided the following synopsis to clarify this point:
Update I (4:12pm CST): Prominent Republican Gets Actual Death Threat, NYT Suddenly Drops Concern Over Threatening. To read the entire story by Clay Waters of NewsBusters click here.
Update II (4:21pm CST): A video was tracked down showing Representative John Lewis of Georgia, whom Sister Mary Ann Walsh referenced in her blog post showing absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any racial epithets being thrown around. Again, the uncorroborated evidence that Sister Mary Ann Walsh referenced is a fabricated lie and she willfully used this to smear Pro-Lifers in her less than charitable blog posting.
The video is here:
Update III (6:26pm CST): Representative John Lewis of Georgia, the very man who lied that there were racist remarks yelled at him at the Tea Party protests is known to be very hyperbolic himself. Jeff Poor of NewsBusters recounts the time back in 1995 how Representaive Lewis defamed Republicans by painting them as ‘Nazis‘.
Representative Lewis has shown himself to be nothing more than a political hack that lashes out when he doesn’t get his way.
It seems often the case that a heated political debate causes people to suddenly focus on issues which had previously been essentially ignored. One recent example of this in Catholic circles has been the way in which the debate over the Stupak Amendment to the House health care reform bill suddenly focused scrutiny on the question of abortion coverage in health care insurance.
To recap briefly: From the beginning, one of the concerns that many pro-lifers had expressed about “government health care” was that it would result in government funding for abortion. As the various reform bills coalesced, it became clear that no “government health care” per se would be offered, but rather an exchange on which private health insurance plans which fit specific government-set criteria would be offered. Given this situation, pro-lifers (and in particular, pro-life Democrats, who clearly had the prime say here since Republicans were unlikely to support the bill either way since they saw its overall structure as detrimental to the common good) insisted that one of the stipulations for the private health insurance policies offered via the exchange (and qualified for government subsidy for lower and middle-income Americans) be that the plan not cover abortions.
Pro-choice Democrats of course hated this provision. Some progressive Catholics also seemed eager to explain why the bill would be just fine even without Stupak, doubtless in order to avoid a situation in which pro-life advocates (backed by the bishops) successfully made the case to conservative Democrats that supporting a bill without language similar to the Stupak amendment was unacceptable for Catholics and other pro-lifers. The primary argument that surfaced was, “Most private insurance policies already cover abortion, so even without Stupak’s language, the status quo does not change. More people just get health care, and that’s good, right?”
As long time readers of this blog know, my mother came from Newfoundland, and, after my birth in the US, my mother and father returned to St. John’s where we lived until 1961. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to wish a swift recovery to the Premier of Newfoundland, Danny Williams, as he comes to the US for heart surgery.
(Updates at the bottom of this article.)
Harry Reid was able to make huge concessions to the state of Nebraska and bought Senator Ben Nelson’s vote a la Mary Landrieu. The vote seems headed to the floor with all 60 votes secured to impose on American’s draconian laws that would hike insurance rates and begin the downward slope towards European style socialism.
Nelson secured full federal funding for his state to expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Other states must pay a small portion of the additional cost. He won concessions for qualifying nonprofit insurers and for Medigap providers from a new insurance tax. He also was able to roll back cuts to health savings accounts.
What’s in the bill that I’m aware of? I’ve broken down the Washington Post article almost verbatim below:
Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said ‘no-go’ on the most recent health care bill that Harry Reid and the Democrats have compiled. This most likely will derail President Obama’s efforts to have a Senate health care bill done by Christmas.
“As it is, without modifications, the language concerning abortion is not sufficient,”
Democrat Party Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana cast her vote for Harry Reid’s health care bill and became the biggest purchased vote in American legislative history. She sold her vote for a cool $100 million in order to begin debate on the anti-life health care bill.
As of 24 hours ago Senator Landrieu was still wavering on whether to vote for the health care bill. But in a dark smoke filled room away from the lights and cameras of the media a deal had been struck which bought the senators vote. Surprising considering President Obama promised an open and lively debate throughout the entire process and he has failed miserably in delivering on this promise.
Lies, corruption, and blatant disregard for the American people, in this instance, the people of Louisiana was in full display as Senator Landrieu cast bought vote for the health care bill. She was so brazen about selling out her soul for money the U.S. government does not have that she proudly declared, “And it’s not a $100 million fix. It’s a $300 million fix.” Bragging that she was bought for $300 million. Some have called it the great new Louisiana Purchase.
Extremist Democrats and liberals are hailing Harry Reid’s Health Care bill as a victory for pro-abortion activists. Though the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called it “completely unacceptable“.
…Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the bishops’ conference Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said Reid’s “is actually the worst bill we’ve seen so far on the life issues.”
He called it “completely unacceptable,” adding that “to say this reflects current law is ridiculous.”
I’ve been thinking a bit about the principle of subsidiarity recently as it relates to health care reform. To provide some context, here is the Catechism on subsidiarity:
1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”7
1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.
Despite the rancor which sometimes surrounds the health care debate in the Catholic blogosphere, it seems to me that the basic issue is different prudential judgments regarding the application of the principle of subsidiarity. I’m a bit torn between two ways to apply subsidiarity in this particular circumstance, and so I thought it might be worthwhile to explore the different positions as I understand them.
Having a number of fairly liberal friends and acquaintances, it struck me recently how many blog posts and facebook updates I’d seen lately that began, “I was just watching one of the anti-health-reform protests and I’m just so angry right now.”
I get that many on the progressive side are very, very excited about whichever of the major proposals in the congress at this point ends up being the chosen one by Obama (despite the fact that none of them actually get that close to being what progressives have wanted in regards to health care reform for all these years), if only because they’re very excited to see Obama succeed at whatever he tries. But it strikes me that there’s a difference in how people think about the state and about legislation at play here as well. Thinking back, I can’t recall any example of a piece of legislation on any topic that I was so excited about that it made me angry to see people out protesting against it. Sure, there have been a few things that I’ve strongly supported (like the marriage amendment ballot initiative in California; the national partial birth abortion ban, etc.) or strongly opposed. But there’s nothing I found myself so worked up about that I felt it necessary to watch the protests for or against and then get furious that there were opponents out there — whether their sentiments were fair and honest or not.
My thinking would tend to be, “Hey, it’s just legislation. We win or we lose.” But then, that springs from a basic assumption that things will not change very much from the status quo, that the government will work no miracles for us or against us, and that on a day to day basis the government basically is and should be invisible to us. That seems to be a set of assumptions which many on the more progressive side of the political realm do not share.
People at various points in the ideological spectrum have pointed out it’s a little odd to see conservatives objecting to the idea of the government deciding what medical procedures ought not to be covered, when they’re apparently okay with insurance companies deciding what procedures ought not be covered, or with people not being able to afford procedures because they lack good insurance. However, it strikes me this difference may actually make a fair amount of sense, both for some pragmatic reasons and some emotional/ideological ones.
As Catholics, and other Americans, continue the debate over national solutions to help the uninsured, Our Lady of Hope Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin is helping treat the uninsured one person at a time. Long time reader Steve Karlen is the development director for the clinic, which opened in April of this year. OLHC has a unique model, based on Dr. Kloess and Dr. Johnson’s desire to provide outstanding primary care through a structure designed in accordance with Catholic principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.
Like the increasingly popular private practice or closed practice model, OLHC accepts up to a set number of patients, which due to OLHC’s non profit model are called benefactors. The limit is set at 600, which has not yet been met, so the clinic is still accepting memberships. Benefactors receive unlimitted primary care through the clinic with no additional charges or co-pays beyond the annual benefactor fee — which is set at a 1200 dollars with various discounts which can apply for couples, children, or younger patients. (This pricing is comparable to other closed practice/concierge-style doctor’s offices.) Like a closed practice, benefactors can make same day appointments any time and have direct access to their doctors via phone and email. They are expected to carry insurance for specialist, prescription and hospital care — however benefactors can often save money overall on health care by switching to a high deductible plan for care not covered by the clinic.
It is one of the interesting contradictions of politics that political factions sometimes rely on the problems they seek to eliminate for their existence. For instance, it has been widely noted that while it is generally part of the Democratic set of ideals to reduce economic disparity, while Republicans tend to be accepting of it, Democrats are most successfully elected in areas with high economic disparity and Republicans are most successfully elected in areas with economic homogeneity. One might imagine that this is because those who actually experience inequality see the folly of their actions and switch to become Democratic voters, and perhaps there’s some level of truth to this, but still it seems odd that the Democratic hold on a region strengthens as its inequality increases. In other words, they do better if their goal of creating a more egalitarian economy fails.
I was reminded of this reading an article this morning about a group of newly elected Democrats in the House who are from some of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts. (Democrats now control 14 out of the 25 richest congressional districts in the country.) These congressmen are worried about a provision in the pending health care legislation which would fund much of the new spending with a tax increase of 1-5.4% on income groups making $350k/yr or more.
I don’t have an objection in principle to taxes that hit the rich harder than the poor. As was observed about the reasonableness of robbing banks (if one is going to be a robber): That’s where the money is. Continue reading
MSNBC recently did an interesting piece on the shortage of primary care practitioners, which has become particularly acute in rural and low-income areas. As a result, many older doctors feel that they cannot retire because there is no one to take their place:
There are not enough general care doctors to meet current needs, let alone the demands of some 46 million uninsured, who threaten to swamp the system.