Wednesday, October 14, 2020

“Millions Would Die!”

     The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court have been a farce...just as any sensible person familiar with the Democrats’ tactics would have expected. But one thing in particular sticks out as deserving of extended commentary.

     Senate Democrats are pretending to be petrified over the potential fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. Would Justice Barrett vote to overturn ObamaCare? appears to be the central question of the day. “Millions would die!” came the cry. How? Ostensibly, because ObamaCare makes medical care affordable to those millions, and without it they’d die from some untreated condition.

     There’s absolutely no substantiation for the Democrats’ claim...and that doesn’t matter in the slightest.

     Whenever a legislature enacts a policy that affects many millions of people, there will be some who benefit from the policy, some who are unaffected by it, and some who suffer because of it. This is certainly the case with federal legislation affecting medical insurance. Because of ObamaCare:

  1. Some Americans became able to afford medical insurance that improved their conditions;
  2. Some Americans were unaffected;
  3. Some Americans lost insurance plans they valued, and found ObamaCare’s alternatives unaffordable or otherwise unacceptable.

     Consider that third group. Surely some of the persons in it went on to die of untreated conditions. I don’t know how many; in all probability, no one does. But I’m certain there were some fatalities among persons who lost their medical insurance and were unable to purchase replacements. Moreover, that was a foreseeable consequence of a federal mandate that applied to all medical insurance plans.

     But we didn’t hear the “millions would die” objection back in 2009. Why not?

     Think about that while I start a pot of decaf.


     It seems unnecessary to say this, but (as is my wont) I’ll say it anyway: They who benefit from a policy will always oppose the repeal of that policy. Damned few federally imposed policies have no beneficiaries. Even fewer have no victims. If the proponents can concentrate attention on the putative beneficiaries while deflecting attention from the putative victims, they can score in the public relations arena. Similarly, when the policy is attacked, its defenders must strive to concentrate attention on the policy’s beneficiaries, whom the repeal of the policy would make “victims,” and deflect it from the policy’s victims, who would be the beneficiaries of its repeal.

     So: stipulate, entirely for the purposes of argument, that “millions would die” in the event that the Supreme Court were to find ObamaCare unconstitutional. What about those who would once again have access to medical insurance that ObamaCare’s mandates destroyed? How many of them are there – and how many of them are suffering and dying because of ObamaCare?

     “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” Barack Hussein Obama most unctuously intoned. It was a lie; we know that now. But it was Obama’s way of persuading us that no one would suffer because of ObamaCare. It would be a pure benefit, untainted by any detriment to any American.

     Even left-leaning Politifact deemed that a lie.

     ObamaCare has had many victims. Some were persons who lost insurance plans they could not replace. Others were persons whose finances took a heavy blow from ObamaCare’s escalation of insurance costs and deductibles. We should have known it would be that way from the general principle enunciated in the first segment. Some of us did, but faint were the cries that “millions would die” back then. All we heard, courtesy of the mainstream media, was that millions would be able to afford medical insurance for the first time ever: ObamaCare’s putative beneficiaries.

     This is what happens when a legislature sets policies for millions of citizens.

     It’s possible that the Founding Fathers sensed the dangers inherent in allowing Congress to create nationwide policies of ObamaCare’s sort. Article I, Section 8 certainly does not give Congress the power to do such things. Indeed, the powers the Constitution grants to Congress are very narrow. They deal mostly with war and foreign affairs, while allowing Congress a few “positive” powers that were deemed unavoidable at that time (e.g., the establishment of post offices and post roads).

     Very little federal legislation of the century behind us would pass strict Constitutional scrutiny. More than ninety percent of it was passed under a perversion of either the taxing power or the Commerce Clause. But select any particular instance of it, and you would find that it has both beneficiaries and victims – who would exchange places were the legislation repealed.

     The promoters of Congressional omnipotence don’t want you to think about that. They’ll scream that you’re heartless, that “millions would die” were Congress’s powers once again confined to Article I Section 8. They’ll probably rhapsodize about the “General Welfare” clause...but they won’t bother to define “general welfare,” much less “the general welfare of the United States.” Neither will they answer this question:

“If the consequences of this policy prove detrimental to the general welfare, will you admit that you were wrong and vote to repeal it?”

     We seldom hear that question asked of any sitting legislator at any level. Whether that’s because it’s not being asked, or because the media won’t permit us to hear about what follows, is a subject for another screed.



You will never hear that question, “If the consequences of this policy prove detrimental to the general welfare, will you admit that you were wrong and vote to repeal it?” even from a Republican. It's the ratchet - the Left advances, the Right stops but doesn't reverse it. That's one reason Trump is so hated... he's actually reversing.

Paul Bonneau said...

This is the old "concentrated benefits, diffuse costs" problem. The beneficiaries have great incentive to lobby (AKA buy congresscritters), because their benefits are large. The rest of us have little incentive to invest time and effort to stop it, because the cost to each of us is usually low (although for Obamacare, there is a substantial cost to some of the people). It's hard to imagine it working any other way. That's why I think our problem is a structural one, not something solved by electing the "right" people.

Francis W. Porretto said...

The "some benefit / some suffer" assessment applies even when neither the benefits nor the costs are concentrated, Paul. It can't be any other way, for governments have no methods but compulsion and prohibition -- and once either of those is deployed, there must be both persons who will profit and persons who will lose.

The income tax laws are an excellent example. There are many facets of those laws that help some people, while simultaneously penalizing others. Mortgage interest deductibility is only one such case. The benefits and costs to involved parties are seldom really high, except in the case of persons who routinely deal in transactions in the millions of dollars. But note how utterly unwilling the beneficiaries are to give up the benefits -- and how little thought goes to those whose lives have been made more expensive or more difficult by them.