Ambrose: Obama’s insurance mandate at odds with individual liberty 

It’s an absurdity that the federal government has the right to make Americans buy health insurance, but what’s worse is the “Ha, ha, ha” of the left that free people making their own decisions about the way they live is selfishness or shibboleth.

Heed that shrug of the shoulders and you have a taste of what’s to come if the Democratic darlings of the left stay in power. It’s not just that the Democrats give hints every day of cracking down on radio speech, of denying workers’ rights in union formation and of hitting us with excessive new environmental, energy and financial regulations. The scary part is that this insurance mandate underlines that they have no use for limits of any kind, not even those spelled out in the Constitution.

The insurance mandate is justified by Democrats in part by the commerce clause. Clearly, simply, understandably, this clause is about commerce over state lines. It’s about having the states abide by rules helping to give us a prosperous economy.

For a good part of the country’s history, that’s how the courts saw it, but then came the New Deal with ambitions that exceeded constitutional barriers. Courts have zigzagged since then, but some recent rulings underline that if Congress is going to cite the commerce clause as justification for a law, the law had better concern economic activities that clearly impinge on interstate commerce.

Whether or not you buy health insurance has about as much to do with interstate commerce as whether you buy galoshes, and if the government can regulate our purchases of private products, there will be nothing it cannot regulate.

The other excuse for the mandate is that the penalty for not buying health insurance is that it is not a penalty. It has been designated a tax, and taxes, it is argued, are clearly allowed under the Constitution. But calling something a tax does not make it a legitimate tax and does not exclude it from other kinds of considerations.

While a number of state attorneys general are suing to overturn the insurance requirement and other mandates, the betting is that the courts will not intervene on something this big. But how about rescuing the citizenry from the oppression sneaking up on us the way the poet Carl Sandburg said the fog comes, on little cat feet? The left does not think that important, but surely it still counts for human beings to have liberty enough to discover their own lives. Doesn’t it?

Examiner columnist Jay Ambrose is a former Washington opinion writer and editor of two dailies. He can be reached at


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