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Monday, March 22, 2010

Frank Miele

Frank, the managing editor of the Interlake, is a man I quietly admire. Unlike too many members of the Fourth Estate, he has grassroots values and a high degree of common sense. I am reprinting without authorization, in the theory that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, one of his latest editorials. I added the italics because the "Commerce" clause is what the government uses to mix itself into our daily lives and is one of my pet peeves.

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010 2:00 am | Updated: 11:15 am, Sun Mar 21, 2010.

Con-sti-tu-tion-al — adj. (3) of, in, authorized by, subject to, dependent on, or in accordance with the constitution of a nation, state, or society.

Cri-sis — n. (2) a turning point in the course of anything; decisive or crucial time, stage or event (3) a time of great danger or trouble, whose outcome decides whether possible bad consequences will follow. —SYN. see EMERGENCY.


You don’t need Webster’s Dictionary to know a constitutional crisis when you see one, but it helps to have a starting point we can all agree on.

As I write this column on Thursday, it appears that the Democrats in Congress intend to force a vote on some variation of the health-care bill by Sunday. By the time you read this, the deed may already be done.

But the constitutional crisis is just beginning. What we face in this vote on “health-care reform” is indeed “a time of great danger or trouble” whose outcome will decide “whether possible bad consequences will follow.”

The problem is multi-faceted — too much to catalog thoroughly in a brief column such as this — but it starts with the fact that regulating health care is not a federal power authorized by the Constitution. The only tiny hook the Democrats can hang their 2,400-page monstrosity of a bill on is the “Commerce Clause,” which allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce.

This clause was essentially intended by our Founding Fathers to make sure that states all treated each other equally, and did not form trading blocs amongst themselves that would jeopardize the union as a whole. Over the years, however, it has been jiggered and twisted until now it allows the federal government to regulate anything it wants.

But even if Congress has the authority to regulate insurance companies which operate in more than one state, that should not grant it the power to force you, an individual private citizen, to buy insurance or any other good or service. That, however, is just what the Democratic Congress and President Obama want to do with health insurance.

You might not be able to do anything to stop them either, but it is possible the courts will. Idaho and Virginia have already passed laws requiring their attorney generals to sue Congress if it passes a bill that requires residents to buy insurance. And at least 35 other states are considering similar legislation, which could ultimately result in the nation's greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War.

This fight thus goes well beyond abuse of the Commerce Clause and is ultimately an existential threat to the very "Blessings of Liberty" which the Constitution was originally written to enshrine.

One of the most keen of those blessings of liberty is freedom of choice - the opportunity to decide for myself how I shall live my life, with full understanding that I accept the consequences for my own actions.

Of course, there are restrictions on any behavior that detrimentally affects other people or society as a whole, and those restrictions are implemented through laws that "we the people" impose on ourselves. The supreme law of the land is the U.S. Constitution, and it firmly establishes the LIMITED role of the federal government in our lives. The individual states are permitted a much broader role in regulating our lives, but in no case can states or the federal government deprive us of our liberty without due process.

Part of the problem with the Democrats' frantic "anything goes" approach to passing the health-care legislation is that they don't think "process" matters. They say that they can vote on the health-care bill by voting on another bill. This process called "deem and pass" is intended to allow the members of Congress to say they did one thing while they were actually doing another. But process does matter, and when process violates the Constitution then it most certainly should matter.

Take this, for instance: The House of Representatives is currently voting on the SENATE health-care bill, which is illegal. The Constitution mandates that "all Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." What happened in this case is that the Senate took an unrelated bill that originated in the House, amended it by completely removing the previous provisions and then substituting 2,400 pages of bureaucracy-creating, money-stealing, rights-restricting health-care reform. This is a blatant end run around the Constitution, and means that Congress can do anything it wants.

How could they, you ask? Because we the people let them get away with it.

This is, sadly, tantamount to saying that the Constitution itself doesn't matter, which unfortunately many modern American citizens do say. Their thinking, and the thinking of Congress, is that if they have a goal which they consider noble, they can rightly use any means to achieve that goal. That makes nobility the supreme law of the land rather than the Constitution, and that makes our freedom look as vulnerable as that granted to the king's subjects by noblesse oblige.

The danger of having a Congress of nobles that feels obligated to shower the public with benefits should be obvious to anyone - especially anyone who has noted that the United States government is at least $14.5 trillion in debt.

The Congress of the United States today is as isolated from the people as Marie Antoinette was before the French Revolution. In the story about her callousness when told that the public had no bread to eat, Antoinette is famously (but inaccurately) supposed to have replied, "Let them eat cake." When informed that the national treasury has been stripped bare by profligate spending and that "we the people" are broke, Nancy Pelosi might have advised, "Let them have health care."

Antoinette faced the guillotine for being out of touch with the mood of the people. Such a fate is no longer contemplated for arrogant rulers, for which Pelosi should consider herself lucky. Nonetheless, she and her fellow Democrats can and must face the wrath of the people -at the ballot box if nowhere else.

Here are the comments, worth reading for some other opinions. (Me)