From the Washington Times:
In ruling against President Obama‘s health care law, federal Judge Roger Vinson used Mr. Obama‘s own position from the 2008 campaign against him, when the then-Illinois senator argued there were other ways to achieve reform short of requiring every American to purchase insurance.
“I note that in 2008, then-Senator Obama supported a health care reform proposal that did not include an individual mandate because he was at that time strongly opposed to the idea, stating that, ‘If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,’” Judge Vinson wrote in a footnote toward the end of his 78-page ruling Monday.
Judge Vinson, a federal judge in the northern district of Florida, struck down the entire health care law as unconstitutional on Monday, though he is allowing the Obama administration to continue to implement and enforce it while the government appeals his ruling.
The footnote was attached to the most critical part of Judge Vinson‘s ruling, in which he said the “principal dispute” in the case was not whether Congress has the power to tackle health care, but rather whether it has the power to compel individual citizens to purchase insurance.
I had forgotten that Obama himself once upon a time took seriously the broccoli hypothetical.
Ilya Somin recently explained precisely why the broccoli objection to Obamacare has teeth:
Opponents of the constitutionality of the individual mandate have emphasized that upholding the mandate would give Congress the power to mandate virtually anything, including forcing people to eat broccoli.... First, even if Congress would never actually enact the broccoli mandate, the fact that it could so under the same logic as the health insurance mandate highlights a logical flaw in the argument made by defenders of the latter. It strains credulity that a constitutional text that gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce gives it unlimited authority to force people to buy products they don’t want, even within the borders of a single state.
Somin then goes on to discuss why broccoli-like mandates are not infeasible as a political matter:
Congress need not admit that they’re intended to help powerful interest groups. They could instead be defended as efforts to stimulate the economy by helping a vital industry (the same justification as was used to justify government bailouts of the banks and auto industry). Forcing people to purchase broccoli or other food could be defended as a public health measure. Indeed, paternalists of both the “libertarian” and traditional varieties have successfully advocated numerous coercive regulations on precisely those kinds of grounds. There is no reason why they couldn’t use similar strategies to justify purchase mandates. An alliance between well-intentioned paternalists and industry interest groups is precisely the kind of “baptist-bootlegger” coalition that has often been successful in the past. Given widespread political ignorance, voters will often be hard-pressed to tell whether such proposals will really increase public health or not.