Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are We Facing A Constitutional Crisis, Socialism, or A Police State?

Many people believe that the Supreme Court will declare President Omama's Health Care Law unconstitutional. Former New Jersey Superior Court Judge, Andrew P. Napolitano, is one of the most vocal. According to Judge Napolitano "President Barack Obama is one of the worst presidents ever in terms of respecting constitutional limitations on government, and the states suing the federal government over healthcare reform "have a pretty strong case" and are likely to prevail."

Napolitano says the president's healthcare reforms amount to "commandeering" the state legislatures for federal purposes, which the Supreme Court has forbidden as unconstitutional.

"The Constitution does not authorize the Congress to regulate the state governments," Napolitano says. "Nevertheless, in this piece of legislation, the Congress has told the state governments that they must modify their regulation of certain areas of healthcare, they must surrender their regulation of other areas of healthcare, and they must spend state taxpayer-generated dollars in a way that the Congress wants it done. That's called commandeering the legislature," he says. "That's the Congress taking away the discretion of the legislature with respect to regulation, and spending taxpayer dollars. That's prohibited in a couple of Supreme Court cases. So on that argument, the attorneys general have a pretty strong case and I think they will prevail.”

The longstanding precedent of state regulation of the healthcare industry makes the new federal regulations that much more problematic.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that in areas of human behavior that are not delegated to the Congress in the Constitution, and that have been traditionally regulated by the states, the Congress can't simply move in there," Napolitano says. "And the states for 230 years have had near exclusive regulation over the delivery of healthcare. The states license hospitals. The states license medications. The states license healthcare providers whether they're doctors, nurses, or pharmacists. The feds have had nothing to do with it.

"The Congress can't simply wake up one day and decide that it wants to regulate this. I predict that the Supreme Court will invalidate major portions of what the president just signed into law…"

The judge also says he would rate President Obama as one of the worst presidents in terms of obedience to constitutional limitations.

"I believe we have a one party system in this country, called the big-government party," Napolitano says. "There is a Republican branch that likes war and deficits and assaulting civil liberties. There is a Democratic branch that likes welfare and taxes and assaulting commercial liberties.

"President Obama obviously is squarely within the Democratic branch. The president who had the least fidelity to the Constitution was Abraham Lincoln, who waged war on half the country, even though there's obviously no authority for that, a war that killed nearly 700,000 people. President Obama is close to that end of lacking fidelity to the Constitution. He wants to outdo his hero FDR."

That is the good news. The bad news is that many of the legal challenges to healthcare reform will have to wait until 2014, when the changes become fully operational.

Until then, there would be no legal case that individuals had been actually harmed by the law. Moreover, Napolitano says it takes an average of four years for a case to work its way through the various federal courts the final hearing that's expected to come before the Supreme Court.

"You're talking about 2018, which is eight years from now, before it is likely the Supreme Court will hear this," he says.

Other issues that Judge Napolitano waxes eloquently concerning are:

He believes American is in danger of becoming "a fascist country," which he defines as "private ownership, but government control." He adds, "The government doesn't have the money to own anything. But it has the force and the threat of violence to control just about anything it wants. That will rapidly expand under President Obama, unless and until the midterm elections give us a midterm correction – which everyone seems to think, and I'm in that group, is about to come our way.
Napolitano believes the federal government lacks the legal authority to order citizens to purchase healthcare insurance. The Congress [is] ordering human beings to purchase something that they might not want, might not need, might not be able to afford, and might not want -- that's never happened in our history before," Napolitano says. "My gut tells me that too is unconstitutional, because the Congress doesn't have that kind of power under the Constitution."
The sweetheart deals in the healthcare reform bill used that persuaded Democrats to vote for it – the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, Gatorade Exception and others – create "a very unique and tricky constitutional problem" for Democrats, because they treat citizens differently based on which state they live in, running afoul of the Constitution's equal protection clause according to Napolitano. "So these bennies or bribes, whatever you want, or horse trading as it used to be called, clearly violate equal protection by forcing people in the other states to pay the bills of the states that don't have to pay what the rest of us do," Napolitano says.
Exempting union members from the so-called "Cadillac tax" on expensive health insurance policies, while imposing that tax on other citizens, is outright discrimination according to Napolitano. "The government cannot draw a bright line, with fidelity to the Constitution and the law, on the one side of which everybody pays, and the other side of which some people pay. It can't say, 'Here's a tax, but we're only going to apply it to nonunion people. Here's a tax, and we're only going to apply it to graduates of Ivy League institutions.' The Constitution does not permit that type of discrimination."
Politicians from both parties routinely disregard the Constitutional limits imposed on them by the nation's founding document, Napolitano says. "The problem with the Constitution is not any structural problem," says Napolitano. "The problem with the constitution is that those who take an oath to uphold it don't take their oath seriously. For example, just a month ago in interviewing Congressman Jim Clyburn, who's the No. 3 ranking Democrat in the House, I said to him, Congressman Clyburn, can you tell me where in the Constitution the Congress is authorized to regulate healthcare? He said, 'Judge, most of what we do down here,' referring to Washington, 'is not authorized by the Constitution. Can you tell me where in the Constitution we're prohibited from regulating healthcare.' Napolitano says that reflects a misunderstanding of what the Constitution actually is. "He's turning the Constitution on its head, because Congress is not a general legislature," he says. "It was not created in order to right every wrong. It exists only to legislate in the 17 specific, discrete, unique areas where the Constitution has given it power. All other areas of human area are reserved for the states."
Napolitano says that members of Congress infringe on Constitutional rights because they fail to recognize its basis. "They reject Jefferson's argument, in the Declaration of Independence, that our rights come from our Creator, therefore they're natural rights, therefore they can't be legislated away," Napolitano says. "They think they can legislate on any activity, regulate any behavior, tax any person or thing, as long as the politics will let them survive. They're wrong, and with this healthcare legislation, they may be proven wrong, in a very direct and in-your-face way."

10 Ways the New Healthcare Bill May Affect You

The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, more commonly referred to as the "healthcare bill", has taken over a year to craft and has been a lightning rod for political debate because it effectively reshapes major facets of the country's healthcare industry.
Here are 10 things you need to know about how the new law may affect you:

1. Your Kids are Covered
Starting this year, if you have an adult child who cannot get health insurance from his or her employer and is to some degree dependent on you financially, your child can stay on your insurance policy until he or she is 26 years old. Currently, many insurance companies do not allow adult children to remain on their parents' plan once they reach 19 or leave school.
2. You Can't be Dropped
Starting this fall, your health insurance company will no longer be allowed to "drop" you (cancel your policy) if you get sick. In 2009, "rescission" was revealed to be a relatively common cost-cutting practice by several insurance companies. The practice proved to be common enough to spur several lawsuits; for example, in 2008 and 2009, California's largest insurers were made to pay out more than $19 million in fines for dropping policyholders who fell ill.

3.Children cannot be denied coverage.
Starting this year your child (or children) cannot be denied coverage simply because they have a pre-existing health condition. Health insurance companies will also be barred from denying adults applying for coverage if they have a pre-existing condition, but not until 2014.
4. You Can Spend What You Need to
Prior to the new law, health insurance companies set a maximum limit on the monetary amount of benefits that a policyholder could receive. This meant that those who developed expensive or long-lasting medical conditions could run out of coverage. Starting this year, companies will be barred from instituting caps on coverage.
5. You Don't Have to Wait
If you currently have pre-existing conditions that have prevented you from being able to qualify for health insurance for at least six months you will have coverage options before 2014. Starting this fall, you will be able to purchase insurance through a state-run "high-risk pool", which will cap your personal out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare. You will not be required to pay more than $5,950 of your own money for medical expenses; families will not have to pay any more than $11,900.
6. You Must be Insured
Under the new law starting in 2014, you will have to purchase health insurance or risk being fined. If your employer does not offer health insurance as a benefit or if you do not earn enough money to purchase a plan, you may get assistance from the government. The fines for not purchasing insurance will be levied according to a sliding scale based on income. Starting in 2014, the lowest fine would be $95 or 1% of a person's income (whichever is greater) and then increase to a high of $695 or 2.5% of an individual's taxable income by 2016. There will be a maximum cap on fines.
7. You'll Have More Options
Starting in 2014 (when you will be required by law to have health insurance), states will operate new insurance marketplaces - called "exchanges" - that will provide you with more options for buying an individual policy if you can't get, or afford, insurance from your workplace and you earn too much income to qualify for Medicaid. In addition, millions of low- and middle-income families (earning up to $88,200 annually) will be able to qualify for financial assistance from the federal government to purchase insurance through their state exchange.
8. Flexible Spending Accounts Will Become Less Flexible
Three years from now, flexible spending accounts (FSAs) will have lower contribution limits - meaning you won't be able to have as much money deducted from your paycheck pre-tax and deposited into an FSA for medical expenses as is currently allowed. The new maximum amount allowed will be $2,500. In addition, fewer expenses will qualify for FSA spending. For example, you will no longer be able to use your FSA to help defray the cost of over-the-counter drugs.
9. If You Earn More, You'll Pay More
Starting in 2018, if your combined family income exceeds $250,000 you are going to be taking less money home each pay period. That's because you will have more money deducted from your paycheck to go toward increased Medicare payroll taxes. In addition to higher payroll taxes you will also have to pay 3.8% tax on any unearned income, which is currently tax-exempt.
10. Medicare May Cover More or Less of Your Expenses
Starting this year, if Medicare is your primary form of health insurance you will no longer have to pay for preventive care such as an annual physical, screenings for treatable conditions or routine laboratory work. In addition, you will get a $250 check from the federal government to help pay for prescription drugs currently not covered as a result of the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole".
However, if you are a high-income individual or couple (making more than $85,000 individually or $170,000 jointly), your prescription drug subsidy will be reduced. In addition, if you are one of the more than 10 million people currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan you may be facing higher premiums because your insurance company's subsidy from the federal government is going to be dramatically reduced.
Over the next few months you will most likely receive information in the mail from your health insurance company about how the newly signed law will affect your coverage. Read the correspondence carefully and don't hesitate to ask questions about your policy; there may be new, more affordable options for you down the road.
(March 29, 2010 K. Rowland said:)
The same Supreme Court justices whom President Obama blasted during his State of the Union address this year may ultimately decide the fate of his crowning achievement as more than a dozen states have called on the courts to strike down the health insurance mandate of Democrats' health care overhaul - a move that would threaten the entire law.

Two major constitutional challenges have been levied against the new law, one by the state of Virginia, which enacted a law exempting its citizens from the federal health insurance mandate, and another by Florida and 12 other states. Legal scholars are divided on the merits of the cases, and even Congress - through its research service and its budget scorekeeper - has said it's an open question whether the provision could pass constitutional muster.

At issue is the scope of the federal government's power over states and individuals. Critics of the law say the requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a fine, if allowed, would mean that Congress has virtually boundless authority to compel actions. Proponents argue that legal precedents support an expansive reading of the legislative branch's license to regulate such activity.

"This is one of the most consequential lawsuits in our generation," said Baker Hostetler lawyer David B. Rivkin Jr., who is serving as outside counsel to the 13 states that have filed suit. "The fact you have so many different state attorneys general, Republicans and Democrats, from a variety of states coming together to do this just underscores how strongly they feel that the act infringes core constitutional interests of their respective states."

The mandate, which doesn't take effect until 2014, is central to Democrats' goal of insuring about 32 million more Americans. The law would offer tax credits to low-income individuals and allow young adults to remain on their parents' policies longer.

Both of the state lawsuits challenge the federal government's authority under the Commerce Clause, which grants Congress the power to regulate commerce among the states. The Florida case also cites a violation of the 10th Amendment, which reserves those powers not spelled out under the federal government in the Constitution to the state governments, and argues that the health care law's expansion of state Medicaid programs threatens state sovereignty.

Among the arguments against the law is that because it does not allow for purchasing insurance across state lines - the insurance exchanges are state-based - the buying of health insurance does not constitute interstate commerce. In addition, the plaintiffs say, not purchasing health insurance does not constitute an economic activity.

"Thus far in our history, it has never been held that the Commerce Clause, even when aided by the Necessary and Proper Clause, can be used to require citizens to buy goods or services," Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II argues in his state's lawsuit. "To depart from that history to permit the national government to require the purchase of goods or services would ... create powers indistinguishable from a general police power in total derogation of our constitutional scheme of enumerated powers."

While a requirement to buy health insurance might be new, some legal analysts say, Congress can in fact define an economic activity as something that results from not taking an action.

"The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits hotels and restaurants from discriminating based on race and thus prohibits inactivity," said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law, noting that law relied upon the Commerce Clause. "The Supreme Court has said that Congress can regulate economic activity that has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Buying or refusing to buy insurance is economic activity. The effect on the economy is enormous."

As an example, Mr. Chemerinsky cited cases in which the high court upheld Congress' authority to regulate the amount of wheat that farmers grow for their own home consumption or prohibit the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"If that fits within the commerce power, surely the health industry does," he said.

Mr. Rivkin, who served in various legal capacities for the Reagan administration and the George H.W. Bush administration, strongly disagreed. If that were the case, he argued, there would be no limits to the government's power as the Founding Fathers intended. He said the cases cited by Mr. Chemerinsky involve the cultivating of commodities and therefore clearly economic activities, unlike the refusal to purchase health insurance.

"The remarkable thing about an individual insurance purchase mandate is you are not being subject to a requirement by virtue of any economic activity you engage in - you're not doing a damn thing; you just exist," he said. "If this is upheld, then the federal government can do everything it wants subject only to the restrictions contained in the Bill of Rights."

Democratic leaders and the White House have scoffed at the legal challenges. Last week, press secretary Robert Gibbs said administration attorneys advised him "we'll win these lawsuits."

Jack M. Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School, noted that the new law structures the mandate as an amendment to the tax code and includes a discussion of the impact on state commerce, suggesting that the administration will defend it by citing the Commerce Clause as well as Congress' power to tax under the "general welfare" provision. That provision says the federal government may impose taxes - in this case, the penalty for those who don't buy insurance would be the tax - in order to provide for the "general welfare" of the country.

Not everyone agrees with that reasoning.

"It is a taxation and spending power, not an open-ended general welfare clause," said Michael W. McConnell, a Stanford law professor and former circuit court judge appointed by President George W. Bush. "And by the way, 'general' had a very specific meaning in the late 18th century - it meant nationwide in scope, which is why some of the state-specific provisions are constitutionally dubious."

Both lawsuits are in federal district courts, but analysts expect the issue to end up before the Supreme Court. If the high court were to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, the ramifications for Congress could be sweeping.

"It would be difficult for the court to hold that the law is outside of the power to tax and spend for the general welfare without calling into question various regulatory devices that both parties use in crafting legislation," Mr. Balkin said. "Since the New Deal, both parties have used the taxing and spending power for a wide range of regulatory purposes and this is what the challenge to the health care bill calls into question."

However, the justices have not been averse to striking down congressional laws favored by Mr. Obama. The president used his State of the Union address to attack, with the justices present, a decision that struck down limits on corporate and union spending for political campaigns on First Amendment grounds.

In his speech, Mr. Obama warned of foreign influence over U.S. elections while Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. silently mouthed that Mr. Obama was not telling the truth. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in response to a questioner at a speech some weeks later, called the president's words "very troubling."


  1. Subject: Senate votes to protect Tricare beneficiaries
    Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2010
    Senate votes to protect Tricare beneficiaries

    By Rick Maze - Staff writer
    Posted: Tuesday Apr 13, 2010 11:59:43 EDT

    Although military and congressional leaders insisted it wasn’t necessary, the Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill intended to reassure Tricare beneficiaries that national health care reform won’t require them to buy additional health insurance or to pay a penalty if they do not.
    Called the Tricare Affirmation Act, the bill now on its way to the White House says Defense Department health coverage will be treated as minimal essential coverage under the new national health care law, which means that Tricare beneficiaries would not be subject to the $750 penalty created by Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if they do not have private health insurance.
    The bill also says that health care coverage provided to non-appropriated fund employees of the Defense Department also satisfies the requirement of being minimal coverage.
    Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., the Senate armed services personnel subcommittee chairman who shepherded the bill through the Senate, said he hoped passage quelled doubts. “Following months of confusion surrounding military health care programs, we can now definitively tell our service members and their families today that their health care is secure,” Webb said in a statement.
    “As one who grew up in the military, served as a Marine in Vietnam and spent five years in the Pentagon, I know the special obligation we have to provide our military service members, their families, and our veterans with the very finest health care coverage available. Today, we can tell them that we’ve continued to make good on that promise,” said Webb, who grew up in an Air Force family.
    The Senate passed the bill, HR 4887, by voice vote and with no debate on its first day back after a two-week recess that followed passage of the historic health reform law. The House of Representatives passed the Tricare Affirmation Act on March 20 by a 403-0 vote, on the eve of its passage of the health reform law, after questions were raised about whether military families and retirees might be hurt by the new law.
    The acting head of Tricare, Charles Rice, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius both issued statements saying Tricare met the definition of essential coverage. But concerns have continued, fueled in part by some Republicans who are trying to get the reform law repealed, which is what led the Senate to pass the House bill.
    While the bill addresses the narrow question of “essential” coverage, it does not answer every concern about whether health reform, Public Law 111-148, will affect military members and retirees. Rice said in an April 2 statement that his agency was battling “misinformation” and was working to squelch rumors that Tricare benefits will be lost as a result of the new law.
    Passage of the Tricare Assurance Act was praised by representatives of major military and veterans’ group. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Norbert Ryan Jr., Military Officers Association of America president, said his group accepted assurances from congressional and administration leaders that Tricare was not going to be harmed, but “the lack of statutory clarity was a source of concern to many.” The bill, Ryan said, provides “clarity beyond any doubt.”

  2. Breyer: Health Overhaul Could Come Before Court
    Thursday, 15 Apr 2010 10:58 AM Article Font Size

    Justice Stephen Breyer is predicting the Supreme Court will one day pass judgment on this year's health care overhaul.

    Breyer told a congressional panel Thursday that the massive health care law, like most major federal legislation, is a good candidate for high court review.

    Breyer said the court's relatively light caseload in recent years will soon be a thing of the past.

  3. Hope 'n' Change: Take 222 and Call Us in the Morning
    The Obama administration has quietly issued even more waivers to allow companies to duck out of a provision of ObamaCare, with half of them granted in the past three weeks. The total now stands at 222. Companies that receive the waivers can avoid meeting certain limited coverage provisions for their employees. The government started issuing the waivers when it became clear that many companies would end up dropping coverage for workers because it would become prohibitively expensive.
    McDonald's, Universal Orlando, Waffle House and even the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are just a few of the recipients of these waivers. Of course, even unions are getting in on the game, including the Bricklayers Local 1 of Maryland, Virginia and DC; the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Mount Laurel, New Jersey; and the Service Employees International Union Local 1 Cleveland Welfare Fund. Next year we hope to see House hearings on the issue with this question being posed: If ObamaCare was such a good idea, then why did the government find it necessary to exempt so many from its provisions?