The “Health Care Reform” Law Hits The High Court

It is looking increasingly likely that Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the ever-controversial “health care reform” law, and soon.

Both sides to a lawsuit — the Department of Justice in favor of the law, and 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses in opposition — have asked the Court to accept an appeal and decide whether the law should be upheld or struck down as unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court has the discretion to decline the appeal, but the fact that the appellate court declared the law unconstitutional, and the fact that both sides to the case are seeking review, should increase the chances the high court will hear the case.

Stripped of its partisan baggage, the appeal poses a fascinating legal issue:  how far does Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce extend?  In prior cases, the Court has articulated an expansive view of that power.  However, opponents of the new law argue that this case is different because Congress — through the “individual mandate” provision that requires all citizens to buy health insurance — is for the first time assuming the power to compel unwilling citizens to engage in commerce.  Proponents of the law respond that, when it comes to health care, every living American is already affecting commerce, because those who don’t have insurance and then need health care are imposing economic burdens on the rest of us.  A Supreme Court decision on this issue would go a long way toward defining, once and for all, the full extent of Congress’ power to regulate the daily lives of Americans.

If the Supreme Court takes the appeal, it would be likely to rule in the summer of 2012 — just before a presidential election where the wisdom of the “health care reform” law is likely to be a very hot topic.  And the decision will come against the backdrop of a recent report that shows a sharp increase in health care costs, which undoubtedly will cause Republican candidates to blame the unpopular new law and redouble their attacks on it.

Upbeat About The Utica Shale

Eastern Ohio — home to many depressed communities and unemployed residents — is becoming a boom area thanks to a rock formation called the Utica Shale.

The Utica Shale lies far below the surface under parts of eight states.  Geologists believe that it may contain huge reserves of natural gas and oil and that one of the best areas to get at the resources is eastern Ohio.   Big oil companies are moving into the area, buying lease rights and getting ready to drill in earnest.  Today one of those companies, Chesapeake Energy Corp., said that initial wells in the Utica Shale showed strong production, which has heightened the interest even more.

Because the Utica Shale is so far below the surface, the companies use deep and horizontal drilling technology and then apply a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to free the resources from the shale.  Environmentalists argue that fracking poses undue risk of groundwater contamination, but the oil companies contend the process is not dangerous and has been used safely for years.

For the citizens of eastern Ohio, the Utica Shale find is an economic godsend.  The sale of lease rights are making landowners wealthy, oil companies are setting up shop in the area, and the eventual extraction of the natural resources will produce a host of new construction and long-term blue collar and white collar jobs.  The state will want to ensure that the wells are operated safely, of course, but the impetus to develop the resources and bring jobs to the area seems irresistible.

It’s hard not to contrast the Utica Shale boom with the government effort to spur green energy.  Oil and gas companies are spending billions of dollars to get at natural resources that have proven value and can be obtained using established technology.  They have moved rapidly to identify the potential resources, obtain drilling rights, and erect rigs and start work.  And this burgeoning economic activity has not required costly government subsidies, slow-moving government bureaucracies, or politicized, heavily lobbied programs that advantage one manufacturer over another.

This textbook lesson in the speed, nimbleness, and efficiency of capitalism will create new wealth and lots of new jobs in Ohio that cannot be moved overseas.  All of which should lead everyone to ask:  if we want to immediately create jobs here in America, why isn’t the government making sure there are no unnecessary barriers to the development of our other existing natural resources?

 

The Sock Hop Lineup Gets Set

Last night New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rejected the musings and suggestions of anonymous sources and insiders and made clear that he is not going to join the 2012 race for President.  We’ll hear some longing sighs and expressions of regret, but then we’ll move on.

In some ways, our presidential selection process is like that awkward 8th-grade “sock hop” that your Mom made you attend.  As your classmates arrived, you spent much of the time looking at the gymnasium door.  A guy might wonder if that cute girl from algebra class was going to come, and a girl might hope that the dreamy guy who sat two rows behind her in home room would show up.  At some point, though, the gym doors would close, the music would start, and the assembled crowd would focus on who was actually there and ready to dance.

I’m sorry Christie isn’t running because I think his ability to articulate the issues and merits of his positions would add something to the race.  But he’s not coming to the dance, and with state filing deadlines rapidly approaching the gym doors soon will be closed.  In the meantime, we’ll start to give the current Republican lineup closer scrutiny.  We’ll see whether any of them look like good candidates for the presidential foxtrot — or whether we decide not to dance after all.