The Limits Of Government Power

In the last 6 years, the government has done stuff that leaves me wondering if there is a  limit to what it can do.

For example, we see bills such as the Patriot Act passed into law that really push the limits on government intrusion.  If they can do “that”, what can’t they do?

Then there were the wars in foreign nations.  If we can just do “that”, is there any thing that we can’t do?

Then TARP, TARP II and the bailout of the car companies.

All of which leads us to Obamacare and the preventative care mandate.

What can’t they do?

By using the commerce clause, the United States government starting mandating how much wheat a private citizen, on his own private land, could grow for hi own private use.  In those days the government limited wheat production; they did this to drive up the price of wheat.  Well, the farmer wanted to grow more wheat than allowed, but not to sell, rather to feed his animals.  The government, not happy that the farmer would grow rather than buy wheat, sued.

And they won.

Since then government has been given the power to limit and regulate trade across states, even if it’s really not trade or crossing state lines, for many many things.  The latest being Obamacare.  The government would like for us to purchase health insurance.  And if we don’t, they’ll fine us or throw us in jail.

I’ve often tried to make the point that if the government can require us to purchase a product only because the government feels that product is “good for us”, what would prevent them from forcing us to purchase fresh fruit, bananas and blueberries.

Now, with the mandate that preventative care, including contraception, be provided for free, we begin to wonder, what can’t they do?

Even if you agree that preventative care should be covered, and that it’s critical to the health of people, AND that it’s a right [ it’s not ] you have to at least consider what is the character or nature of a thing that identifies it be a thing that can be mandated and that thing that cannot.

How delighted was I when I found someone wondering the same thing:

In October 2009, I published a column titled, “Can Obama and Congress Order You to Buy Broccoli?”

Now I need to ask a follow-up: Can Obama order grocers to give away bread?

I wrote the broccoli column after Sen. Orrin Hatch raised serious questions in the Senate Finance Committee about the constitutionality of President Obama’s proposal to force people to buy health insurance.

“If we have the power simply to order Americans to buy certain products, why did we need a cash-for-clunkers program or the upcoming program providing rebates for purchasing energy appliances?” Hatch said. “We could simply require Americans to buy certain cars, dishwashers or refrigerators.”

Inspired by Hatch’s argument, I wrote in my column: “This is not a question about nutrition. It is not a question about whether broccoli is good for you or about the relative merits of broccoli versus other foods. It is a question about the constitutional limits on the power of the federal government. It is a question about freedom.

“Can President Obama and Congress enact legislation that orders Americans to buy health insurance?” I asked. “They might as well order Americans to buy broccoli. They have no legitimate authority to do either.”

I later interviewed Hatch about the issue. “If that is held constitutional — for them to be able to tell us we have to purchase health insurance — then there is literally nothing that the federal government can’t force us to do” Hatch said. “Nothing.”

Nothing.

If that is held constitutional – for them to be able to tell us we have to purchase health insurance – then there is literally nothing that the federal government can’t force us to do.

Nothing.

On Friday, Obama announced what he called a “solution:” The federal government will still order all health insurance plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients without any fees or co-pay. But insurance plans covering workers at religious institutions that object to these services will be required to provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients to those workers “free of charge.”

Thus, Obama is still ordering Catholic institutions to provide insurance plans that cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients. And he is still ordering Catholic employees, private business owners, and private insurers to buy and/or provide these things, even if means they must act against their faith.

Obama’s “solution” escalates his attack on freedom: He is now ordering private companies (in this case insurers) to provide a product for free — even if they find it morally objectionable.

If Obama had the constitutional authority to tell insurance companies they must provide contraceptives and abortifacients for free, he could also tell grocers they must provide meat and bread for free.

Yes.  IN the name of good healthy eating, Obama – or ANY President – could order that a grocery provide food for free.

And lest you think we’re very far from that, only yesterday I posted about a government employee deciding that a home-packed bag lunch wasn’t healthy enough and a government provided lunch was ordered.

4 responses to “The Limits Of Government Power

  1. Pino,

    You make a mistake . You look at the big things like the Patriot Act, Tarp, and Obama Care . Look to the small things that government does when you want examples of tyranny . I believe it is in your neck of the woods where a government inspector declared a 4 year old’s lunch from home to be unacceptable at school.

    • I believe it is in your neck of the woods where a government inspector declared a 4 year old’s lunch from home to be unacceptable at school.

      That’s my point.

      If the government can produce an employee who thinks it’s okay to look at a lunch I pack, decide it’s not healthy enough and then order that a school lunch be provided, what CAN’T they do?

  2. Pino,

    The enemy is us. A country gets the government it deserves.

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