There may be a case to be made for earning less money. But that medicine for avoiding the Obamacare mandate on health insurance is a bitter pill to swallow for hardworking Americans.
Neal Kumar Kaytal, President Obama’s solicitor general, defended the health care law’s individual mandate last week in a federal appeals court. He intoned that Americans could avoid the mandate by choosing to earn less money.
Kaytal was asked if he could name one Supreme Court case that considered the same questions as the one posed by the mandate – a question of whether Congress has the right to use the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause to force Americans to purchase something.
Kaytal’s answer: Not exactly.
He told Sixth District Justices that while the Supreme Court had never directly confronted the question, a 1964 civil rights case used the Commerce Clause to ban discrimination in private businesses like hotels and restaurants.
A justice responded that those businesses had the choice to shutter their businesses, but individuals wouldn’t have such a choice under the healthcare law.
“If we’re going to play that game, I think that game can be played here as well, because after all, the minimum coverage provision only kicks in after people have earned a minimum amount of income,” Kaytal said. “So it’s a penalty on earning a certain amount of income and self insuring. It’s not just on self insuring on its own. So I guess one could say, just as the restaurant owner could depart the market in Heart of Atlanta Motel, someone doesn’t need to earn that much income. I think both are kind of fanciful and I think get at…”
He was interrupted before he could finish his sentence.
At least one justice didn’t appear to buy Kaytal’s story, and I, for one, am grateful.
It seems like a bad idea for the Obama administration to suggest – in a time when people are struggling to afford gas, food and other necessities – that they should simply agree to earn less money. How will that help get the economy moving?
The short answer is it won’t, and it’s not really a choice for most Americans. They simply don’t have the option to earn less money so they can opt out of Obamacare’s death panels.
From its outset, the healthcare law’s mandate appears to violate two of the three unalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. The law’s death panels could certainly damage the right to life, while the individual mandate certainly walks the fine line of the right to liberty.
And Kaytal’s suggestion to avoid the first two infringements on life and liberty assault another concept – the right to the pursuit of happiness. Money doesn’t buy it, but it sure helps.
OPINION: Sophie's Choice: earn less money or take Obamacare