Two memorable quotations seems to have bookended the debate over the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, which has become commonly known as “ObamaCare.”
First there was the statement by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Before the House voted on the bill in the spring of 2010, she said, “we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
The bill was over 2,000 pages long, and it seems that few lawmakers actually read it before casting their votes. Nobody seems to know who actually wrote the Affordable Health Care Act and there certainly are no names on the bottom to identify the authors, or the proud acknowledgement of their words.
By contrast, the Declaration of Independence-the standard for all that followed in this country-was only one page long. There were 56 signers and each name appeared on the bottom of the page. The U.S. Constitution, which is the backbone for every law in this country, was just six pages long-including the Bill of Rights.
As incredulous as Pelosi’s statement was, the House did pass that bill, with the then-Democratic majority voting in favor and the then-Republican minority voting against it.
The politicians on both sides of the aisle followed what their leadership said and acted on the bill without making their own objective judgment. Likewise, the American public were told by the shouting heads on both sides what to think about this health care bill and, depending on their viewpoint, followed along with one of the two arguments.
After President Obama signed the bill into law, the legal challenges came, culminating with a hearing before the Supreme Court in March of this year. It was in the court’s ruling on June 28 upholding a key provision in that law-a mandate compelling all Americans to have health insurance, even if it means buying it on their own-that the second memorable quote came.
Chief Justice John Roberts, in declaring that the mandate was a tax passed by Congress (and thereby constitutional), stated in his opinion, “It’s not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
In other words, the American public got what it voted for back in 2008. President Obama and Congressional Democrats were voted into power by the people, in part, to change the health care and insurance system in this country-and, for better or worse, they did exactly that.
Roberts rightfully told the American people that they bear the responsibility for this law. If they want it preserved, they will elect lawmakers who will preserve it; if they want it changed or repealed, they will elect lawmakers who will change or repeal it.
One way or the other, the consequences-positive or negative- of the health care law falls on the shoulders of the government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Indeed, the consequences of every law passed by Congress and signed by the president falls on the shoulders of the people who elect them.
We’ve quoted Thomas Jefferson before, and we’ll do it again: “People get the government they deserve.” Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, whether you favor or oppose the health care law, it is up to us to heed Justice Roberts’ statement and make informed and wise decisions every Election Day.