Who the health cares about the Constitution'
Constitutional questions have dogged the health care bill since its introduction. But rather than address these issues head on, supporters of the legislation have shrugged them off. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked where the Constitution grants the power to impose an individual mandate to buy insurance, famously replied, "Are you serious?"
This is the same tactic being used by defenders of the federal takeover of health care in response to the lawsuit against the new law. Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, after announcing that he would join a dozen other state attorneys general in a class action challenging the constitutionality of the law, has been attacked by Gov. Ed Rendell, state House and Senate Democrats and newspapers across the commonwealth.
The most troubling attack came from state Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), who serves as chairman of the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee. Evans threatened to cut off all funding for the attorney general's office if he persists in challenging the federal health care legislation.
This threat represents a clear violation of the separation of powers and undermines the independence of the AG. Indeed, it seems particularly suspicious coming a mere two days after Corbett secured a conviction against Evans' former House colleague, Mike Veon, and is continuing his investigation and prosecution of lawmakers involved in Bonusgate.
Gov. Rendell — after initially suggesting that the attorneys general listen to "any lawyer worth their salt" (implying they weren't) — took a more tactful approach. Admitting that the AG has sole discretion, and the duty, to enter into litigation to defend the rights of Pennsylvania citizens, Rendell requested he drop the lawsuit, citing the costs of legal action and the boundless benefits of health care reform to Pennsylvanians.
Rendell's concern over the use of taxpayer money for the lawsuit represents the zenith of hypocrisy. There was no outrage when President Obama and Gov. Rendell used tax dollars on their public relations blitz touting the health care legislation.
Gov. Rendell and Rep. Evans didn't object to House Democrats' lawsuit, on behalf of the trial lawyers, to overturn a tort reform law on procedural grounds.
Nor was there any objection to the use of taxpayer-funded lawyers to defend the criminal activity of legislators and staff.
Indeed, the entire health care bill itself represents a trillion-dollar effort to pander for votes.
Furthermore, Rendell and others grossly overstate the law's benefits. Even by the Obama administration's estimates, only a fraction of the uninsured will be covered, despite nearly a trillion dollars in subsidies to insurance companies and a myriad of new taxes to pay for them.
Mandates like "guaranteed issue" and "community rating" increase the cost of insurance, as evidenced by "reform" in states like New York.
An individual mandate to buy insurance will, as Massachusetts has demonstrated, also result in skyrocketing premiums — which is why candidate Obama opposed such a mandate. In fact, the CBO predicted insurance costs would increase by 10 percent to 13 percent under the new law.
Ed Rendell clearly wants more federal money to spend but seems to forget that Pennsylvania residents will be on the hook for higher federal taxes. Between new mandates, federal spending and increased Medicaid eligibility imposed on the states, Pennsylvanians will pay an estimated $4,453 per person in higher health care costs, while experiencing slower economic growth.
But all of these arguments about the merits of the legislation or the cost of litigation are moot if the law doesn't make constitutional muster. The primary premise of those criticizing Corbett and his fellow attorneys general is that the constitutional questions should be ignored because health care "reform" is good. But it is this notion of unlimited government our Founding Fathers so feared. The Constitution explicitly limits the powers of government — even to prevent well-intentioned laws — to protect the rights of citizens.
The most important duty Attorney General Tom Corbett has is to protect Pennsylvanians from impingement upon their constitutional rights. For him to neglect that duty would be a gross dereliction.
Nathan A. Benefield is director of policy research with the Commonwealth Foundation (CommonwealthFoundation.org), an independent, nonprofit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Spence’s future uncertain after reinjuring knee
- Lopsided loss to Eagles shows Steelers have issues aplenty
- Olympian Orozco leading in men’s all-around at P&G Gymnastics Nationals
- Rossi: Time with Penguins taught Bylsma importance of stability
- Uniontown’s Perkins transitions from O-line to running back
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Sanchez makes 1st start at first base with Indy
- Woman shot dead, mother wounded in Hill District shooting
- Kentucky firefighters recovering from ice stunt shocks
- Records: Steelers RB Bell admitted smoking pot before traffic stop but denied being high
- Pitt football team rallies around its youth
- Keisel always hoped to return to Steelers