The constitutional challenges to ObamaCare have come quickly, and the media are portraying them mostly as hopeless gestures—the political equivalent of Civil War re-enactors. Discussion over: You lost, deal with it.
The press corps never dismissed the legal challenges to the war on terror so easily, but then liberals have long treated property rights and any limits on federal power to regulate commerce as 18th-century anachronisms. In fact, the legal challenges to ObamaCare are serious and carry enormous implications for the future of American liberty.
The most important legal challenge turns on the “individual mandate”—the new requirement that almost every U.S. citizen must buy government-approved health insurance. Failure to comply will be punished by an annual tax penalty that by 2016 will rise to $750 or 2% of income, whichever is higher. President Obama opposed this kind of coercion as a candidate but has become a convert. He even argued in a September interview that “I absolutely reject that notion” that this tax is a tax, because it is supposedly for your own good.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and 13 other state AGs—including Louisiana Democrat Buddy Caldwell—claim this is an unprecedented exercise of state power. Never before has Congress required people to buy a private product to qualify as a law-abiding citizen.
As the Congressional Budget Office noted in 1994, “Federal mandates typically apply to people as parties to economic transactions, rather than as members of society.” The only law in the same league is conscription, though in that case the Constitution gives Congress the explicit power to raise a standing army.