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Is America Becoming More -- or Less -- Free?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Speaking this week in Ho Chi Minh City in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam -- at what the White House billed as a "business and entrepreneurship event" -- President Barack Obama complained about the lack of cooperation he gets from the U.S. Congress.

The president was responding to a question posed by a Microsoft Vietnam executive who wanted to know what Obama would do to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal -- which Microsoft endorses -- approved in the United States.

Toward the middle of his long answer, Obama gave the audience in Ho Chi Minh City his assessment of the reasonableness of American politics.

"The bad news is politics in the United States is not always -- how would I put it -- reasonable. That's the word I'm looking for," Obama said.

Toward the end of his long answer, our president gave the audience in Ho Chi Minh City his more specific assessment of Congress.

"So nothing is easy in Washington these days," Obama said. "But despite sometimes the lack of cooperation with Congress, I seem to be able to get a lot of things done anyway. It could have been easier. I would have less gray hair if Congress was working more effectively."

Obama presumably would deem American politics consistently "reasonable" -- and Congress to be "working more effectively" -- if the legislative branch gave him everything he wanted.

The truth is Congress -- and the Supreme Court -- gave him too much.

The question Americans should ask today is: Are we more or less free than we were eight years ago?

Obamacare alone answers that question. Eight years ago, Massachusetts may have forced individuals in that state to buy health insurance under the terms of Romneycare, but the federal government did not force individuals nationwide to buy health insurance.

The Obamacare mandate marked a significant increase in the power of the federal government over the individual. For the first time, the federal government claimed the authority to compel an individual to buy a product an individual did not want to buy because the federal government decided the product in question was good for the individual.

In a contradictory 2012 Supreme Court opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts correctly denied that the federal government had the constitutional power to order an individual to buy something.

But then he argued that the "penalty" the law imposed on individuals for refusing to buy the health insurance the law commanded they "shall" buy was actually just a tax that individuals could choose to pay instead of buying insurance.

This is one of the things freedom of choice means in post-Obamacare America.

Yet, the Obamacare mandate itself was only the first step in an escalating attack on individual liberty.

After Obamacare was enacted, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a regulation under the law requiring most health insurance plans to provide co-pay-free coverage for all Food and Drug Administration approved "contraceptive methods." That included abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

This regulation remains in force for those individuals and families (even if it violates their moral and religious convictions) who face the choice of obeying the Obamacare mandate to buy health insurance -- or paying the John Roberts tax.

Obamacare also increased government dependency -- not only because it expanded eligibility for Medicaid, but also because it provided subsidies for households with incomes under 400 percent of the poverty level to buy the insurance the federal government ordered them to buy.

Americans on expanded Medicaid rolls or on federally subsidized health insurance surrender some of their independence to the federal government, and so do those who pay for it.

Whether funded with current tax revenues or by accumulating greater debt (on which interest must be paid) expanded Medicaid and health insurance subsidies redistribute wealth from one set of Americans (those who are self-sufficient in the current generation and in future generations) to another set (those who go on Medicaid or receive the subsidies).

Government power increases over both groups.

Are Americans more free today than they were eight years ago?

Obamacare alone not only diminished freedom of choice and freedom conscience in this country, it increased dependency on the state.

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