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Quote Of The Day: Mandates For Thee, But Not For Me, Edition

Barack Obama, circa 2008:

OBAMA: Let’s break down what she really means by a mandate. What’s meant by a mandate is that the government is forcing people to buy health insurance and so she’s suggesting a parent is not going to buy health insurance for themselves if they can afford it. Now, my belief is that most parents will choose to get health care for themselves and we make it affordable.

Here’s the concern. If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate. I mean, if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house. The reason they don’t buy a house is they don’t have the money. And so, our focus has been on reducing costs, making it available. I am confident if people have a chance to buy high-quality health care that is affordable, they will do so. That’s what our plan does and nobody disputes that.

Obama repeated the same comment on CNN a few days later:

And, Judge Vinson noticed:

The problem with this legal rationale, however, is it would essentially have unlimited application. There is quite literally no decision that, in the natural course of events, does not have an economic impact of some sort. The decisions of whether and when (or not) to buy a house, a car, a television, a dinner, or even a morning cup of coffee also have a financial impact that — when aggregated with similar economic decisions — affect the price of that particular product or service and have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. To be sure, it is not difficult to identify an economic decision that has a cumulatively substantial effect on interstate commerce; rather, the difficult task is to find a decision that does not.23

(…)

It should be emphasized that while the individual mandate was clearly “necessary and essential” to the Act as drafted, it is not “necessary and essential” to health care reform in general. It is undisputed that there are various other (Constitutional) ways to accomplish what Congress wanted to do. Indeed, I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that “if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house.” See Interview on CNN’s American Morning, Feb. 5, 2008, transcript available at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0802/05/ltm.02.html. In fact, he pointed to the similar individual mandate in Massachusetts — which was imposed under the state’s police power, a power the federal government does not have — and opined that the mandate there left some residents “worse off” than they had been before. See Christopher Lee, Simple Question Defines Complex Health Debate, Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2008, at A10 (quoting Senator Obama as saying: “In some cases, there are people [in Massachusetts] who are paying fines and still can’t afford [health insurance], so now they’re worse off than they were . . . They don’t have health insurance, and they’re paying a fine . . .”).

Heh.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mike Drew says:

    Vinson is really screwing up his nonseverability argument here. There isn’t anything about the other parts of ACA that make the mandate inseparable from them. The government has argued that the mandate is necessary for proper functioning of the law, but that is not the same as nonseverability. Any law’s functioning will be affected if you strike part of it away. Vinson is wrong that nonseverability is simply the inverse of necessity for proper functioning, and highlighting candidate Obama’s health care proposal just highlights this. His plan contained the many of things that Vinson says he thinks makes the mandate inseverable from the rest of ACA.

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  2. Herb says:

    I was against the individual mandate before I was against it, too. Sometimes the messiness of reality can be persuasive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. sam says:

    He’s in good company with all those Republicans who were for it … until it found its way into Democratic legislation. And, of course,

    Here’s the concern. If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate.

    is addressed in the bill:

    The idea of the law is that it will control costs and provide enough government assistance that insurance will be affordable for everyone and that the individual mandate penalty will not have to be used. It will give out billions in “affordability credits” and it includes an economic hardship exemption so that people who can’t reasonably afford insurance under the new law won’t have to pay the tax. [Health Care Affordability and the Individual Mandate]

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  4. Kylopod says:

    To the extent that both Hillary’s plan and the MA policy included exemptions for those deemed unable to afford insurance, Obama was caricaturing both in his homelessness analogy. The judge is relying on Obama’s caricatured argument to attack the policy he eventually backed.

    Also, the judge’s statement “It is undisputed that there are various other (Constitutional) ways to accomplish what Congress wanted to do” is simply false. Most health-care experts think a mandate of some kind is necessary to achieve universal coverage. Just because alternatives have been proposed, including by Obama himself, doesn’t mean the mandate’s lack of necessity is undisputed.

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  5. Bruce says:

    “There isn’t anything about the other parts of ACA that make the mandate inseparable from them. ”

    The Federal government has repeatedly made the point that you cannot sever the mandate to buy coverage from the mandate that insurance companies cover people with preexisting conditions.

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  6. swift boater says:

    No other way kylopod? None at all in the whole world? And Obama caricatured the argument he made saying the mandate is wrong? No he didn’t, that was a serious statement on his part, I watched the interview again to make sure.

    You even acknowledge your lie by saying, “MOST healthcare-experts….” . Most is certainly not every, single last one of them, and that is giving credence to your statement that ‘most’ experts say it isn’t possible (which I dispute).

    I am always amazed at the depths leftists will go. Black is white, up is down, don’t believe what your lying eyes see.

    I know, it’s my fault for being amazed.

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  7. orthodoc says:

    Mike Drew says:

    “Vinson is really screwing up his nonseverability argument here. There isn’t anything about the other parts of ACA that make the mandate inseparable from them. The government has argued that the mandate is necessary for proper functioning of the law, but that is not the same as nonseverability.”

    No – the screwup was on the part of the Democratic leadership that initially had a severability clause written into the legislation, then took it out. This is a basic feature of contract law and of legislation – it’s boilerplate. The fact that they removed indicates that the leadership was either a. so confident that there was no possibility of a challenge ever to any part of the 2000+ pages that they felt severability wasn’t needed or b. too incompetent to notice, because they didn’t bother to read the damn thing.

    Pick either option – I go with both.

    Sam says:
    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 16:23

    “…The idea of the law is that it will control costs and provide enough government assistance that insurance will be affordable for everyone and that the individual mandate penalty will not have to be used…”

    Look. it doesn’t matter what the IDEA of the law is. Nobody argues with the idea that controlling costs is a worthy endeavor. But if Congress wrote a law mandating that a gallon of gas had to have 2 million BTUs, and explained that the idea was that we’d all use less gas, it still wouldn’t fly. Congress can’t repeal the laws of physics. Similarly, Congress could pass a law saying that all newspapers had to write nice things about people, with the idea being that too many editorials were mean; but the law would run afoul of the First Amendment.

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  8. Becky says:

    Sam says, “The idea of the law is that it will control costs and provide enough government assistance that insurance will be affordable for everyone and that the individual mandate penalty will not have to be used.”

    If true, then there should be no need to have included that pesky individual mandate penalty in the bill. Hmm… I wonder why they put it in there? I just can’t imagine why! Oh and Sam, I’ve got some really good ocean front property you might be interested in. I only sell it to really smart people like you.

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  9. sam says:

    Probably my fault, but you guys missed the point.

    Obama offered this at that time:

    Here’s the concern. If you haven’t made it affordable, how are you going to enforce a mandate.

    I pointed out that that affordability concern was addressed:

    [The act] will give out billions in “affordability credits” and it includes an economic hardship exemption so that people who can’t reasonably afford insurance under the new law won’t have to pay the tax.

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  10. Anonymous :-) says:

    Another John Kerry!

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  11. Pitbullll says:

    Why do people continue to dance this wacky charade involving unprecedented leaps of faith and psuedo-intellectual gyrations to convince themselves and others that ObamaCare will do what Obama and his adoring minions have promised?

    It won’t and everyone knows it. Even the dumb rubes in the flyover country know this. It seems it’s the Harvard lawyers are the ones having trouble with reality….

    No, I haven’t read the bill. I don’t need to. Most of the elected “representatives” who voted for it didn’t either by their own admissions.

    it’s really quite easy to bring this into perspective by looking at historical precedent. To wit:

    Social Security = broke
    Medicare = broke
    Medicaid = broke
    USPS = broke
    Amtrak = broke

    No government agency or program has ever “saved” money doing anything. Ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  12. Andy Freeman says:

    > The idea of the law is that it will control costs and provide enough government assistance that insurance will be affordable for everyone and that the individual mandate penalty will not have to be used

    Since you’re claiming that the mandate is unnecessary if the law works, then the only reason to have the mandate is for when the law doesn’t work.

    Why is the mandate a good idea when the law doesn’t work?

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  13. sam says:

    “Since you’re claiming that the mandate is unnecessary if the law works, then the only reason to have the mandate is for when the law doesn’t work.”

    I was quoting someone else, but one can surely imagine that there will be folks subject to the mandate who do not qualify for the government assistance, right?

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  14. Robert Arvanitis says:

    The argument is as simple as this:
    One party is young, healthy and/or has good habits, for a free market insurance premium of $2,000 a year.
    Another party is old, unhealthy, and/or has bad habit, and faces free market cost of $10,000 a year.

    Obama with foolish, uneconomic ideology proclaims each shall instead pay $6,000 a year. The healthy party says no way. So Obama seeks to force them to participate.

    Far better for us to be honest and direct, rather than create one Rube Goldberg device after another, a patch on a rag on a seam. If we wish to spend public money for the care of the poor, so be it. Vote for direct subsidies, NOT stupid, market-perverting convoluted schemes.

    In fact, the ONLY reason the left wants this complexity is to hide the facts and obfuscate public judgment.

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  15. Dodd says:

    Whatever you say can and will be used against you in a court of law….

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  16. DonM says:

    Brittany Spears!

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  17. TG Chicago says:

    So this judge is very plainly making an effort to score political points in his argument, and all OTB has to say about it is “Heh.”? I mean, if that was a post from some rightwing blog, then okay. It’s fair to point out that Obama was against the mandate before he was for it. But this wasn’t a rightwing blog dedicated to pointing out everything Obama does wrong — it was a federal judicial decision. Don’t we expect more from our judges?

    I mean, okay — Obama said that. True. But who cares? What a presidential candidate says in a stump speech is not law, nor is it judicial precedent. Why cite it in a judicial decision?

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  18. anjin-san says:

    > No government agency or program has ever “saved” money doing anything. Ever.

    The government made a 14 billion dollar profit on it’s 45 billion dollar investment in Citibank.

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  19. anjin-san says:

    > I mean, okay — Obama said that. True. But who cares? What a presidential candidate says in a stump speech is not law, nor is it judicial precedent

    And, as our friends on the right have pointed out, the realities of sitting at the big desk have forced Obama to reconsider some of the statements he made regarding foreign policy and national security as a candidate when making policy. They seem quite pleased by this. Funny how they can’t seem make that leap in regards to domestic issues.

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