by Rob Schwarzwalder
November 13, 2009
Sen. Daniel Akaka is probably the quietest person in the U.S. Senate. He is known as a kindly man who votes faithfully but is not a vocal or activist member of the “upper body.” But this week, when asked if there is a constitutional basis for the Democratic health care bill, he candidly said, “Im not aware of that, let me put it that way.”
Good way to put it, Senator, because your lack of awareness indicates that at least you know your Constitution well enough to recognize that it contains no basis for this latest exercise in federal elbow-throwing.
Sen. Akaka’s colleague Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) could learn from him. Sen. Reed was asked by a reporter where in the Constitution does Congress get its authority to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance?
Reed responded, I would have to check the specific sections, so Ill have to get back to you on the specific section. But it is not unusual that the Congress has required individuals to do things, like sign up for the draft and do many other things too, which I dont think are explicitly contained (in the Constitution).
Sen. Reed is an undoubted patriot, a former Marine who served honorably in Vietnam. So it is disappointing that someone of his political stature would equate the draft with an individual federal mandate of citizens for non-military purposes. To what many other things is Reed referring?
In the 1918 Arver v. United States case, the Supreme Court ruled that the draft is constitutional because it is essence an implementation of the Constitutions provision for the federal government to create a standing army (Article I, Section 8). Men (and women) are needed to defend the nation, and during times of national crisis conscription might be needed.
The Democratic health plan (H.R. 3962), passed last weekend in the House, goes well beyond any authority conferred on the federal government, through our written Constitution, by “We, the People.” In fact, the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) wrote to the House Ways and Means Committee that “failure to comply with the terms of the law that the Democrats passed last weekend could put people in jail. The JCT told the committee that anyone who decides not to maintain “acceptable health insurance coverage” or, absent that, pay the individual health insurance mandate tax of about 2.5 percent of income, would be liable to large fines or prison sentences” (The Washington Times, “Tax Penalties and Prison,” by Donald Lambro, November 12, 2009).
The JCT went on to write that “H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at anytime during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.”
This mandate is unconstitutional in its own right and also poses a serious threat to the fundamental liberty of ordinary Americans: When the federal government requires specific economic activity (in this case, the purchase or acceptance of a health insurance plan) and threatens to impose “fines or prison sentences” for non-compliance, our essential freedom as citizens is eroded and our path into coerced political subjection all the more obvious - and dangerous.