One of the more pernicious provisions of the ObamaCare bills working their way through Congress is the mandate to purchase health care insurance. It’s probably unconstitutional (arrogating to the federal government an unprecedented power to force Americans to purchase a service or product), but that isn’t going to stop it from being shoved down our collective throats anyway. According to a DKos blogger, however, the Senate bill removes the provision’s bite, which may render it constitutionally valid:
To briefly recap- the HCR requires everyone (except native americans, low income people, undocumented immigrants, followers of my cult, the grandfathered**, etc) to purchase health insurance. Violators will have to pay a $750 per head penalty on their tax returns starting in 2016. If you want to pull a Keith Olbermann and become a Mandate dodger, predictably, the HCR has this to say about it:
(1) IN GENERAL.—The penalty provided by this section shall be paid upon notice and demand by the Secretary, and except as provided in paragraph (2), shall be assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty under subchapter B of 23 chapter 68.
The IRS will have your ass, etc, etc. All very predictable. UNTIL you read on to section (2):
(2) SPECIAL RULES.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law—
‘‘(A) WAIVER OF CRIMINAL PENALTIES.— In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
‘‘(B) LIMITATIONS ON LIENS AND LEVIES.—The Secretary shall not—
‘‘(i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or
‘‘(ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.
Woah!!!! The mother of all loopholes! It turns out the mandate is not mandatory because the penalty is purely voluntary! What happens if you failed to pay that penalty? Nothing! No criminal charges will be filed, no penalties will be assessed, and the IRS has no right to file any lien on you. Imagine a judge saying to a convict: “This court hereby sentences you to death. Pssss- don’t worry, son- our electric chairs are not plugged in.”
Of course, just because the teeth were removed in the Senate bill doesn’t mean that they won’t be added back in when it gets reconciled with the House version.
Nevertheless, it is interesting that the Senate would make the penalty seemingly voluntary. I say “seemingly” because the provision’s language leaves open the door to other means of exacting a penalty from non-compliers. While Section 2 negates criminal penalties and prohibits liens or levies from attaching to a taxpayer’s property, just what constitutes someone’s property isn’t spelled out. It may surprise you to learn, for example, that tax dollars are not deemed your property by the federal government, such that once they are paid (or deemed owing) you don’t have any say in how they are spent outside the ballot box. By the same token, if you were to be due a tax refund of some sort, this provision appears to allow the federal government to withhold the $750 penalty. Similarly, it could also declare certain dollar-for-dollar income deductions to be invalid (up to $750) if you refuse to abide by the mandate. My reading of the provision would allow all sorts of federal government gimmicks to be used while still remaining within the letter of the law.
Another interesting aspect of Congress placing this muzzle on the mandate, is that we know it will raise costs. Indeed, the CBO has stated about other bills that an ineffective individual mandate would make the costs skyrocket as the uninsured wait until they are sick before getting any coverage. Without paying into the system from the start, this sick population will basically just receive heavily subsidized health care, paid for by the dopes who paid while they were healthy.
In short, Congress is faced with two poison pills and must choose one: either (i) unconstitutionally force Amercians to purchase insurance, or (ii) create mandates without teeth, and ensure that the bill costs far more than promised. It will be interesting to see which of the two survives.
Although Obamacare is still pretty unfavorable to most Americans (and getting worse?), for some reason a nebulous “public option” continues to poll rather well. Jay Cost takes a look at the polling data and offers a reasonable suggestion for the disparity:
How can we reconcile these gloomy numbers with the sunny results on the public option?
It might be due to the public’s lack of information. I’m sure that the average polling respondent is paying some attention to the health care debate, but she is paying much less attention than political junkies. This will limit the amount of information she actually has in her mental filing cabinet. So, the crucial question is: even if she has absorbed some pro- and anti-reform arguments, does she have enough information to relate them to specific reform proposals? Color me skeptical on that one. I think your average respondent – even with some general opinions on reform – will have a hard time using those broad considerations to evaluate items like the individual mandate, guaranteed issue, community rating, and…wait for it!…the public option.
So, asking about specific proposals might be taking the conversation too far into the woods for the average respondent – and she is going to have a hard time recalling a relevant piece of information upon which to base a response. Instead, she might use the question itself as a basis for her answer. It follows that the information or perspective given in the question could make her more or less partial to the proposal under consideration.
I made a similar argument back in August when dissecting a report alleging that there is 80% support for the public option. Among other problems with supposed poll, it was not at all clear that respondents even new what was meant by “public option”:
If in fact the question was worded as described by Singer, then the inclusion of the phrase “if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” alters the results dramatically. Although some have suggested that this is the reason we need health care insurance reform so desperately, it completely ignores the fact that those who can’t afford health insurance are generally covered by Medicaid, SCHIP and other federal and state programs. So when respondents are asked whether such people should be covered, how do we know they aren’t thinking about those federal and state programs already in existence and not the public option as proposed by Obama and Congress? In short, we don’t. To be fair, the question allegedly refers to “starting a new” program, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people understood the question to be asking about ObamaCare’s public option.
Indeed, according to PSB, “only 37 percent define ‘public option’ correctly” and “about one-fourth of those polled believe the ‘public option’ is a national health care system, similar to the one in Great Britain.” Of course, how to “correctly” define the public option is not revealed, but suffice it to say that the survey’s respondents did not reveal they had a concise grasp upon what a public option actually means.
The fact is that most people have better things to do with their lives than become expert in the sausage-making going on in D.C. That they are rationally ignorant (and, thanks to the MSM, often completely misinformed) of the details regarding the public option should come as no surprise.
But Cost digs much deeper and finds that the wording of the survey questions makes a dramatic difference. He points out that most of the recent polling uses “feel-good-phraseology” that tends to diminish the concept of government control and assume the idea that the public option would “compete” with private insurers:
If the theory that question wording is playing a role is correct, then altering the wording should induce a change in the results. So, what happens when information less partial to the Democratic side is introduced? To start answering this question, let’s consider the Gallup results, which are decidedly less bullish on the public option:
Like ABC News/WaPo, Gallup uses the Democratic buzzword “compete.” However, Gallup also uses a Republican buzzword: “government-run.” This is opposed to the weaker formulation – “government administered” – offered by CBS News/New York Times and CNN. With this more balanced choice of words, Gallup finds a roughly even split. I would not call this definitive evidence, but it suggests that we might be on the right track.
More damning is the result of a Rasmussen poll where the wording is less “feel-good” and the public option question is followed up with this one:
Suppose that the creation of a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option encouraged companies to drop private health insurance coverage for their workers. Workers would then be covered by the government option. Would you favor or oppose the creation of a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option if it encouraged companies to drop private health insurance coverage for their workers?
What happens when this Republican argument is substituted for the Democratic argument? Support for the public option plummets dramatically. Nearly 3/5ths of all respondents voiced opposition to the public option when it was phrased in this way.
Additionally, Rasmussen asked whether respondents thought the public option would save taxpayers money (they didn’t), whether they thought it would offer better health insurance than private insurance (again, no), and whether people preferred to have a public option or a guarantee that nobody will lose their current coverage (the guarantee won in a landslide).
As Cost admits, none of this means that people are necessarily against the public option, just that their opinions are highly influenced by the way questions are asked, stemming from the fact that they are relatively uninformed about the topic. However, Cost’s theory would explain why there is such incongruity between the public’s distaste for the ObamaCare plans floating around Congress and their seeming desire for a public option. Interestingly enough, it also explains why “Medicare for all” is the new rallying cry coming from Washington.
Once again the reasoning in support of a federal overhaul (and takeover) of national health care has shifted. It started out as a fiscal imperative with Pres. Obama claiming that our money woes were caused by the rising costs of health care. We were told that only government can contain administrative costs and deliver efficient, effective care. Later is was the need to control greedy insurance companies who treat their clients shoddily by denying coverage. Government run care would make sure that nobody was denied insurance, and that we would all pay basically the same rates. Of course, the infamous public option was touted as the primary tool for accomplishing this goal, carefully eliding past the “fiscal sanity” reasons for reform, which option has apparently been set out to pasture after facing fierce public resistance.
So now the reasoning shifts again. As it turns out, you all are just bad, immoral people if you don’t approve of the government taking your money and running your health care.
President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.
In any event, Obama’s attempt to turn this into a moral debate is not only a naked act of desperation to save his pet cause, it is also the closest to the true reason why health reform is so important to him, and the left in general, in the first place. Supporters of government-run health care are convinced that the presence of a profit motive in the delivery of health services is a bad thing and that wringing every last ounce of market incentive from the process will lead to wonderful new outcomes. And the way they are prepared to sell it is by pushing the idea that health care is a civil right.
Interestingly enough, Jonathan Alter started the ball rolling on this score just a few days before the President (it’s almost as if they are reading from the same playbook or something!):
The main reason that the bill isn’t sold as civil rights is that most Americans don’t believe there’s a “right” to health care. They see their rights as inalienable, and thus free, which health care isn’t. Serious illness is an abstraction (thankfully) for younger Americans. It’s something that happens to someone else, and if that someone else is older than 65, we know that Medicare will take care of it. Polls show that the 87 percent of Americans who have health insurance aren’t much interested in giving any new rights and entitlements to “them”—the uninsured.
But how about if you or someone you know loses a job and the them becomes “us”? The recession, which is thought to be harming the cause of reform, could be aiding it if the story were told with the proper sense of drama and fright. Since all versions of the pending bill ban discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, that provision isn’t controversial. Which means it gets little attention. Which means that the deep moral wrong that passage of this bill would remedy is somehow missing from the debate.
The only thing that should be unbreakable in a piece of legislation is the principle behind it. In the case of Social Security, it was the security and peace of mind that came with the knowledge of a guaranteed old-age benefit. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush got slam-dunked when they tried to mess with that.) In the civil-rights bills, the principle was no discrimination on the basis of an unavoidable, preexisting “condition” like race.
The core principle behind health-care reform is—or should be—a combination of Social Security insurance and civil rights. Passage would end the shameful era in our nation’s history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn’t have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We’ll look back in wonder—that is, if we pass the bill.
Just to focus the argument, Alter is suggesting that it is a violation of individual civil rights, akin to discriminating against someone on the basis of race (wow, didn’t see that coming), to deny one insurance because one is sick. This is ludicrous on a number of levels, but that it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of insurance is one of its worst features. Insurance is meant to protect against the expense of unknown outcomes by paying a small premium based on the statistical probability that one will suffer such an outcome. However, if one of the outcomes already exists then the insurance premium would simply be equal to the cost of treatment since the probability of payment is 1:1. In Alter’s world,and that of too many government health care supporters, insurance isn’t a risk management tool, it’s a medical discount and income redistribution tool. Which leads to the primary failure of his argument.
In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else. In order to believe otherwise, one would have to believe that doctors are actually slaves who can legally be commanded to fulfill one’s “right” to health care or suffer the consequences. The very idea is preposterous, which is why, as Alter notes, Americans have not kenned to the idea of there being a “right” to health care.
And yet, this is apparently the ground, this moral Waterloo, upon which Obama will choose to support his cause. The offensive will depend on the idea that a government health care plan is a moral obligation, and a protection of civil rights. Naturally, some imbecilic politician will assert that opposition to the plan is an immoral position, seeking to demonize (yet again) those naysayers who aren’t too keen on more government interference in their lives. After all, why not? They’ve already accused us of being, alternately, well-dressed plants for the insurance lobby and ignorant, racist hicks who just can’t stand having a black man in the White House, and look what those lines of argument achieved. I predict that this latest attack will be equally as effective.
We warned people back during the election that anyone who disagreed with Pres. Obama would be labeled a racist. To say that prediction that has come to fruition is like calling Katrina a summer shower.
Since the August recess began, and vociferous protesters crowded local townhall meetings, the chorus of “racism!” has steadily grown amongst the left. Those opposed to ObamaCare and “health insurance reform” are derisively dismissed as having no other issue than “a black man in the White House.” These accusations are somehow borne out by the fact that swastikas and comparisons of Obama to Hitler have allegedly been spotted at the townhall protests. Nevermind that similar health
care insurance reform was vigorously opposed when presented by a popular white president in the 90′s, or that comparisons of our last president to Hitler were (and still are) quite common, yet no racism was ever alleged there. Further ignore that accusing someone of being a Nazi would seem to indicate that one is opposed to racism, and that the people actually carrying such signs were Democrat-supporting, LaRouche adherents who oppose ObamaCare because it doesn’t go far enough. Indeed you must ignore these facts because otherwise the charges of racism make absolutely no sense.
Now, we can prattle on all day about how the left’s eagerness to drive the racist route simply exposes the vapidity of their arguments, but while that is true it does not even begin to address the real problem — i.e. just how vacuously stupid the left has become.
When I say “stupid” I don’t mean “incapable of intellectual rigor” but instead “uneducated, ill-informed and either unwilling or unable to change that state of being.”
Just by way of example, Rep. David Scott, whose arrogance and indifference towards his constituents was highlighted by Bruce, declared that racism is at the source of the anti-ObamaCare demonstrations and questioning:
“There is bubbling up under this debate, unfortunately, the overtones that this presents of hate, of racism, of all of these things,” Scott added.
Scott laid blame for the harsh tone of the August debate at the feet of talk radio show Rush Limbaugh and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who he accused of mobilizing the angry base now manifesting itself at town hall meetings.
Scott was responding to questions after a swastika was painted on his office door, which in the confused leftist mind means that the vandal was a racist. Again, cognitive dissonance must be ignored since the protesters were also accused of being racist for comparing Obama to Hitler. To the lefty supporters of ObamaCare, any and all dissent is racist. Period.
One can go to almost any comment section of any article discussing the townhalls and find assured accusations of racism emanating from lefty posters as if we were all maddeningly blind not to be aware of this fact. For example:
Either Sen. McCaskill is naive or pandering to the CRAZIES in her state. She might as well join the crazies or be an independent. 1st she defends people who are bringing Nazi paraphernalia to town halls and now she’s blatantly dismissing what the whole country knows and believes to be the reason behind this whole movement: BLACK MAN IN THE WHITEHOUSE. These people will oppose everything Obama brings up or stands for even if he was saving their children from a burning house; this didn’t start because of the healthcare debate, it started during the campaign and now it has really picked up pace because the president is doing what he promised he would do. Sen. McCaskill can keep her mouth shut if she doesn’t have the guts to tell it like it is.
That comment was in response to article about Sen. McCaskill (D-MO) taking Scott to task for crying racism. Notice how incredibly assured the commenter is that people “bringing Nazi paraphernalia to town halls” is undeniable evidence of “what the whole country knows and believes to be the reason behind this whole movement: BLACK MAN IN THE WHITEHOUSE.” This, in a word, is stupid.
However, explaining why this is so stupid to ObamaCare’s supporters is rather like trying to explain the physics of a hairball to a cat. You will just get annoyed and the cat will still ignore you while emitting guttural hacking and wheezing noises that may or may not sound vaguely like words — “hhhcccccKKKK! ackkk! hehhhhehhk … RACIST!”. And this is the problem.
How do you have a civilized debate with someone who is entirely incapable of hearing and/or understanding anything you have to say? For whatever reason (I’ve honestly ceased to care), the leftist side of any debate consists of equal parts righteous moralizing, demonization of their opponents, progressive conventional wisdom dressed up as facts, and cries of racism. Of course, this is all held together by a healthy dose “magical thinking” (R: “Centrally planned economies have never worked anywhere, anytime.” L:”But it will this time!”), which makes for quite a noxious brew good for little more than poisoning rational thought.
It is in this context that legitimate anger at legislators trying to rush through a massive health care bill, that few if any have read, while spending money faster than it can be printed, can be laid at the feet of racism without suffering a massive aneurysm. Not that the opponents of Obamacare should back down or stop strongly and pointedly questioning their representatives. Despite these exhibitions of sheer stupidity from the left, politicians do understand threats to their retention of power.
Instead, I suggest that the next time someone accuses you of being a racist for not supporting whatever agenda Obama and his acolytes want to achieve, you stop what you’re doing, look them square in the eyes, and say “Your mind-numbing stupidity is the source of all the racism here” and then move on.
Perhaps the fog of inane and muddled thinking will be lifted from your denigrator’s progressive mind by your mental slap (Lord knows reasonable arguments have not done so), and she will see that racism is not a charge to be thrown around lightly or haphazardly. If so, then a real discussion might be had about why spending gobs and gobs of money we don’t have to save money makes no sense. Or that piling more government control onto a system that’s already broken because of government control is an exercise in insanity. Just maybe, in some small way, you will have steered an otherwise viable intellect back towards the land of reason.
In all likelihood, however, she will just ignore you and walk away in a huff while emitting guttural hacking and wheezing noises that may or may not sound vaguely like words — “hhhcccccKKKK! ackkk! hehhhhehhk … RACIST!”.