Previous rulings stir skepticism of Supreme Court’s ability to resolve major issues

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I’d try to make an intelligent guess about what the Supreme Court will do about Obamacare, if not for the court’s 2005 Kelo decision.

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 — Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer — are still on the court deciding on our health care. Two sane dissenting judges from 2005 — Scalia and 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 is no way to guess which way this court is ruling on something as complicated as President Barack Obama’s so-called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” A majority of the states have filed actions challenging the constitutionality of various elements.

It’s possible that the decision could be delayed until the controversial elements actually kick in or the 2012 national election it could influence is behind us, but many expect a ruling tomorrow.

Like some of us, the court sometimes chooses to put off unpleasant chores. Dealing with a law that most congressmen didn’t read before passing, on a subject that affects almost 20 percent of the U.S. economy, must fall into that category.

Regardless of the decision, debate over the health care issue won’t be 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 congressman 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,” he said.

That’s where the Amish come in, as they tend to forgo traditional health insurance. According to Coburn, “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 the kind of healthy, personally responsible lifestyles they do.

The Pioneer Institute has published “The Great Experiment: The States, the Feds and Your Health Care.” 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, and whom they suspect is not in the U.S. legally. However, the court ruled against another part that involved arresting people on minor immigration charges.

This mixed opinion doesn’t seem to address the problem, but never mind: Obama responded by saying that federal officers don’t have to cooperate with this decision by responding to Arizona police inquiries regarding immigration status anyhow. So much for the Supreme Court.

Justice Scalia called the entire notion of the federal government not supporting federal laws on immigration “mind-boggling.” Expect more minds to boggle on the health care issue.

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