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A Broccoli Mandate?

Jan 21, 2011 • Economic Debates, Economic History, Government, Regulation • 176 Views    No Comments

For one federal district judge, deciding whether parts of the new health care reform law are constitutional relates to, “What is economic?”

Our story begins with a court hearing in Florida on December 16. States opposing the health care reform law have said that that Congress does not have the authority to make us buy health insurance or, instead, pay a $695.00 annual fine. Defending the law, (federal) government attorneys said that the insurance market was economic activity under Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. 

Here is where economics appears to enter the picture for the judge. Pondering the authority of Congress, he said,  “In the broadest sense every decision we make is economic. The decision to marry. The decision to keep a job or not has an economic effect…If they [the federal government] decided everybody needs to eat broccoli because broccoli makes us healthy, they could mandate that everybody has to eat broccoli each week?”

You might want to go here for a Washington Post interactive description of lawsuits challenging health care legislation.

The Economic Lesson

Discussed here, the balance between the power of the states and the power of the federal government relates to the Commerce Clause and the Tenth Amendment.

The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3,  states that “The Congress shall have Power…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says that those powers not given to the federal government in the Constitution are reserved to the states.

And perhaps all of this takes us back to “What is economic?”

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