Congress without Limits: ObamaCare's Effect on States and Local Self-Government

March 27, 2012

The Supreme Court today devoted most of its session to discussing the new limits ObamaCare's individual mandate would impose on personal freedom, but often overlooked is the disruption the mandate would create in the relationship between the citizens of the states and their federal government.

If literally everything Americans do, or even don't do, is to be considered interstate commerce, then every aspect of state and local life would become subject to regulation by Congress.  Under ObamaCare's mandate doctrine, states would lose much of their independence, and, more importantly, all Americans would lose the ability to solve local problems in ways that work best for them.

Obamacare's defenders say, "Of course Congress isn't going to take away local self-government."  In terms of electing state and local public leaders they are right, but when it comes to day-to-day governing, those same leaders would finds their authority severely limited by actions in Congress.

Perhaps that is hard to imagine today, but all it would take would be a political change in the makeup of Congress, or some particularly aggressive future President, to inject the federal government into policy areas that extend far beyond personal health care choices.  Running local schools, local policing, zoning rules, local housing codes and much more would all potentially fall under Congress' authority because, under the mandate doctrine, all these local activities would be defined under the Constitution as “interstate commerce” and subject to national "regulation."  That would spell the end of our federal system as we know it.  It wouldn't happen overnight, but the health care mandate doctrine would start our country down that road.