Virginia Federal Judge Rules Individual Mandate Unconstitutional!

The arguments are based on the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and General Welfare Clause of the Constitution, which I reproduce here:

[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes

The Congress shall have Power – To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Here’s the gist of the ruling:

The Necessary and Proper Clause coupled with the Commerce Clause lets Congress enforce any law assisting in the enforcement regulation of interstate commerce. However, it does not allow Congress to enforce any law necessary to make a certain regulation have a certain effect.

So, Congress has the authority to do whatever is necessary to enforce the “preexisting conditions” coverage mandates on insurers, but if that makes the market “implode” as Kathleen Sebelius’ representation argued it would in the absence of an individual mandate, that doesn’t give Congress an excuse to implement an individual mandate not otherwise allowed by the Commerce Clause. Enforcing the individual mandate may help the market function better when the other, constitutionally-allowed regulations are simultaneously in place, but that has nothing to do with the actual enforcement of those other, constitutionally-allowed regulations. Hence, the Necessary and Proper Clause cannot be used to argue for the constitutionality of an individual mandate as a necessary component for “carrying into Execution” the Commerce Clause regulations.

Additionally, the ruling states that the Secretary’s suggestion that an individual’s inactivity on health care inevitably leads to economic activity later on “lacks logical limitation” and “could apply to transportation, housing, or nutritional decisions,” putting it outside the realm of Commerce Clause jurisprudence.

Finally, the mandate is not allowed under Congress’ power to lay taxes, because it is structured as a penalty, not a revenue-gathering measure. If this measure were to work perfectly, then it would generate zero revenue, as everyone would avoid it by buying health insurance. The Secretary made exactly this argument with regards to her Commerce Clause defense. Hence, it cannot be construed as a tax, must be considered a regulatory penalty, and is not allowed through the General Welfare Clause.

So there you have it. That is why a Virginia Federal Judge has ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional.


On a side note, I also would like to call attention to this line:

“The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.

While making this exact same assertion over the past year, I’ve been called crazy, a reactionary, a nutjob, a racist teabagger, a violator of Godwin’s Law, etc. And now a Federal judge who has reviewed this case extensively is coming to the same conclusion. I don’t think people realize how the entire idea of constitutional limits on federal power resides on this case.


Microfinanced Science

Ever had an idea for an interesting project that you knew you could pull off if only you had the funding for it, but didn’t think you could qualify for any established fellowships? Alternatively, have you ever wished you could contribute directly to research projects you thought were cool without that funding being diverted towards other projects?

There exists a new method of funding research, called Research Microfinancing, which allows anyone to put up a proposal for a project, and anyone to donate to it. Here are a number of Research Microfinancing foundations:

The way it works is you submit a proposal, complete with a proposed budget to one of these websites. Your proposal is circulated among peer-reviewers who determine whether your proposal qualifies as a serious project with an appropriate level of planning. If it qualifies, then your project is posted on their website, with a certain monetary threshold listed, determined by your proposed budget. Anyone at all can read the project details and donate to the project. Once the donation amount reaches the listed budget threshold, the money is released to the researcher, and the project can begin. Most of these foundations have a few reporting requirements to ensure the researcher is working on the proposed project, and progress is being made.

The best part about this system is that you don’t need to convince a review board that your project should be funded based on arbitrary or exacting “broader impact” requirements. If anyone- anyone at all -thinks your project is worth funding, they can contribute to it. You also retain the intellectual property rights to anything you produce.

Right now, most of these organizations are a bit underdeveloped simply because they are new, but this could be the future of scientific funding. This is a way to free scientific funding from the bureaucratic oversight of large foundations and governments, and to put control in the hands of curious individuals. What this system needs most to help it get off the ground is publicity. So if you think this is as cool as I do, spread the word!