This is nothing short of an historic week for America’s small businesses. With the Supreme Court’s announcement today that it has accepted our petition, “National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius,” along with the petition from the 26 states case challenging the constitutionality of “ObamaCare,” the small-business community soared to the top of the radar screen of every politician and policy-maker in the nation.
We cannot be ignored. Lip service to our issues is not enough. We are going to have our day in court and we might just win.
Our day in the land’s highest court will come in the spring. We will argue that the health care law’s individual mandate forcing every American to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Government has no right to force Americans to buy a product whether or not they want or need it – this is something that is clear to us, but was ignored by many of the groups that represent the interests of individuals and businesses in Washington, D.C.
It took the small-business community to carry this simple, profoundly important, message – that government can’t make us buy any given product – all the way to the Supreme Court.
This is what happens when small-business owners get pushed too far, when their government tries to control them too much. They know that, if the health care law were allowed to stand, the existence of the individual mandate will set a precedent that will allow and embolden Congress to compel Americans to do, and to buy, whatever the government commands. And small business simply can’t stand for that.
As our case made its way through the lower courts, judges often directly asked the government’s attorneys (the defendants in our case) to think of a scenario where a requiring Americans to buy specific services or products would be constitutional. The government has been unable to answer this question, and we aren’t surprised. It’s why we brought this challenge.
On our day in court, we will also argue that, without that individual mandate, the president’s health care law cannot stand; without the mandate, the law will unravel in ways both practical and financial. The law never would have been passed without the mandate.
Because it will set a precedent that is so meaningful to individual liberty, Constitutional scholars have already said that ours will be an historic case, and an historic decision by the court. Students of the law will study this case for decades, much as they study other cases that have changed the course of history like Marbury v. Madison and Brown v. Board of Education.
But that’s not terribly important to America’s small-business owners. What’s important to these job creators is the fact that they can now have – to use an over-used word – hope.
Hope that the law will fall.
Hope that their health-insurance premiums won’t keep rising so steeply.
Hope that their government will see its limitations and be more mindful of where the lines of freedom and autonomy are drawn.
It is also important to note that this case could stop the economic damage of the health care law in its tracks. There is already evidence that it is adding to increases in health insurance premiums, which are up nine percent from last year according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2011 Employer Health Benefits Survey.
An NFIB survey of small businesses revealed that one in eight small employers have either had their health insurance plans terminated or have been told their plan won't be available in the future.This creates uncertainty and discourages job creation and business growth.
Business owners are wondering whether premiums will increase yet another nine percent this year. They wonder if it will be worth it to stay in business at all, struggling under the burden of the health care law’s mandates and expensive costs.
Something that impacts small business in such a significant way is a real impediment to economic and job growth for the entire country, making the Supreme Court’s decision this spring even more significant.
When attorneys for NFIB argue before the Supreme Court this spring, it will be the proverbial “little guy’s” day in court. But, if you think about it, that’s the type of moment that often matters the most in this country.
The “little guy” is often present and fighting when essential questions of freedom are decided. When we are running well, the American government listens to a lot of small voices, not just a few big ones. And when justice is served, relief, in the form of liberty, is delivered to many. That is what this historic case might do. It is a good thing that we decided to fight.
Dan Danner is the president & CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business.