Ann Coulter has offered a novel defense of Romneycare:
Whether you like a state-wide insurance mandate or not, it’s a world of difference when the federal government does it. Conservatives, having read the Constitution, ought to understand this.
It was on account of the difference between state and federal powers that the Supreme Court overturned the federal Violence Against Women Act. The court was not endorsing rape, but reminding us that states make laws about rape, not Congress.
The powers the Constitution doesn’t delegate to the federal government remain with the states and the people, so yes Massachusetts has police powers that the federal government doesn’t have. But there is also a “world of difference” between the government prohibiting rape, an act of violence against another individual, and forcing an individual to purchase health insurance. The Violence Against Women Act was unconstitutional because it usurped legitimate state powers. The individual mandate is unconstitutional at the federal level, but I would argue that it isn’t a legitimate use of state power either.
Coulter’s reference to the Supreme Court striking down the Violence Against Women Act reminded me of her friend Joe Sobran’s quip that “a narrow majority of the Court took the reactionary radical right-wing position that rape is not a form of interstate commerce.” He also quoted a law professor who disagreed with the ruling as saying it is “hardly common sense that Congress’s power to promote commerce is so limited that it cannot legislate against a practice that costs the national economy billions of dollars annually.”
Wrongheaded as that argument is, it’s the very same one that people use to insist that failure to purchase health insurance affects interstate commerce. It’s more or less the same free rider argument Romney used to justify it being his state government’s business whether an individual bought health insurance.
Coulter continues: “the nation’s leading conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, helped draft Romneycare. Indeed, Bob Moffit, Heritage’s senior fellow on health care issues, can be seen in the picture of the bill-signing ceremony, standing proudly behind Romney.” Well, if you’ve seen the picture, Teddy Kennedy is standing proudly behind Romney too. But this just illustrates the larger problem: many of the national scholars, conservative and otherwise, who advised Romney on Romneycare favored the individual mandate as federal policy, not just as a state law. Newt’s dalliance with a federal mandate, mentioned by Coulter, came from similar influences.
Obamacare and Romneycare are so tightly linked that not even a polemicist as gifted and persuasive as Coulter can separate them.