Last June, like most conservatives, I felt great shock and disappointment with the ruling of the Supreme Court holding Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—commonly known as Obamacare—as constitutional. The legislation itself represents an assault on our basic liberties. Americans should not be penalized because they have made the economic decision to not purchase health insurance in the private marketplace. Our federal government, which is supposed to be limited in scope, should not be so powerful as to have the ability to regulate not only what we do, but also what we do not do. For the first time in history inaction is now a taxable undertaking. This is wrong and goes against the very nature of American governance and tradition. The United States is exceptional because the very charter that created our nation recognized our inalienable right to liberty. That liberty discussed in the Declaration of Independence includes taking the economic risk of not purchasing health insurance even when you can afford it.
As the law came before the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia made a prescient point that showed how the motivating factor behind Obamacare erodes our freedom. He said, “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you [the federal government] define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” Progressive liberals who support the president’s healthcare reform cling to a notion that unwinds the protections granted to us by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Conservatives must respond by standing together to empower Americans with the freedom offered to everyone by a limited government.
Obamacare is one of the largest expansions of the size of government in our national history. By validating that the federal government has the ability to tax inaction the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress can regulate every aspect of our lives through the tax code. This ruling is a step too far. Good intentions by Washington politicians cannot replace our basic liberties and self-responsibility. Despite being law for over three years, a large majority of Americans want this law repealed. As members of Congress, it is our duty to protect the rights of the people, not take them away.
Regardless of whether or not Obamacare is eventually repealed, the Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent that only opens the door for future abuse by ambitious lawmakers. The Court ruled that Congress has the ability to pass laws that can force Americans to either buy particular products in the private market or face the IRS. Under this precedent, Congress could force anyone to buy a product that lawmakers in Washington deem indispensible to living a proper life. Chief Justice Roberts has essentially ruled that the Framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights were wrong in expecting Americans to be able to make decisions regarding how to live their lives.
If the Supreme Court is going to twist the meaning of the taxation power of Congress to include mandated behavior, the only recourse left is for the people of the United States to change the Constitution, serving as a check on Washington’s authority. I revere the Constitution, and changing it in anyway is something that I take very seriously. A 5-4 ruling should not grant the federal government nearly unlimited power. To rectify this problem, I propose an amendment to the Constitution that prohibits Congress from using the creation of taxes in order to compel individuals to engage in commercial activity. It is the only way to ensure our limited government even if Obamacare is eventually repealed.
Majority Leader Cantor has said that we need to hack away at the infringements of our freedoms that are pervasive through Obamacare. This is my chop. Below is my proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. Washington should not be allowed to control every aspect of our lives. I ask all of you to join me in standing up to this intrusion into our daily lives. We can reclaim our right to be self-responsible citizens without the management of Washington bureaucrats, but we must take action while we still can.
Language of the proposed Bentivolio Amendment:
The Congress shall not have the power to lay and collect taxes in order to compel any person or persons to engage in commercial activity, nor shall Congress have the power to lay and collect taxes from any person or persons for a failure to engage in any form of commercial activity.
Kerry Bentivolio is a first-term Congressman who represents Michigan's 11th district. He is a veteran, school teacher, small business owner, and family farmer.