The individual mandate

For Your Consideration

Alan CheahApril 4, 2012 

With the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the individual mandate looming, you have to wonder how it got to this point. Is this a bona fide constitutional issue or is it contrived? After all, it is an election year and nothing infuriates the masses more than telling them that their individual freedoms are threatened and their constitution is being breached.

Fear and loathing work best to distract people from a vastly improving economy -- 24 consecutive months of private sector growth; a thriving American auto industry which the GOP wanted to go bankrupt; unemployment rate dropping from 9.9% in December 2009 to 8.3% in February 2012; and consumer spending has been consistently increasing.

This furor on the mandate where all individuals are required to purchase health insurance starting in 2014 was coordinated by Republican Attorney-Generals from 22 states. Keep in mind that the individual mandate is heavily subsidized for families earning less than 200% of poverty level ($44,000). Of course, this is not part of the conversation when the attorney-generals were ginning up the anger against the Affordable Care Act.

In four states with Democratic attorneys-general, Republican governors took up the charge to sue the federal government. Based on its partisan nature, one might think Republicans are acting on their self-proclaimed elevated sense of freedom and the rule of law. A parade of Republican Senators demonstrated their outrage.

"It is a monumental, historic insertion of federal power into 1/6 of the economy, the likes of which I think the American people clearly have indicated that they do not favor and that they oppose." -- Sen. Jeff Session (R-AL).

"If the government can tell people that, then what can't the federal government tell people." - Sen. Roy Blunt (R) Missouri.

"We are just begging the federal government to please leave us a shred of freedom. Please, don't make us buy a product that we don't want to buy. It is our freedoms that is at stake." - Sen. Ron Johnson (R) Wisconsin.

So big government and the freedom-hating, Constitution-trashing president are leading this country down the path to socialism and tyranny. Let's roll back time to 1993 and read what Republicans had to say about this socialistic and tyrannical provision then.

"I and the majority of Republicans ... strongly believe the route to go with this is an individual mandate." -- Sen. John Chafee (R-RI), The Boston Globe, Sept. 7, 1993.

"Well, we have an individual mandate in our plan. We have an individual mandate as opposed to the employer mandate." -- Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), National Governor's Association, Feb. 1, 1994.

"We do have an individual mandate. We do say everybody in America has to provide insurance for themselves." -- Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), CNN Crossfire, Sept. 24, 1993.

That's right. The individual mandate was originally a Republican idea. In 1993, Clinton's health plan mandated that employers provide health coverage. Republicans said it should not be employers but individuals who should be mandated to provide their own health coverage. The 1993 Republican Senate healthcare plan S. 1770 containing the mandate was introduced by John Chafee (R) RI.

It's curious that Republican attorney-generals and governors didn't react the same way then. It's curious it was not unconstitutional or considered an act of socialism and tyranny then. It is curious that Republicans didn't plead for a shred of freedom or implored Republican senators "Please, don't make us buy a product that we don't want to buy. Is that asking too much?"

Ironically, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), co-sponsor of the 1993 individual mandate, gave the best argument justifying the individual mandate. He said, "When it comes to states requiring it for automobile insurance, the principle then ought to apply the same way for health insurance because everybody has some health insurance cost and if you are not insured there is no free lunch..."

How can conservatives or Tea Partiers disagree with that? Oh, but they did -- simply because the same argument was uttered by Democrats. Today Chuck Grassley says, "I personally think and I think constitutional lawyers think that the mandate in itself is unconstitutional." What's up with that?

So why were Republicans for it then and against it now? The only thing that changed is that Obama proposed it. I think we stumbled upon the answer. Perhaps what it really is about is what it has been all along when Senator Mitch McConnell stated, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for Obama to be a one term president."

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