I want everyone in America, indeed everyone in the world, to have chocolate milk, if they like it. I also want them to have a puppy or a bunny, if they want one. Further, I want them to be the exact right temperature for them at all times—just like Baby Bear’s porridge, neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.
And, I want them all to have healthcare. But, that is not what yesterday’s court ruling is about, and that is not what the debate over Obamacare is really about, or at least should be about. It’s not about whether healthcare or chocolate milk or puppies or comfortable temperatures are good things. It is about liberty and our constitutional Republic. It is about the rule of law.
After this ruling, there is no meaningful restraint on Congressional power. Whether the monstrosity that is Obamacare is a constitutional act pursuant to the Commerce Clause or a constitutional tax pursuant to the Taxing Clause makes precious little practical difference. I suppose, under the Commerce Clause, it would have been easier to make it a crime not to have health insurance. However, under the Taxing Clause, if you fail to pay the appropriate penalty for failing to have health insurance on your tax return, then you can eventually be guilty of the crime of tax evasion. After all, that is how they got Al Capone.
The point is that we now live in a nation where there is no realistic limit on the power of the central government, despite the fact that the words of our Constitution purport to set out a government of limited powers with the powers not specifically enumerated and granted to the central government reserved to the states and/or the people. We now live in a nation where the rule of law is little more than a cliché. We have abandoned our Constitutional Republic because we (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents) wanted favors from the public treasury. We started down this road a long time ago with programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Unemployment Insurance, No Child Left Behind and like measures centralizing the government control of education, the Federal Reserve System, and the list could go on and on. Obamacare is just the latest manifestation of this steady march to totalitarianism and the savior state. (And, for all of the Christians out there who think this is just wonderful, be warned. Jesus is the only Lord and Savior of the universe, and He will not suffer competitors for those titles.)
Again, the issue is not whether healthcare, comfortable temperatures, old-age pensions, bunnies, help for the unemployed, education, chocolate milk, and puppies are good things, but rather whether our Constitution grants the federal government the power to regulate, oversee, and tax to provide these things. I am reminded of James Madison’s Veto of the Bonus Bill of 1817. After concluding that none of the enumerated powers gave to the central government the power to finance and build roads and canals, he wrote:
I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.
To clarify, President Madison had the courage to declare a popular law (the Bonus Bill of 1817) that provided for good things (roads and canals and public works) unconstitutional because it was not within the enumerated powers given to Congress. President Madison believed that the liberty secured by a truly limited federal government and the rule of law was precious thing worth defending courageously. And, by the grace of God, courageous acts like that created and established our Constitutional Republic, securing the blessings of liberty to those of the founding era and their posterity.
Would that such courage and commitment could be found today—in the White House, the Halls of Congress, or the Chief Justice’s seat. Would that it could be found in our law schools. Would that it could be found in our pulpits and church pews. Would that it could be found in the hearts of Americans all across our great nation. But, alas, to paraphrase Gandalf’s assessment of Gondor, the ideological bloodline of the Founders has failed and the rule of America has been given to lesser men. I guess the only question is whether there is an Aragorn out there somewhere?