So that’s over.
Lucy Van Pelt (Chief Justice Roberts) has pulled the football (Affordable Care Act) away from Charlie Brown (conservatives) at the last second. This is one football I will not spike. The Right would just flag me for excessive celebration or worse, taunting. I prefer the cool confidence of Bill Walsh in victory instead of the cocky bravado of Rex Ryan. It’s how I roll.
This individual mandate passed Constitutional muster, but it was not the first mandate to be challenged and it certainly will not be the last.
In the Great Battle over the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion of the ACA, we lost sight of some of recent history’s other epic fights over proposed individual mandates. When we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Who could forget the failed Members Only Mandate of 1978? Initially, like the ACA individual mandate, both parties supported the law that would require all men of a certain age to purchase a Members Only jacket. Over time, however, support slipped as Southern Congressmen complained that the jackets were too warm, and some Blue Dog Democrats argued that everyone was wearing the jackets without a mandate. In the end, that proposed mandate died in committee once both sides recognized that a mandate was not necessary. Everyone owned one of those jackets already.
We learned the lesson that mandates only have meaning when people are forced to do what they would not ordinarily do without coercion. Members Only jackets were everywhere, and they were inexplicably worn voluntarily.
Sometimes even failed mandates can lead to future measures to control individual behavior. There was a time not long ago when women in this country were mandated to have feathered hairstyles like Farrah Fawcett, and that mandate was later amended to require all women to sport the Dorothy Hamill bob. There was little dissension against those mandatory hair styles, but today, state legislatures have no qualms about introducing laws that require mandatory transvaginal probes for women seeking legal abortions. Mandates can be a slippery slope. Once government can control women’s hair styles, it is a short trip to individual reproductive health mandates.
Today there are 3 other individual mandates under consideration in Congress, each with its own unique costs and benefits:
Ms. Manners Mandate (sponsored by MADD – Mothers Against Disrespectful Dialogue): HR 2015 calls for mandatory time outs for non-compliant individuals under the age of 21. This law would require the liberal use of ‘please’ and ’thank you’ at all dinner tables and when speaking with adults in a public setting. Conservatives, who generally support the mandate, stripped the requirement that these polite words be used in private homes, viewing that as an attack on parental rights. The bill is held up while Tea Party advocates push for the time out penalty to be replaced by a good spanking. Progressives have labeled this mandate “socialism”.
Car Magnet Mandate: HR 1979 would punish car owners who do not display a car magnet ribbon on their automobile by charging them more for gasoline at the pump. While Republicans consider this a tax on gasoline, Democrats have countered that it is a tax cut for drivers who have slapped that decorative ribbon on their rear ends. The car magnets themselves would not be an entitlement; drivers would need to purchase them from state exchanges organized to encourage competition and keep magnet prices low. There would be subsidies for families who are below the federal poverty level who need car magnets.
Hangover Part III Mandate (sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid –D-NV): SB 1017 is not, as the name might imply, a mandate that all Americans be subjected to yet another Hangover movie, particularly since Part II was such a huge disappointment. This proposed mandate would force all men between the ages of 21 and 50 to spend at least 1 weekend in Las Vegas on a bi-annual basis. This mandate has inspired a rare show of bipartisanship. Romney benefactor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson signed on to the proposed law after Reid agreed to add a plank that all men must show proof of citizenship when entering any casino or pay a penalty (not a tax). Recent polls show that public opinion is split evenly at 50-50 on the measure, with men supporting it 100% and women polling against it by the same percentage.
The ACA individual mandate is constitutional. That fight is over, but there are more wars to be fought over a wide range of individual mandates. With the ACA finished legally if not politically, the Supreme Court now has a clear docket to hear oral arguments on the most oppressive mandate of them all – the All Employees Must Wash Hands Mandate.
Dirty hands are a right that you'll have to wash off my cold, dead hands.