Today, the Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments for the most significant case since the likes of Gideon v. Wainwright, Brown v. Board of Education and Miranda v. Arizona in the battle over Obama’s health care reform.
The case, Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida et. al, will answer the central question of whether or not the federal government can mandate an action and penalize individuals for not purchasing health insurance. Though it’s hard to say, chances seem very good that part or all of Obamacare will be repealed by the third branch of government.
The roots of this case started in my hometown of Pensacola. The federal court there found that the entire law was null because of the individual mandate requiring everyone to buy health insurance. Other federal courts found that the law was constitutional. The stage was set for a battle of constitutional questions, which can only be resolved by the Supreme Court.
The interesting thing about law from an outsider’s perspective is that it seems the vast majority of opinions come down to a justice’s political persuasion. Justice Scalia is always going to vote conservative, and Justice Sotomayor will always be voting with the Obama administration. Justice Clarence Thomas hasn’t spoken in the Court for years and is a solid vote for the conservative side. Since Obama appointed his two justices, the Court has become split with four liberals, four conservatives, and one sort-of conservative, Justice Anthony Kennedy. Though he was nominated by former President Reagan, he has a reputation for being unpredictable and will likely be the only one listening to the hours of arguments who hasn’t already made up his mind.
Why should we care what some court says about the law? It’s because health care reform created a giant entitlement time bomb that is ready to explode in a few decades, as all well-intentioned social programs end up doing. We added tens of millions to the roles of the insured in exchange for billions in new taxes that have been hidden so it would pass.
A key part of the law is that all persons must buy health insurance or suffer a penalty every year they fail to purchase it. In other words, homeless guys on the street will be required by law to be covered with a health plan or else they might owe the government thousands of dollars for their inaction. The Obama administration has created a new power for the federal government in being able to punish people for what they don’t purchase.
States require everyone to have car insurance if they have a car, but no one has to drive. Health insurance is the first product that everyone must now buy just for existing. Depending on how Justice Kennedy is feeling during the next few days, all of the Obamacare legislation may be either validated and put into full force of law or completely tossed out and obliterated by the Supreme Court.
The health care reform act is part of what made me become a conservative. It eliminates individual choice, adds a giant entitlement with most costs put off until later and makes the problem of out-of-control health care spending even worse by eliminating all of the major cost-saving measures initially in the bill — which were removed to make it popular among the base of the Democratic Party.
The Supreme Court rarely rears its head and speaks with the full authority of the final legal arbiter of major legislation, but when it does it is historic in its rebuke of the overreach of the other branches.
The future of the deficit, taxes, freedom of choice over health care choices and Obama’s signature achievement all rest on how far swing-vote Anthony Kennedy believes the power of the federal government goes.
Get ready for a fight of constitutional proportions.
Travis Hornsby is a statistics and economics senior at UF. His column appears on Mondays.