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:
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 . . .”).