All eyes have been on the Supreme Court for three days of testimony on Obamacare.
It is said that the high court has not heard as many oral arguments on any one case since the 1950s in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education.
And well they should, since the overhaul of our health care system has strong implications for our national future. How free are we, ask limited government conservatives, when the government can dictate that we must buy a product?
Particularly controversial about Obamacare is the individual mandate---the requirement that virtually all of us have to buy some health insurance.
"This is the first time in our country's history that Congress is requiring us to buy a product or pay a fine." So notes Karen Harned, Executive Director of the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) Small Business Legal Center. NFIB is the plaintiff in the Obamacare case. She was at the Supreme Court for the hearings.
She added, "It is going to be an unlimited power [of the federal government] if the individual mandate is upheld. Congress will be able to force us to buy virtually any product going forward. There were many hypothetical's given throughout the two hours of argument that demonstrated just how vast this government power could become."
During one of the oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia asked, "Could you define the market? Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli."
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing on behalf of Obamacare, replied that purchasing food in a store is "unpredictable and often involuntary." Not so with buying health insurance.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom everyone views as the swing vote on this case, asked, "Can you create commerce to regulate it?"
He later observed that the individual mandate "is different from what we have in previous cases---and that changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in the very fundamental way."
Justice Elena Kagan tried to defend the individual mandate by asking the solicitor general a softball question: "And this is especially true, isn't it, General Verrilli, because in this context, the subsidizers eventually become the subsidized?"
This case is so critical to the future of this nation because it defines the limits of the reach of the federal government. What are the limits of our freedom? Can the government force institutions (such as the Catholic Church) to provide, say, abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, regardless of the consciences of those who run these institutions?
There's a lot at stake in Obamacare.
And the outcome of this case has potential bearings on the Republican primaries as well. It seems as if Gov. Romney has the nomination all but sewn up. But why can't he seal the deal? Surely one of the answers is a perceived link between Obamacare and Romneycare, however fair or unfair that link may be.
Recently, I have participated off and on in some email discussions---sometimes heated---on the Republican primaries with a group comprised of some family members and friends. These emails ultimately boil down to pro-Romney and anti-Romney discussion.
One of the emailers tried to distinguish Obamacare from Romneycare: "Romneycare may [stink] like Obamacare, but it's not illegal; it wasn't shoved down anyone's throat or snuck into law through a commerce clause, and it is limited to Massachusetts."
Another emailer disagreed: "Romney has to provide a clear contrast with Obama if he's going to win." He noted that Obama said "he modeled his healthcare policy after the Massachusetts plan, and the Massachusetts healthcare mandate in that state is very successful and very popular." Once in place, Obamacare will become popular, predicts the president.
The emailer continued, "Now how does Romney respond to that? Does he say, 'No Mr. President, my healthcare plan in Massachusetts was a disaster.' Or does he say, 'No, Mr. President, my healthcare plan in Massachusetts was great for that state, but would be terrible for the country, even though I once advocated that you adopt it.'"
He concluded, "Until Romney repudiates Romneycare, he's not going to be able to fight Obama on Obamacare."
Another emailer said that he's waiting for "Romney to throw Romneycare under the bus. Thump, thump. PAUSE. Thump, thump."
Both sides are watching the Supreme Court hearings carefully because what happens with Obamacare ultimately will determine the limits of our freedom in the future.