Published June 28, 2012
Editor's note: The National Federation of Independent Business joined with 26 states in the lawsuit against the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The author of this commentary, Karen Harned is the executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center.
When President Obama signed the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly known as "ObamaCare" into law in 2010, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) decided that we had to take the fight to the Courts.
We joined the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the health care law because, for months, we had heard from small business owners who were greatly concerned over the costs, the burdens and the impositions that the PPACA would bring. They believed it threatened their businesses, employees, families, and livelihoods.
So we fought to the bitter end to keep their fears from playing out.
Yet this case was about something bigger than health care policy, it was about preserving American liberty from the increasingly powerful hand of the federal government.
Today marks a sad day in the history of America. With this decision, Americans have lost the right to be left alone, which Justice William O. Douglas once called “the beginning of all freedom.”
It is painful to recognize that the liberties which our forefathers fought a revolution to secure have been lost. But it is clear that our original constitutional system has been thrown out, and we are left with only the democratic process to preserve our rights. That should be a sobering thought for anyone who values liberty.
The significance of this decision cannot be overstated. Our Founding Fathers were greatly concerned that by giving too much power to the federal government, they would be endangering our liberties. So they sought to restrain the federal government by vesting it with only limited powers. As James Madison said, the powers of the federal government were to be “few and defined.” Yet with this decision, it is clear that the powers of the federal government are no longer limited at all. Our only remaining protections are with those liberties which were explicitly spelled out in the Bill of Rights, and even those are under assault. So today Madison’s vision of the American Republic has been turned on its head: The powers of the federal government are now broad and uncabined, and the freedoms of the people are few and confined.
As Justice Kennedy put it, during oral arguments in March, the individual mandate “changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in a very fundamental way.” We wholeheartedly wish that more weight had been added to that statement in the Court’s opinion. But the die has been cast.
We must now look forward, with great trepidation, into this brave new world, a world in which the Constitution has been undone, and federal power knows no limit. This is a day that our Founders would never have wanted to see. All that they had fought to secure and preserve has been lost.
But, it is important to realize that at the end of the day this is about real people. We were fighting so that small business owners would not be subject to paternalistic demands to buy a product that they did not want, or need.
We were fighting so that you and I could choose whether or not to buy broccoli, or cars or gym memberships or solar panels. With this decision, we no longer have the choice.
What will happen next is anyone’s guess. But it seems clear that the political dialogue over health care reforms will continue.
In any event, we will never give up, and we will never give in. Today we have suffered a terrible setback, but we will press on in our fight to protect small business owners, and to restore our lost Constitution.
On the health care front, the mandates and burdens imposed by the PPACA remain a grave concern for small businesses. Moreover, small business owners are still worried about the costs of health care; so health care reform will remain a top priority for NFIB.
We have long advocated free-market oriented health care solutions that will benefit all Americans without putting undue strain on our job creators, and we will continue to carry that banner forward until we have achieved workable solutions to these vexing problems.