"Resisting ObamaCare, Gandhi-Style," Shaikha Dalmia (Forbes):
President Barack Obama came into office promising hope and change. But he might get more change than he hoped for. By foisting ObamaCare on a deeply unwilling country he might have set the stage for the largest civil disobedience movement since the civil rights era, which, if it plays its cards right, could undo his legislation and his legacy.
President Obama is betting that come November the bruising, yearlong battle that he has just dragged the country through will be a distant memory. But that profoundly underestimates the dismay of a large segment of the public that sees what he signed Tuesday as a fraudulent piece of legislation based on fraudulent thinking backed by fraudulent facts enacted through a fraudulent process. (Yes, Americans do care about "process," Mr. President. It's another name for representative government.)
President Obama tried for a year to convince the country that the cure for rising health care costs and the swelling ranks of the uninsured was a de facto government takeover of the health care system--only to be rebuffed in poll after poll. And if there was any doubt as to where the public stood, it was put to rest by Republican Scott Brown's stunning December victory in Massachusetts, the land of Big Government.
But instead of backing down President Obama went for broke using tactics more reprehensible than the "business as usual politics" that he had pledged to change when he came to office.
First, there were the budgetary magic tricks that he and his Congressional enablers got the highly respected Congressional Budget Office to perform. The last CBO assessment--that pushed the bill through--showed that the Obama plan would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over 10 years. The reality, once all the double counting and fantasy savings are eliminated, is that it will add $562 billion.But the CBO is not the only entity whose honor Democrats have violated--perhaps beyond repair. Federal taxpayers will also get royally screwed when they have to pay for all the sweetheart deals that Obama's Cogressional minions cut behind closed doors and whose true scope will only become apparent in the coming months. (Bart Stupak is rumored to have gotten $700,000 for airport repairs as his sell-out price.)
Worst of all were the shameless parliamentary tactics that Democrats deployed. The Founders deliberately constructed many roadblocks for new laws to prevent elected officials from straying too far from the will of the people. But Democrats could care less about parliamentary niceties.
They are poised to use the so-called nuclear option or "reconciliation" to square the House and the Senate bills. This option will allow the Senate to circumvent the normal committee process to make fixes to the House bill through a simple majority without risking a filibuster. But reconciliation is meant exclusively for budgetary matters--not ramrodding sweeping social legislation on a party-line vote. This is why the Senate parliamentarian--a completely nonpartisan figure--has to approve its use for every fix. But Democrats are poised to have Vice President Joe Biden overrule him should he dare to stand in their way. In short, instead of bending the cost curve, President Obama is bending the rules of accountable government.
It is hardly surprising then that Americans are feeling a growing panic as they watch their constitutional republic descend into a banana republic. President Obama is fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi's line that "we should be the change we want to see." But Gandhi also said that "civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless and corrupt." Americans instinctively understand this which is why pockets of resistance to ObamaCare are already emerging. The question is only whether they can be constructively harnessed into a grassroots, Gandhi-style civil disobedience movement powerful enough to undo this monstrosity...
To this end, the perpetrators of ObamaCare must be defeated in November and 2012. But right now it is entirely appropriate for Senate Republicans to stall the reconciliation process as much as possible. They are right in calling every point of order that they can--if only to call attention to the bill's manifest corruption. Likewise, the 30-plus states that are issuing sovereignty resolutions and exploring ballot initiatives that would protect their residents from Uncle Sam's coverage diktat are on the right track. Even if these efforts are ultimately thrown out in court because federal law trumps state law, they will make a powerful statement against the coercive nature of ObamaCare.
But the lawsuits that have a shot at sticking in court are the ones that various attorney generals around the country are preparing under the Constitution's commerce clause. This clause gives the federal government expansive powers to regulate interstate commercial activity. But it has never before been invoked to force Americans to purchase a product as a condition of lawful residence in this country. This crosses a line that might well make five Supreme Court justices balk.
Any strategy of nonviolent civil resistance has to first make a good faith effort to achieve its end through the available political and legal means. But there comes a time when changing the law requires acts of conscience.
For opponents of ObamaCare that time is Dec. 31, 2013. That's when the individual mandate will go into effect. If ObamaCare hasn't been repealed by Congress or nullified in court by then, its opponents would be justified in urging Americans to refuse to buy coverage or pay fines and dare authorities to come after them.
By some estimates, Uncle Sam will need to hire an additional 17,000 IRS agents or so just to enforce the coverage mandate. But even if a few million Americans simultaneously refuse to abide by it, they could easily overwhelm the system. Self-rule or swaraj, Gandhi said, requires a collective understanding of the immense capacity of citizens to "regulate and control" the coercive apparatus of the state through mass nonviolent resistance.
As a big fan of civil disobedience, I heartily approve! However, I'm not sure it's necessary to "refuse to... pay fines." As Bryan Caplan points out:
The "Affordable Health Care for America" timeline that Arnold shared is... interesting. Assuming that its seven pages accurately summarize the multi-kilopage bill (a big if), four measures stand out.
1. It provides "immediate access to insurance for uninsured individuals with a pre-existing condition," creating a big adverse selection problem with one swoop. The provision "ends when Exchanges are operational" in 2014. But beginning in 2014, "Health plans can no longer exclude coverage for treatments based on pre‐existing health conditions." So apparently consumers will be free to play "Heads I win, tails I break even" from now on.
2. A while back, Krugman loudly insisted that if you ban pre-existing conditions clauses, you also have to mandate insurance. While the new bill has a mandate, it doesn't begin until 2014, and the penalty clause is absurdly small. Here's what passes for "promoting individual responsibility":
Requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage or pay a penalty of $95 for 2014, $325 for 2015, $695 for 2016 (or, up to 2.5 percent of income in 2016), up to a cap of the national average bronze plan premium. Families will pay half the amount for children, up to a cap of up to a cap of $2,250 per family. After 2016, dollar amounts are indexed. If affordable coverage is not available to an individual, they will not be penalized.
In practical terms, then, "Heads I win, tails I break even" remains the winning strategy. And as adverse selection drives up the price of insurance, paying the uninsured penalty until you're seriously ill gets smarter and smarter.
So, you can take Shaikha Dalmia's advice and resist tyranny by refusing to comply with the individual mandate, and save money while you're at it! Even if you pay the fines, you're still undermining the law, since the penalties are so light, and since health insurance companies are no longer allowed to turn you away later if you get sick. It's patriotic, and profitable, rolled into one!
Nato writes that:
Now, though, there's incumbent legislation, so to speak
But the odd thing is that that seems not even to be true. It's not really incumbent legislation now, since it hasn't yet been implemented, but it also creates perverse incentives so that it's likely to prove unworkable in the short-to-medium run. It may suffice to unravel the current system. It seems more likely than not that it will be unable to put a new one in its place. And so health care will remain a political battleground, as the internal contradictions of ObamaCare give the left an opening to push for fully socialized medicine, and the right an opening to push for separation of health and state.
One disagreement with Shaikha Dalmia. She writes:
The prerequisites for any movement's success are credible leaders and a moral high ground. The first means that opponents of ObamaCare cannot--cannot--let Mitt Romney come within sniffing distance of their cause. He is trying to position himself at the forefront of the Repeal ObamaCare movement to further his presidential ambitions. But he couldn't be a worse spokesman given that as governor he was responsible for implementing a universal coverage program in the Bay State that is identical in every essential respect to ObamaCare, including the individual mandate. He has to be banished from every anti-ObamaCare panel, podium and platform lest the movement be accused of partisanship and hypocrisy.
On the contrary, Mitt Romney seems to be the ideal person to lead a Repeal ObamaCare movement. His experience with RomneyCare shows that (a) he knows whereof he speaks, and (b) his opposition isn't just a function of ideological prejudice. If it's just a function of ambition, that's not necessarily bad: in a democracy, ambition can be a motive for listening to the will of the people. But what makes me particularly like Romney as an advocate here is that he could make the constitutional argument that even if it's not necessarily a terrible policy, this isn't something that the federal government is supposed to do. It's much better for this to be done at the state level. That way people can move out of ObamaCare states if they don't like it, or into ObamaCare states if they do like it.
Alternative to repeal: permit individual states to opt out of ObamaCare.
Also, it would be interesting to see what kinds of civil disobedience are available to states.