My Newsday Op Ed on the 11th Circuit Individual Mandate Decision

Newsday has published an op ed I wrote on the 11th Circuit decision striking down the individual mandate. Because of very tight space constraints, I was unable to cover many of the nuances of the decision. But the op ed does summarize my main thoughts on it:

Last week’s Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care plan is an important milestone. The court correctly recognized that there is no way to uphold the mandate without giving Congress unlimited power to mandate anything….

The ruling was co-authored by Judge Frank Hull, who became the first Democratic judge to vote to strike down the mandate. This undercuts already dubious claims that the lawsuits are frivolous; her opinion signals that the arguments against the mandate are strong enough to persuade at least one appellate judge likely to favor it on political grounds.

Since another federal appellate court, the Sixth Circuit, recently upheld the law, it’s extremely likely that the Supreme Court will decide to hear the case within the next year….

Defenders of the mandate claim this is a special case because everyone eventually uses health care at some point. But the argument relies on shifting the focus from health insurance to health care. The same bait-and-switch tactic can justify any other mandate.

For example, not everyone eats broccoli. But everyone does participate in the market for food. Therefore, a mandate requiring everyone to purchase and eat broccoli would be permissible under the federal government’s logic, as would any other purchase requirement. As the Eleventh Circuit puts it, “the government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life.” Whatever we do, we are always implicitly making decisions not to purchase some product or other, and those choices all have economic effects.