American Elephants

Excuse Me, It’s a Tax—Not a Mandate—It’s a Tax. by The Elephant's Child

Here is Obama’s Chief of Staff Jack Lew, asserting the denial in the administration of the Supreme Court verdict. If the law forces those who are unwilling to buy government health insurance to pay a tax as a penalty — taxes are more easily disposed of.

Obama doesn’t want to be seen as a baldfaced liar; yet we have extensive evidence of his claim that he will not raise taxes on the middle class, that you can keep your health insurance if you like what you have, and that you can keep your doctor. All hooey. Seventy-five percent of the cost of ObamaCare will fall on those making less than $120,000 a year.   And that’s on top of the Tax Armageddon that arrive on January 1, 2013.

Cato says that taxes are of three types — income, excise, or direct.  Each type must meet specified constitutional constraints. Because the mandate penalty tax under PPACA does not satisfy any of the constraints, it is not a valid tax.So the law could be challenged on that basis. Or it becomes much easier for Congress to repeal. It’s going to be interesting.

Don’t miss the Solicitor General’s testimony before the Supreme Court. It’s a tax, a tax, a tax.

Act of Great Cunning? Too Clever By Half? Complete Disaster? by The Elephant's Child

The ObamaCare decision was a shock. We had been hearing about the huge numbers of  the public who wanted ObamaCare repealed. Intrade was running over 70% for repeal.  And Chief Justice Roberts joined the left to uphold ObamaCare. For many Republicans, the instant reaction was outrage.

With Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often the swing vote, joining the conservative members of the court, we seemed to have repeal guaranteed and Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold. Why?

Trying to understand was interrupted by a more plebeian problem, of the plumbing variety. You know how it goes. You try all the home remedies hoping to avoid having to call the plumber, and it’s always late on Friday or on the weekend, when the cost is way higher.  Nevermind. You know how it goes.

Here are a variety of serious people with fine minds offering their take:

Paul Rahe is a professor of History at Hillsdale College and an outspoken critic of ObamaCare.

Sean Trende is Senior Elections Analyst for Real Clear Politics.

Timothy Dalrymple writing at Patheos after listening to a talk from Paul Clement, who argued the case.

Mark Tapscott. Executive Editor of the Washington Examiner.

Richard Epstein Professor of Law at University of Chicago and NYU School of Law. Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Joshua Hawley Now a Law Professor, but a former clerk to Chief Justice Roberts.

Randy Barnett Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown Law, and a member of the team that argued the case before the Supreme Court.

You can easily find all sorts of articles filled with outrage.  These are more thoughtful. The Wall Street Journal has several pieces, but is behind a subscription barrier.

The Final Verdict by The Elephant's Child

Just Another Broken Promise by The Elephant's Child

The tax increases imbedded in ObamaCare add up to $1.7 trillion over the next ten years, according to the CBO. The”mandate” which they sometimes called a “penalty”—which you have to pay if you don’t buy the health insurance the government ordered you to buy — has been clarified by the Supreme Court. It is a tax.


Supreme Court Takes a Dim View of Obama’s Immigration Law Claim by The Elephant's Child

Arizona has had a major problem with illegal immigration, and the Obama administration’s reluctance to enforce immigration laws. So Arizona decided to enforce federal immigration laws themselves. They just wanted the Immigration laws on the books to be enforced.

The Arizona law requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally and check with federal officials to verify. They would also write new state penalties for illegal immigrants who try to apply for jobs.

The Obama administration sued, arguing that those provisions conflict with the federal government’s own role in setting immigration policy.The government argued that it’s fine when it’s on a limited basis, but having a state mandate for all of its law enforcement is essentially a method of trying to force the federal government to change its priorities. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said the federal government has limited resources and should have the right to determine the extent of calls it gets about possible illegal immigrants. These decisions have to be made at the national level. (I love the argument about limited resources).

The justices took a dim view of the administration’s claim that it can stop Arizona from enforcing immigration laws.  They told the government lawyers that the state appears to want to push federal officials, not conflict with them.

“It seems to me the federal government just doesn’t want to know who’s here illegally,” Chief Justice John Roberts said at one point.

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), a critic of the Arizona law, said that if the court does uphold the state’s law, he will introduce legislation to overturn that decision and grant the federal government sole control on immigration matters. That legislation would also overturn a 2011 Supreme Court case that upheld a separate Arizona law that requires all businesses in the state to check employees’ legal status using E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic verification system.

Illegal immigration looks a little different in Washington D.C. where Hispanic votes are especially important to those who divide the electorate into voting groups; and in Arizona where illegal immigration is rife and the drug war just across the border is killing citizens.

The decision will come down in June.

The ObamaCare Arguments: Day Two. by The Elephant's Child

The long article about Attorney Paul Clement, now arguing the case against ObamaCare before the Supreme Court opens gracefully:

A little before noon on March 23, 2010, President Obama sat at a desk in the East Room of the White House, where—surrounded by Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Ted Kennedy’s widow, among others—he signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. It was, as Biden memorably told Obama, “a big fucking deal.” Seven minutes later, at the U.S. Courthouse in Pensacola, Florida, thirteen state attorneys general—all but one of them Republicans—filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Obama­care. It was, as one legal expert told the Pensacola News Journal in the next day’s paper, “a political lawsuit [likely to] be dismissed.” In fact, most papers on March 24 barely reported on the suit’s filing; the New York Times devoted just one sentence to it.

Two years later, that lawsuit—which now includes 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and two small-business owners as plaintiffs—sits before the Supreme Court.

Most of us are familiar with the Justices, but the attorneys who argue the case are unknown except to Washington insiders and Court watchers. The administration’s case is being argued by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who has been called one of the best lawyers in the country.

The case for the plaintiffs — 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business, and two small-business owners — is argued by Attorney Paul Clement, who was Solicitor General in the Bush administration. He is widely regarded as one of the finest lawyers of the last century.

The second day of argument was rough going for the government. General Verrilli had a difficult time defending the mandate. The Justices failed to elicit from Mr. Verrilli some limiting principle under the Commerce Clause that would distinguish a health plan mandate from any other purchase mandate that would easily be unconstitutional.

United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al.
v. The State of Florida, et al.

Attorney Paul Clement arguing for the State of Florida et al.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli arguing for HHS et al.

Wednesday is the final day of arguments. The arguments will be about severability— can the mandate be overturned and the law survive — in the morning, and in the afternoon the expansion of Medicaid onto the states.  Then we wait.  The decision will come down supposedly some time in June. And that will be a very big deal indeed.

Mandate? Mandate? What Mandate? by The Elephant's Child

Peter Suderman of the Reason Foundation remarks on the ObamaCare mandate:

The Obama administration has repeatedly and somewhat counterintuitively argued that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is not, in fact, a requirement that compels anyone to purchase health insurance. Arguing the case in front of an appeals court in Atlanta, Neal Kumar Katyal, the Obama administration’s former acting solicitor general,told judges that the government is “not asking people to buy something they otherwise might not buy.”

Eventually, Katyal argued, everyone will need health care. Requiring individuals to purchase health insurance merely regulates how that care will be financed.

Katyal and other defenders of the mandate have used this idea that the provision merely regulates financing as a response to the concerns about the mandate’s novelty and the scope of congressional action it might allow. Congress already regulates the financing of health care, the argument goes; this would simply be a new way to regulate that financing. By minimizing the provision’s novelty, the law’s defenders can sidestep concerns about the breadth of power granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause should the mandate be ruled constitutional.

There’s a big difference between regulating commerce in which an individual has chosen to participate, and compelling someone to participate in a specific form of commerce in which they have chosen not to participate. The protestations that the pig in the poke is not a pig are getting increasingly weird.

The mandate doesn’t regulate commerce, it requires commerce. Unwanted commerce.


A Warning Voice from Across the Water: by The Elephant's Child

As the Supreme Court hears arguments about the fate of ObamaCare, it is useful to once again take a look at the country with the longest experience with socialized medicine. Britain adopted their National Health Service just after World War II.

When we read the accounts of NHS care in the British papers, we are told that they are only “scare stories.” They would never happen here, we are told. Yet, we were told, Obama’s health care advisers — Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Peter Orzag, Tom Daschle, and Dr, Donald Berwick — were all extravagant admirers of the National Health Service.  They talked a lot, we were told,  about the fact that the highest costs of medicine came in a person’s final years.

That’s where the ideas for the Independent Pay Advisory Board (IPAB) that Congress is trying to repeal right now, came from.  That’s where “comparative effectiveness research” came from. Obama even referred to it when confronted with a woman in one of his campaign events, who wanted to know what value ObamaCare would place on ‘zest for life’ when deciding on a procedure for an older person (in this case, her mother who needed a pacemaker at age 100 — got it— and has enjoyed 5 more years and is still going strong). Obama mumbled a little and said something about there was a time when radical expense maybe wasn’t worth it, and pain pills were more in order.

Monday, March 25, 2012, The Telegraph reports: Elderly Dying due to Despicable Age Discrimination in NHS.

A lack of treatment or insufficient treatment is contributing to 14,000 deaths a year in people over the age of 75, Macmillan Cancer Support has found, in what it called an ‘unacceptable act of discrimination’.

Deaths from cancer are reducing in most age groups but at a slower rate in those aged 74 to 84 and are increasing in people aged 85 and over, the report said.

Professor Riccardo Audisio, Consultant Surgical Oncologist at St Helens Hospital, said: “It is despicable to neglect, not to offer, not to even go near to the best treatment option only on the simple basis of the patient’s age. “This has been a horrible mistake that, particularly in the UK, we have suffered from.”

According to research published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, there would be 14,000 fewer deaths from cancer in those aged over 75 per year if mortality rates from cancer matched those in America.

Keep in mind that this is just, we are told, a “scare story” from England, and has nothing to do with ObamaCare.

Free market medicine is based on competition, which helps to keep the costs down, and rewards excellence. Socialized medicine, which offers all things pretending to be “free,” encourages overuse, because nobody really knows what anything costs. It’s just that the taxes keep going up. And both the providers and the administrators focus becomes reducing the cost. Providers try to receive adequate recompense for their efforts; administrators make more rules to slash expenses. The incentives have changed, and excellence goes by the wayside. It’s just the way of the world.

Do You Remember One of the Worst Supreme Court Decisions Ever? by The Elephant's Child
November 10, 2009, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Economy, Law, The Constitution | Tags: , ,

Do you remember Kelo v. City of New London? It involved the constitutional question of eminent domain, which has traditionally allowed governments to condemn privately owned land only for a public purpose such as a needed bridge or a freeway, a use that serves all the people.

The Supreme Court’s 2005 decision stands as one of the worst in recent years, handing local governments the option to seize private property in the name of “economic development.”

Suzette Kelo’s little pink house in New London, Conn. was seized by private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.’s nearby corporate facility and New London’s tax base.

In the late 1990s, politicians in New London were desperate to fix up their aging and ailing town. The city set up a private, non-profit entity  which set about making a plan for a new New London.

The centerpiece would be a massive research and development facility which Pfizer needed, and they were right across the river in Groton. The politicians picked a 24 acre lot and sold it to Pfizer for $10, and added on some special tax breaks, including cleanup of the lot.

Sweet deal, but Pfizer wanted it sweetened a little more.  The old Victorian houses in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood next door were not what Pfizer envisioned.  They thought a high-rise hotel and luxury condominiums would be just the thing.

The development corporation, empowered with eminent domain by the city, condemned the homes of anyone who wouldn’t sell at its appraised value.  Suzette Kelo and others sued to block the condemnation, and fought it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There the five justices ruled  in favor  of the developers.  America was shocked.  The Court cited the development plan’s “comprehensive character” and the politicians “thorough deliberation.” And besides, it would improve the tax base and attract needed jobs. The city and the state spent around $78 million to bulldoze the homes.

But the development never happened. Pfizer merged with Wyeth, decided to close its research and development offices, and move back across the river with some 1400 jobs.  The property remains vacant, overgrown with weeds and rubble.  No jobs, no business. And Kelo remains one of the most reviled decisions of the Supreme Court in years.

In the face of the outcry, many states have taken action to strengthen eminent domain. But Kelo must be repealed.


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