But now that the near-costless years 2010 and 2011 have elapsed, the
true ten-year price tag comes into focus. From 2013 through 2022, the
CBO reports, the costs of Obamacare come to $1.76 trillion — almost
twice the phony original number.
It gets worse. Annual gross costs after 2021 are more than a quarter
of a trillion dollars every year — until the end of time. That, for a
new entitlement in a country already drowning in $16 trillion of debt.
Beginning March 26, the Supreme Court will hear challenges to the law.
The American people, by an astonishing two-thirds majority, want the law
and/or the individual mandate tossed out by the Court. In practice,
however, questions this momentous are generally decided 5 to 4, i.e.,
they depend on whatever side of the bed Justice Anthony Kennedy gets out
of that morning.
Ultimately, the question will hinge on whether the Commerce Clause
has any limits. If the federal government can compel a private citizen,
under threat of a federally imposed penalty, to engage in a private
contract with a private entity (to buy health insurance), is there
anything the federal government cannot compel the citizen to do?
If Obamacare is upheld, it fundamentally changes the nature of the
American social contract. It means the effective end of a government of
enumerated powers — i.e., finite, delineated powers beyond which the
government may not go, beyond which lies the free realm of the people
and their voluntary institutions. The new post-Obamacare dispensation is
a central government of unlimited power from which citizen and civil
society struggle to carve out and maintain spheres of autonomy.
Figure becomes ground; ground becomes figure. The stakes could not be higher.
Serendipitously, the recently issued regulation on contraceptive
coverage has allowed us to see exactly how this new power works. All
institutions — excepting only churches, but not church-run charities,
hospitals, etc. — will be required to offer health care that must
include free contraception, sterilization, and drugs that cause
Consider the cascade of arbitrary bureaucratic decisions that resulted in this edict:
1) Contraception, sterilization, and abortion pills are classified as
medical prevention. On whose authority? The secretary of health and
human services, invoking the Institute of Medicine. But surely
categorizing pregnancy as a disease equivalent is a value decision,
disguised as scientific. If contraception is prevention, what are
fertility clinics? Disease inducers? And if contraception is prevention
because it lessens morbidity and saves money, by that logic, mass
sterilization would be the greatest boon to public health since the
pasteurization of milk.
2) This type of prevention is free — no co-pay. Why? Is contraception
morally superior to or more socially vital than — and thus more of a
“right” than — penicillin for a child with pneumonia?
3) “Religious” exemptions to this edict extend only to churches,
places where the faithful worship God, and not to church-run hospitals
and charities, places where the faithful do God’s work. Who promulgated
this definition, so subversive of the whole notion of godliness, so
stunningly ignorant of the very idea of religious vocation? The almighty
Today, it’s the Catholic Church whose free-exercise powers are under
assault from this cascade of diktats sanctioned by — indeed required by —
Obamacare. Tomorrow it will be the turn of other institutions of civil
society that dare stand between unfettered state and atomized citizen.
Rarely has one law so exemplified the worst of the Leviathan state —
grotesque cost, questionable constitutionality, and arbitrary
bureaucratic coerciveness. Little wonder the president barely mentioned
it in his latest State of the Union address. He wants to be reelected.
He’d rather talk about other things.
But there’s no escaping it now. Oral arguments begin Monday at 10 a.m.
— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2012 the Washington Post Writers Group.