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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare Ruling:

I don't believe Obamacare is constitutional, regardless of what Chief Justice Roberts says.  The power to command people to do things, even when their not doing it in no way harms anyone else, is unlimited power, and unsuited to a Republic.  People should not have to buy health insurance if they don't want it.  Perhaps they would rather have food or housing or transportation than health care, especially if they don't get sick very often and don't feel the risk of becoming sick is very high.  It's not right that the government can just set people's spending priorities by decree, regardless of what's in the individual's best interest.

However, the Constitution hasn't been followed for hundreds of years, so this isn't particularly any more odious a ruling than any other.  Basically, 'Constitutional' now means two things:  If a democratic majority wants it, it's constitutional.  UNLESS the democratic majority is singling out a minority group and denying it equality/mistreating it in some way, in which case that isn't constitutional and the minority side wins.  These are the only two standards applied to any question of constitutionality.  The Arizona law was unconstitutional because it singled out a minority, so the Supreme Court nullified it, but Obamacare is constitutional because it is a government benefit, not a punishment, so it breezed through.

But let's ignore the 'implications' of the law passing constitutional muster and simply look at whether it is a good or bad law.  The fact is, America is the only rich country on Earth that doesn't provide public health care for all.  This is a moral gap that needed to be filled.  Unhealthy people are unhappy, they can't help but be, which for a utilitarian is unacceptable.  The fact that poor health is no one's fault, because no one deliberately seeks out injury or illness, makes it all the more pressing that we offer relief to the unfortunate.  Obamacare wasn't the best public health system on Earth, but at least it is a public health system.  This is an improvement over the status quo.

There are also economic arguments to be made for the bill.  Health care costs are stifling businesses, because they have to pay into a private system that, for whatever reason, costs twice or thrice that of the rest of the world's public health care systems.  It is hard to be competitive in a marketplace when you can't make a profit due to the price of providing employee health care benefits.  If the government footed the bill, businesses could hire more people and sell at lower prices exports to the outside world.  This is definitely a good thing, especially for small businesses who realistically had no affordable health care available for their workers until now.

Since people who can't afford health care were already being provided health care via emergency rooms, the system is just codifying and making care for the poor more efficient than it has been in the past.  Either way the poor had to receive health care, but this way there might just be more cost savings than the way we've gone about it in the past.

The extension of medicaid to poor people regardless of whether they have children or not is a huge plus -- in terms of fairness (why don't poor men matter?), and in terms of eliminating an incentive for poor people to have kids.  In the same way, in the 1990's, we decoupled welfare payments from how many children people had, and the birth rates among ghetto blacks plummeted, we might also see a drop in birthrates among single women who were hoping to use children in order to get free health care for themselves.  The more we reward bad behavior, the more bad behavior we'll get.  At least this way poverty won't keep multiplying itself, but will be contained within the adult generation that it originated in.

Obamacare also has some cool provisions, like cuts to medicare (not nearly enough but always a plus), requirements that children (who certainly aren't to blame for being sick nor for being unable to afford health insurance) cannot be denied health insurance based on pre-existing conditions, etc.

The individual mandate will not be enforced on people whose income is too low to afford it.  Such people will be given free medicaid, which the federal government has now declared eligible for medicaid for the first time, or if they can't get that they will simply be given an exemption if you can prove the cost of purchasing health care is over 8% of your household income.  The law is not aimed at the poor, it's actually a huge benefit for the poor.  The only real victim of this bill is the federal budget, which is going to find it very difficult to fund this new federal boondoggle, at a time when it was completely incapable of funding all of its previous boondoggles.

But who cares about deficits?  Who cares about the debt?  Just print treasury bonds and let the federal reserve buy them, like we've already been doing.  And when that fails because no one trusts the value of the dollar anymore, we can just renege on the debt and start over again at a perfectly balanced budget.  Plenty of countries have defaulted on their debts, and in just five years been richer than ever.  Argentina is the most recent example of this sort of phoenix like behavior.  Why not America?  We could get twenty years of free health care benefits in this way, and then just write off our debt when the time is ripe.  Maybe by then the economy will have grown so much that we can actually legitimately afford all this federal largesse, in which case the after-default budget will be balanced, and it's smooth sailing into the bright blue beyond.

Or perhaps Romney will be elected in November and repeal the entire bill, in which case all of this angst is rather misplaced.  I still think that Romney will win in 2012 due to the weak economy.  Historically, no president has ever been reelected after providing such poor economic leadership as Obama has.  If Republicans get a boost from this ruling, by making it all the more vital that their side is elected, we might end up with a freer and more economically viable state than ever.  Either way there's no cause for panic.  Life goes on, and an individual's quality of life still depends far more on themselves than anything Washington D.C. is doing.

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