Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Owned! (I think I was supposed to type Pwn3d or something)

I presume, although maybe I should not, that the New York Times tries to publish a representative sample of letters in response to any given news story or op-ed column. If that is correct, it appears that Jason Mazzone's recent argument that the health care reform act is unconstitutional did not, shall we say, persuade a high proportion of readers.

After the bill passed, as conservative state attorneys general began to file lawsuits, most knowledgeable commentators dismissed these as stunts intended to appease the inhabitants of wingnutistan and predicted that they had no prospect of advancing. They did not reckon with the judicial activism of the right, however, and I am now far from sanguine. Now that they have found a federal judge to agree that the law is unconstitutional, the case will inevitably make it to the Supreme Court no matter what, and the same justices who produced Bush v. Gore are sitting there licking their chops as they wait for it.

The basic argument, defended by Mazzone, is that the Commerce Clause does not give Congress the power to force people to engage in economic activity. As the letter writers point out, this is basically nonsensical. I can even make a few points of my own. Paying taxes is economic activity, and so is buying a stamp to mail your tax return. So is paying whatever the additional cost may be for all regulated goods and services. In order to carry out any public purpose, under the Commerce Clause, Congress reallocates costs and income in one way or another.

The fact is, if your appendix bursts, or you are shot using an unregulated hand gun, or you ride your motorcycle without a helmet and end up getting scraped off the asphalt, all of us will engage in economic activity by paying for your medical treatment. If making you buy health insurance, along with various measures to make sure you can afford it, is unconstitutional, so is requiring doctors and hospitals to treat people in emergencies. Which the federal government already does, and with good reason. Your supposed "liberty" not to buy health insurance infringes my liberty to hold onto my own money. Which is just one more reason why libertarianism is fundamentally nonsensical.

Yet somehow, utter nonsense dominates our political discourse.


kathy a. said...

two other federal courts have found it constitutional, and i think on broader grounds. [sorry, too busy to look this up.] lawsuits are apparently pending in other courts.

maybe it will go to the USSC, eventually. but the supremes don't take a lot of cases; they look to conflicts among the circuit courts of appeal as weighing in favor of their discretionary review [petition for a writ of certiorari]; and none of these cases has made it to a circuit court decision yet.

so far, this is a lot of noise. it is certainly worth talking about the merits, though, because the guy you linked is not the only one with such stupid thoughts.

Cervantes said...

Nope, the SCOTUS doesn't have to take it, but the majority is highly politicized and I have absolutely no faith that they will even try to sensibly interpret the constitution.

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