Teaching introductory logic for ten years made me vividly aware of the low average quality of reasoning among college students. It also showed me how little improvement can realistically be accomplished by only one semester’s training in the art of thinking clearly. By all rights, then, I should have severely pessimistic expectations about public discourse in this country. Nevertheless, whether I suffer from my own strain of bad induction or just unquenchable naïveté, pandemic outbreaks of illogical memes still catch me by surprise.
That’s why I’ve been so shocked at the widespread assertion that a national mandate requiring individuals to carry health insurance is legitimate (and even Constitutional) because we already require everyone to purchase auto insurance. There’s just one small error this idea seems to forget: the federal government does not actually have a law requiring individual drivers to carry such insurance. Only states do.
And since federalism is at the center of the Constitutional concerns surrounding Obamacare, I find it stunningly bold to claim the federal government has authority for a project because of something similar the states currently do. The argument seems to be, “Congress can do it because it’s just like something else that Congress doesn’t do.” Now, obviously, if we were debating whether individual states could mandate health coverage, at least the levels of government being analogized would be the same. But the leap from what states do to what Congress can do betrays vistas of ignorance concerning our system of government. A college freshman would be embarrassed to make such a weak argument, yet members of Congress have said precisely this.
Senator Burris, for instance, recently told CNS News that it’s okay to make individuals purchase health insurance because, “Under state law, we have every one required to have automobile insurance … so, that’s the same thing proportionally to automobile insurance. I mean, it’s comparable.” The good news here, of course, is that the former Illinois Secretary of State (hence, overseer of the DMV) rightly situated the law at the state level. The sad news is that this United States Senator has taken an oath of office to uphold a document he apparently has not read. But perhaps we can forgive his lapse, seeing as how he’s the Senatorial equivalent of a baseball September call-up put into office by a now-deposed criminal of a governor. What excuse do his colleagues have?