Michael Barone writes: Is there any way to reverse the trend to ever more intrusive, bossy government? Things have gotten to such a pass, argues Charles Murray, that only civil disobedience might — might — work. But the chances are good enough, he says, that he’s written a book about it: By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.
“The Progressive push to give politically insulated bureaucrats power to impose detailed and often incomprehensible rules was a product of the industrial era, a time when it was supposed that experts with stopwatches could design maximally productive assembly lines.”
Murray has a track record of making seemingly outlandish proposals that turn out to be widely accepted public policy. His 1984 book Losing Ground recommended the radical step of abolishing all welfare payments. A dozen years later the federal welfare reform act took a long step in that direction.
[Order Charles Murray’s book “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission” from Amazon.com]
Murray was prompted to write By the People, he says, when a friend who owns a small business was confronted by OSHA inspectors and had an experience similar to one recounted in Philip Howard’s The Death of Common Sense.
The inspector found violations. Railings in his factory were 40 inches high, not 42; there was no automatic shutoff on a conveyor belt cordoned off from workers; a worker with a beard was allowed to use a non-close-fitting dust mask. Picayune stuff. But unless changes were made, the inspector said, we’ll put you out of business.
“What is to be done? Citizens, says Murray, should be willing to violate laws that the ordinary person would instantly recognize as ridiculous. And deep-pocketed citizens should set up a Madison Fund, to subsidize their legal defense and pay their fines.”
How had things come to this pass? Murray ascribes it to the abandonment of effective limits on government embedded in the Constitution by its prime architect James Madison. That started with the early twentieth century Progressives, who passed laws setting up independent and supposedly expert bureaucrats in charge of regulation, and furthered by New Deal Supreme Court decisions.
“The cultural uniformity that people remember from the post-World War II decades is the exception rather than the rule in American history. We were a religiously, ethnically and regionally diverse nation in James Madison’s time, Murray says, and we are once again. The uniformity temporarily imposed by shared wartime and postwar experiences is no more.”
Murray argues that these mistakes cannot be reversed by the political or judicial processes. The Court won’t abandon longstanding doctrines on which millions of people have relied. Congress, even a Republican Congress working with a Republican president, won’t repeal vaguely worded statutes that give regulators wide-ranging discretion. Read the rest of this entry »
The GOP needs a politically defensible alternative if the Supreme Court overturns federal-exchange subsidies
Phil Gramm writes: On March 4 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, with a decision expected in late June. If the court strikes down the payment of government subsidies to those who bought health insurance on the federal exchange, Republicans will at last have a real opportunity to amend ObamaCare. Doing so, however, will be politically perilous.
“Of all potential Republican proposals, the freedom option seems the most likely to garner the six Democratic votes in the Senate needed to break a filibuster, pass the bill and put it on the president’s desk.”
The language of the Affordable Care Act states that subsidies should only be paid through state exchanges. The bill’s authors perhaps believed that pressure from citizens and the health-care providers who would benefit would entice states to set up exchanges. But, faced with mounting technical problems in setting up the exchanges, the Obama administration decided—legally or illegally—to allow subsidies to be paid through a federally run exchange. Therefore, political pressure that might have convinced states to set up exchanges never developed.
“The opposition would come solely from those who understand that ObamaCare is built on coercion—and that unless young, healthy Americans are forced into the program to be exploited with above-market insurance rates, the subsidies will prove unaffordable. That will be an exceedingly difficult case to make to the public.”
The political pressures to set up state exchanges if federal subsidies are now struck down will be enormous. The Kaiser Family Foundation used Congressional Budget Office data to estimate that 13 million people will receive subsidies in 2016 through the federal exchange. If the Supreme Court strikes down these subsidies, 13 million people would lose an average of $4,700 a year, and health-care providers would certainly fight to protect some $60 billion a year in subsidies.
The president’s most likely response to an adverse court decision would be to refuse to work with Congress to fix ObamaCare. Instead he will likely mount an effort to force the 37 states now using the federal exchange to set up state exchanges to qualify for the subsidies. His administration could make it easy for states to continue to use the federal exchange while nominally taking ownership through a shell state entity. Ten states already have some form of partnership with the federal exchange.
Absent a strong Republican alternative, the president’s strategy would unleash powerful political pressure on Republican governors and legislators and force them to establish state exchanges. Such a result would saddle Republicans with a partial ownership of ObamaCare, alienating their political base and producing substantial fallout in the 2016 elections.
Republicans need a strategy that is easy to understand, broadly popular and difficult to oppose. Read the rest of this entry »