Daniel J. Watkins, Columnist

With the recent hubbub following the Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) discussion of the major healthcare legislation passed in 2010, a fissure has risen again in a classic “you’re with us or against us” scenario.

The standoff is between those for or against the individual mandate in recent healthcare legislation.

Around that, the central question is this: can the government mandate that a private citizen purchase healthcare from a private organization?

To be forthright, the discussion has created an illusion that the individual mandate is central to creating universal healthcare.

A more profound question is this: why would lawmakers commit to something they know is constitutionally questionable by making the legislation an all or nothing endeavor?

At best, my head spins with suspicion. At worst, I wonder how bad it might actually be to be required to purchase healthcare.

The power of the United States Congress that’s in question is found in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution.

Simply, it allows Congress the power to regulate commerce. Throughout the years, when SCOTUS has handled these cases it has generally ruled in favor of Congress.

The question of this individual mandate though, as you’ve likely heard, is very different in nature.

As several district judges and attorneys involved, especially with the 2010 hearings of district courts, have said, there is now the question of creating commerce versus regulating it.

Creating commerce is very different than regulating existing commerce.

Furthermore, to be punished for not doing something is a rather profound change in relation to existing punitive systems, which currently rely on what you do.

This sort of regulation focuses on not doing something.

The stakes seem so high because there exists the issue of severability.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, how much of the legislation can stand?

In their discussion, the justices wondered how much of the 2,400- page legislation might make it on its own, and how going through it would be done reasonably.

One of the largest issues to root itself in this discussion is something that strikes me as a falsehood.

Somehow in defense of the mandate there has come an idea that striking down the mandate means no chance for universal healthcare in the United States.

The healthcare mandate is not equal to universal healthcare.

This is a false equivalence, and it means if progress is to be had on the healthcare front, it will not be lost to removing a requirement that everyone buy healthcare.

To explain that notion, we can recall President Barack Obama’s campaign speeches before he grasped the Democratic Party Ticket.

“If a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house,” Obama said.

I think 2008 Obama was on the right track. Simply making people spend money does not solve problems.

Healthcare, being the beast it is, should not be hinged on such a questionable premise.

I’m betting that’s why the legislation was 2,400 pages and not a lonely page which would read “everyone just buy healthcare.”

Some might call the mandate a tax, or like requiring the purchase of car insurance, are grounds I’ve heard mentioned for defending the mandate.

The difference in both cases though, is there exists an act for an individual to perform, which leads to either of those outcomes.

Buying something or having income are definitely activities one can participate in. Similarly, driving a car counts for that. But the individual mandate?

That, if one desperately wanted to say it regulated an activity, would be the activity of living.

It has become all too common to brush someone off by labeling the position one of “small government.”

Some rather adamant and inconsistent folks have ruined it for the rest of us.

But who is to say a person can’t think the individual mandate is unconstitutional alongside believing that healthcare regulation should occur?

Not all people are good, and I’m ever more skeptical of the people who want to rule over me.

Interpreting the Constitution does not make any person some absurd caricature of fascism or communism, but to interpret it in a way that puts more power in the hands of people who have proven they poorly wield it, well that just might provide a little grounds for it.

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