In May of this year at a commencement address, the president did his best to cast dispersions on his critics who say that government is too big and that tyranny lurks around the corner. The “voices” of criticism need to be rejected. Rejected because they have no validity. “Voices” warning of tyranny need to be rejected. Rejected because there is no truth to them of course. The “voices” aren’t even deserving of names–despite the fact that millions of people believe what the “voices” warn against. Because to give the “voices” an identity humanizes them and gives some sense of legitimacy to their concerns and their cause.
The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) provides a confirmation of what the “voices” warn against: that tyranny may indeed be around the corner. That perhaps the “voices” should not be rejected but should be heeded
Tyranny is the exercise of power by a king, despot, or government that is either cruel, arbitrary, or both. During the Affordable Care Act legislative debates in 2009, an amendment was added to the bill that requires members of Congress and their staff to purchase health insurance plans from the exchanges.
Various news reports confirmed that over the summer, the president personally involved himself in how the law should be applied to Congress. The decision he made, via the Office of Personnel Management, was that taxpayers would pay a subsidy for senators, congressman, and their staff members.
The president has been stating since the beginning of the healthcare debate and continues to say that his signature law lowered insurance premiums for people who will buy insurance on the healthcare exchanges. So if the president and many who support the healthcare law truly believe that the rates are on their way down (by as much as 3000% the president exclaimed in one speech), then why was it so important for taxpayers to provide a subsidy to elected officials? [Of course the premiums are not going down. The promised savings are turning out to actually be an increased cost.]
Why does Congress deserve special treatment? So much so that the president made the law say what he wanted it to say with regard to subsidies for Congress. If they really wanted to raid the public treasury to pay for their healthcare costs, all they need do is pass a law to that effect. The president meanwhile exercised power he doesn’t have, to alter a law he didn’t like. It wasn’t the only aspect of the law he took it upon himself to enact–he also granted a one year delay for large businesses to comply.
Republicans recently made the argument that this exemption should also be extended to small businesses and to individuals, and be enacted as a law instead of relying on a presidential whim. But the president and his party did not want to negotiate that point.
So in effect we have the president, arbitrarily altering provisions of his own law when politically advantageous to him and offering unequal treatment to different classes of citizens. And we have Congress not living under the laws that it passes. Where are the subsidies (again, written into the law by the president and his administration–not authorized by Congress) for people who share similar income levels as Congress and their staff? Why are elected officials deserving of subsidies when the people who actually pay taxes are not?
All of which leads us to what James Madison wrote in Federalist 57:
I will add…in the situation of the House of Representatives, restraining them from oppressive measures, that they can make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society. This has always been deemed one of the strongest bonds by which human policy can connect the rulers and the people together. It creates between them that communion of interests and sympathy of sentiments, of which few governments have furnished examples; but without which every government degenerates into tyranny. If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.
If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty.
In the health care law, we have a law the congress did not have the constitutional authority to enact, a law the president had no authority to sign, and a law the supreme court had no authority to uphold as a tax.
It is up to the people to vote out those political actors who promote themselves above the constitution and the rule of law. It is up to us to insist that politicians and people in government live by the same laws that they require the rest of us to live by.
Voters must consider whether to elect politicians who will repeal the Affordable Care Act or not. But regardless of that decision, the only acceptable outcome is for Obamacare to be applied to all three branches of government. The president, all members of congress, the justices of the supreme court and their families should all get the same opportunity as the rest of us to log into the non-functioning healthcare.gov website and begin the tedious process of selecting an insurance provider or preparing to be guilty of not complying with the law and paying a fine. Without raiding taxpayer’s wallets for subsidies for themselves.