Will Lawmakers Dare Extend the Health Care Template? Will We Dare Resist?

Published March 22, 2010

In Sunday’s late-night vote, our federal government gave itself the power to force Americans to buy something produced by private, profit-making companies: health insurance.

Could this be the template to address other problems? For instance:

Our federal government partly owns two struggling auto companies, General Motors and Chrysler. If the government can force us to buy health insurance from companies in which there is no government ownership, couldn’t we also be forced to buy GM and Chrysler vehicles?

Affordability needn’t be an issue. The health insurance mandate comes with taxpayer-funded subsidies to families of four earning up to $88,000 a year. We could subsidize families to buy GM and Chrysler cars and trucks, thus protecting American jobs and boosting the financial health of these partly government-owned companies and the many firms that rely on them for their own success.

The American steel industry is smaller than it used to be. Many people consider the steel industry to be vital to the nation. Congress and the president could decree those cars and trucks must be made only with U.S.-made steel, thus saving and creating more jobs for Americans and boosting another sector of the economy.

Our housing sector certainly has fallen on hard times. For most people, housing is a far more pressing issue than health care. People can go years without needing to see a doctor, but everyone needs a place to sleep. Congress and the president could order the homeless and others who do not own a house to buy one. Others who have been in the same house more than a certain number of years could be ordered to buy a new house.

This forced churning of housing sales would strengthen the housing sector and housing-related industries. And it would help the government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The many government-protected financial firms whose bad mortgage-backed securities took them to the brink of collapse also would be helped. Needed tax credits, subsidies, low-interest loans, and other financing gimmicks could surely be worked out.

Economists and public policy experts – at least those who don’t write for The New York Times or work for the government – no doubt could point to a host of problems with these proposals, but set those aside for now.

What concerns us at the moment are the implications of the new health care regime. We have less freedom now, but this has been no concern of President Barack Obama and “progressive” lawmakers who insisted on health care victory at any cost.

If they have the power to force us to buy health insurance for the supposed national good, they must have the power to force us to buy other things for the national good. Do they dare? If they were to dare, would we resist?

If we say we would resist, why not resist now?

Steve Stanek ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.