Most everyone’s political focus is on the election in November, but there’s another battle brewing, one that we haven’t seen the likes of for one hundred and fifty years: the fight for states’ rights. Unlike that little dust up that occurred in the 1860s, this battle doesn’t involve bullets or secession, but lawsuits and elections. The states are finally reasserting themselves, pushing back after decades of increasingly assertive and invasive power-grabs by the federal government.
When Missouri voters overwhelmingly repudiated Obamacare last week, it was the latest shot across the bow of the federal juggernaut, but it won’t be the last. A lawsuit opposing the healthcare bill, filed on behalf of twenty states and small business organizations, will move forward after a federal judge refused to grant the administration’s motion to dismiss the case without hearing it.
Fans of the healthcare bill – an ever-dwindling minority in the nation – pooh-poohed both events. The seventy-one per cent of the Missouri electorate who voted to reject the government’s mandate to purchase insurance don’t really represent Missouri’s “true feelings” they said, because more Republicans turned out to vote than Democrats. So let’s get this straight: residents of the Show Me State secretly want Obamacare very badly, but not so much that they’d actually go to the polls to make their feelings known? That’s the kind of silly illogic that could only be hatched in the mind of a liberal.
The lawsuit doesn’t matter, the administration and its supporters assure us, because the insurance mandate is clearly constitutional. Government can force people to buy auto insurance, so – obviously – they can force people to purchase health insurance too. The difference is that nobody forces anyone to drive a car. If you choose to do so, then you have to get a driver’s license, register your vehicle, get tags for it and purchase some minimum level of insurance coverage. All of those costs are the price that government exacts for the privilege of operating a motor vehicle. Don’t like it? Don’t drive.
In the case of Obamacare, however, people are forced to buy a product simply because they are an adult citizen of the United States. That’s unprecedented. If the federal government can force you to buy this product, where does it stop? What other essential goods and services might big brother force us to spend our hard-earned money on, once we’ve established this precedent?
Most Americans, myself included, choose to buy insurance and most of us aren’t happy about sky-rocketing premiums. But most Americans also don’t believe that the way to fix the problem is to employ the heavy hand of big government to strip away an individual’s right to make their own purchasing decisions. At least twenty states formally agree with most Americans and it’s gratifying to see them reassert their rights on behalf of their citizens.
The state of Texas weighed in on another federal usurpation last week, declaring that it will not be regulating greenhouse gas emissions in the Lone Star State beginning in 2011, despite USEPA’s insistence that the states do just that. In a letter signed by the Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Bryan W. Shaw, Texas told USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson her Agency’s plans to circumvent Congress and the Clean Air Act in order to regulate big sources of greenhouse gas emissions immediately is unacceptable and, in their opinion, illegal. Texas laid out the case that USEPA has no authority to modify the Clean Air Act for its own purposes in order to regulate greenhouse gases, or to circumvent the Clean Air Act process of promulgating new rules and Texas is absolutely correct. The Clean Air Act process is tedious, time-consuming and exacting. In a rush to regulate this purported pollutant, Lisa Jackson’s EPA has asked the states to join her in ignoring the provisions of the Clean Air Act or to “work around” those portions of the Act that she finds inconvenient. In a particularly telling portion of their letter, Abbott and Shaw told the Administrator that Texas would not surrender their rights or their authority to the passing whims of the USEPA. They addressed Jackson’s demand that the states officially “sign on” to the USEPA’s attempts to circumvent the will of Congress as expressed in the Clean Air Act:
Each of these objections to EPA’s demand for a loyalty oath from the State of Texas would suffice to justify our refusal to make one. Indeed, it is an affront to the congressionally-established judicial review process for EPA to force states to pledge allegiance to its rules (or forfeit their right to permit) on the final day by which states must exercise their statutory right to challenge those same rules. Texas will not facilitate EPA’s apparent attempt to thwart those established procedures and ignore the law. In the event a court concludes EPA’s actions comport with the law, Texas specifically reserves and does not waive any right under the federal Clean Air Act or other law with respect to the issues raised herein.
As states like Texas continue to flex their rediscovered muscle, it will be harder and harder to dismiss opposition to the Obama agenda as a fringe reaction by few extremist, racist and probably violent right-wing nuts. As the months pass and Obama’s approval rating sinks slowly into sunset, it’s becoming increasingly clear that America isn’t getting the kind of “change” that it once “hoped” for.