Debate Club

Individual Mandate Goes Against Basic Freedom and Liberty

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The Supreme Court has a solemn duty to apply the law, and thus, it must find the individual mandate and the coerced Medicaid spending conditions unconstitutional. Because those provisions are inextricably intertwined with so many others, the court should throw out the entire law.

The high court has upheld some far-reaching regulations of economic activity by Congress, including the power to regulate interstate commerce in fungible goods such as wheat and marijuana as part of a comprehensive system regulating or prohibiting the intrastate possession and production of those goods. But government has never required people to buy any good or service.

The individual mandate does not regulate or prohibit activity of any kind. Instead, it mandates commerce into existence. Congress has no such power. Although Congress may be able to regulate the operations of health insurance companies directly if their economic activities have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, it cannot regulate an individual's decision not to purchase a contract from those companies.

[See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]

If Congress can mandate this, then it can mandate anything. It could require Americans to buy a General Motors car or pay a penalty to help stimulate commerce and repay General Motor's government loans, or it could mandate a weekly purchase of bread to subsidize wheat farmers and the interstate market in wheat. The very idea that Congress has the power to force individual Americans into commercial activity goes against our most basic notions of freedom and liberty.

Congress also exceeded its spending powers and violated basic principles of federalism with the massive expansion of Medicaid. It is coercing states into accepting costly new conditions that Congress could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under the single largest federal grant-in-aid program. The court has long recognized that a federal financial inducement can be so massive as to leave states with no choice but to accept it, no matter how destructive the attached conditions may be to their sovereignty.

If the court approves this unprecedented and unbounded abuse of power, then there will truly be no limits on the federal government, and our days as a federal republic with a government of enumerated and limited powers will be over.

Hans A. Von Spakovsky

About Hans A. Von Spakovsky Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Tags
Obama administration
health care reform
health care
Supreme Court

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