Tuesday, October 08, 2013
In 2010, a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, without a single Republican vote, passed “ObamaCare” by a margin of 219 to 212. In a staggering act of misfeasance, hardly a single member had read, let alone studied, the 1,900 page law (2,700 pages according to some authorities), which had been dumped into the House only days earlier. The 219 members of that House who voted for ObamaCare were willing to impose massive, and massively expensive, legislation on the American people without any real idea of what they were doing. Had those members been members of the board of directors of a private corporation, their complete and utter lack of due diligence would almost certainly have exposed them to enormous law suits and, quite possibly, criminal penalties.
Largely in consequence of the passage of ObamaCare, the House of Representatives elected later in 2010, contained a substantial Republican majority, which was continued in the elections of 2012, despite Obama’s reelection, and is the basis of the Republicans’ present control of the House.
Today, the Republican majority in the House is exercising its constitutional power over the federal government’s spending by insisting on excluding any funds for the implementation of ObamaCare in the coming fiscal year. This is actually an extremely modest exercise of the House’s power over the budget. It should be seen as giving the Democrats in the House and Senate an opportunity finally to read and study the law they have passed (along with the 20,000 pages of government regulations that have already been written in order to carry out its provisions). Moreover, the elections of 2014 will give the supporters of ObamaCare a chance to present their case to an electorate that can then decide the issue by determining the makeup of the next Congress.
However, instead of agreeing to this very modest and thoroughly justified proposal, the Democrat leadership of the Senate has dug in its heels in a fanatical defense of ObamaCare, to the point of closing down major portions of the federal government in order to implement it, irrespective of not knowing what it is and irrespective of its consequences. The Republican majority in the House does not want to shut down the federal government or have it default on the national debt (which could happen later this month). It is fully prepared to fund the federal government and has repeatedly done so, with the single exception of ObamaCare. It is for the sake of maintaining ObamaCare that the Senate Democrats have shut down the federal government.
The House Republicans should hold fast, even to the point of a default on the national debt, for which the supporters of ObamaCare, not they, would be responsible, if it took place. Their first obligation is to uphold the Constitution of the United States and protect its citizens from a government that knows no limits to its reach and power, as manifested in ObamaCare.
Yes, terrible consequences can result from upholding principles. The United States has fought wars in order to uphold the principle of individual freedom. The House of Representatives should be willing to risk a default on the national debt to uphold that same principle today.
Few people in public life today have any principles, neither Democrats nor Republicans. Most of them are concerned with nothing beyond favorable “photo-ops” and their standing in the latest public opinion polls. They change their views as though they were outfits of clothing, to be changed whenever doing so will make them look better by some undefined standard. In the same way, they will talk with anyone and negotiate with anyone, no matter how evil and vicious, if they believe that doing so can improve their popularity.
This should imply that if the Republicans do hold fast, the Democrats will yield. The only thing that makes this assessment uncertain is that it well may be that the Democrats in the Senate hate individual freedom and love the augmentation of government power more than they hate or fear anything else. They well may hate liberty more than they fear nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian religious fanatics or North Korean Marxist fanatics. And if that is the case, then while they would meet and negotiate with the Iranians and North Koreans and in some ways agree to their demands, they will not be willing to be as accommodating to the House Republicans and thus will be willing to bring about an actual default on the national debt.
The only way to deal with this possibility is for the Republicans to do everything in their power to make sure that the American people understand what the issue is. Namely, responsible, knowledgeable legislation consistent with the principle of individual freedom, or reckless, power-grabbing legislation of a kind enacted by Congressmen who might as well have been drunk or asleep as far as their votes for ObamaCare were concerned.
If the American people can be made to understand this, then even a default on the national debt will serve as the basis of a great victory and be well worth the price. It would establish a turning point in American history: the point at which the relentless advance of government power was stopped by unyielding, principled opposition.
There are signs that here and there in the Republican Party, there are some men of principle, men who understand what is at stake and are prepared to do whatever is necessary to remove the legislative detritus that is ObamaCare. If their existence can be confirmed by their behavior in the coming weeks, it will be remarkable indeed, representing a virtual evolutionary leap in the ranks of our country’s politicians.
Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner’s pledge, reported in The New York Times of October 5, to avoid default, implies that the Republican opposition will collapse, isolating whatever men of principle there may be in the Republican Party. The pledge not to allow a default should have come from Harry Reid, the Democrat majority leader of the Senate. Yet, somehow, Reid and the other supporters of ObamaCare are thought to be free of any obligation to avoid a default. Only the opponents of ObamaCare are thought to be under such obligation.
This perverse inequality of obligation is taken for granted as proper in the media and probably by most of the general public. Barring some unforeseen development, it will almost certainly result in yet another Republican capitulation rather than in the great victory that is possible if the Republicans stick to their principles. Let the Democrats and the media think of these Republicans as lunatics if necessary. They are almost always prepared to humor lunatics through compromise. This time, let them compromise their statist principles by giving up ObamaCare for the next fiscal year, for the sake of avoiding a default on the national debt. Surely, there is no moral basis for maintaining a law that was passed by men who did not and could not know what they were doing and which as more is revealed about it, can only be expected to wreak great harm.
Copyright © 2013 by George Reisman.
George Reisman, Ph.D., is Pepperdine University
Professor Emeritus of Economics and the author of Capitalism: A
Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996;
, 2012). His
website is www.capitalism.net. His blog is www.georgereismansblog.blogspot.com.