Column: Supreme Court issues another head-scratching decision

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In a nutshell (literally): In Kelo v. City of New London, five nutty justices ruled that government can take property from private owners who resist selling their homes and small businesses, and give it to private developers as part of a redevelopment plan that would achieve higher property tax revenues for the city. New London, Conn., paid some compensation to the owners, took the property, couldn’t get financing for the project, and abandoned it; the stolen land is now a dump.

Three of those nutty judges — Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer — are still on the Court, deciding on our health care. Two sane dissenting judges from 2005 – Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — also remain.

The Kelo case was uncomplicated, merely addressing the founding premise of our successful American experiment, i.e., property rights. Conservatives and liberals alike were shocked by the decision.

There was no way to guess which way this Court would rule on something as complicated as President Obama’s so-called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” A majority of the states had filed actions challenging the constitutionality of various elements.

Sure enough, the Supreme Court just made another decision that didn’t make sense, so there’s no use spending a lot of time thinking about it. Keeping the individual mandate by suddenly deeming it a tax, in order to say that the interstate commerce clause can’t be used to require purchase of health care — even though the tax is used as a penalty for those who don’t purchase health insurance — was a decision made by characters from a Lewis Carroll novel.

Regardless of the decision, the health care issue isn’t over: it’s just a law, subject to repeal and amendment. We voters should keep this life and death matter in mind when we choose our president, U.S. senator and congressmen in November.

Hopefully congressional Republicans, who voted against Obamacare, have been working on their own comprehensive plan for reforms. I’ve been surprised that they’ve so inadequately argued a simple fact: insurance by definition requires that people who don’t immediately need it must be part of the payment pool, or the insurance concept can’t work. If Americans want pre-existing conditions covered, then everyone who hopes to be covered someday when he has a condition, must be required to buy insurance.

It’s interesting to note what the physicians in Congress have to say. Dr. Ron Paul argues that “what’s at stake here … is whether we respect the Founding Fathers’ idea of a federal government whose powers are few and defined, laid out in a Constitution that imposes substantive as well as procedural limits on federal power. It is hard to rule in favor of Obamacare without ruling against the Founders’ Constitution.”

This takes us to Gov. Mitt Romney’s argument that the issue should be addressed by each state in its own way. Then we can have our ongoing debate about Romneycare, which made the same obvious argument I noted above: if you’re going to have full coverage, you must have membership in the insurance pool, though it hasn’t worked out that way here as subsidies and free care remain popular.

Another physician, Sen. Tom Coburn, makes an interesting proposal that we become more like the Amish. “Our problem in our country today – whether you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, employer-paid, or an insurance policy with a low deductible – is you’re assuming that somebody else is paying your bill …” That’s where the Amish come in, as they tend to forgo traditional health insurance: “They ask a question about what it costs. They try to pay cash in advance to get a discount … they are actively involved in purchasing their health care and paying for it.”

Coburn argues that until we learn a similar lesson about using market forces to connect the service to the cost, as much as $1 of every $3 now spent on health care in the United States is wasted. “It’s either fraud, wasted, or duplication, or error,” he said.

Ah, there is something we can all understand: fraud and waste in government.

From there we can move to more likely solutions than that we all become Amish, or even live healthy, personally responsible lifestyles as they do. The Pioneer Institute has published “The Great Experiment: The States, The Feds And Your Healthcare”: the best way to intelligently take part in the ongoing debate is to read this book.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court just ruled on the Arizona illegal immigration law, supporting one part of the law that requires police to check the status of someone they stop for another cause, whom they suspect is not in the U.S. legally. However, the court ruled against another part, arresting people on minor immigration charges.

This mixed opinion doesn’t seem to address the problem, but never mind: President Obama responded by saying that federal officers don’t have to co-operate with this decision by responding to Arizona police inquiry anyhow. So much for the Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia called the entire situation, of the federal government not supporting federal laws on immigration, “mind-boggling.” Now more minds are boggling on the health care issue.

Also seen in Eagle Tribune.