ObamaCare and the missing words

The Washington Post ran an interesting story on Tuesday about two health care experts, Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University and Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, who believe they have discovered a fatal flaw among the thousands of pages of ObamaCare rules and regulations.

In short, the Affordable Care Act contains language that says only state-based insurance exchanges can transmit subsidies for health insurance, but the federally-established exchanges are supposed to hand out $800 billion in tax credits ???meant to subsidize coverage for low- and middle-income Americans.???

It is, parenthetically, an important measure of ObamaCare???s incompatibility with the American ideal that middle-income Americans are supposed to be dependent upon federal subsidies to get health insurance.  The point of the exercise was to beat down the ???middle class??? and make them more dependent on Big Government, not help the tiny minority of people who truly could not obtain health insurance.

This is both a case of poor legislative craftsmanship ??? ???This is a 2,000-page bill that was put together in extraordinarily messy circumstances,??? as Abbe Gluck of Yale University pointed out ??? and ObamaCare???s fundamental dishonesty.  Huge amounts of cost and obligation were offloaded onto states, in order to make ObamaCare look like less of a deficit-buster.

But the notion that a missing word or two in the ObamaCare legislation would somehow halt this massive power grab is hopelessly naïve.  Words, and laws, with firm definitions are for the little people, not the masters of the almighty centralized State.  If you violate an obscure clause of some complicated regulation, you???ll be destroyed, but this lawless Administration will allow itself to be held to no such standard.  There will be a bit of nervous laughter, and then the State will proceed to fulfill its desires, expecting absolute obedience (barring specially granted waivers) to the very technicalities it feels free to ignore.

The Obama Administration routinely flouts far more explicit legal restrictions, when the President wants something done.  Just to cite the most recent example, the Department of Health and Human Services gutted the work requirements of Clinton-era welfare reform by invoking discretion the legislation manifestly did not grant.  These people are not going to let a few missing words in an incomprehensible, hastily-drafted bill get in the way of exercising $800 billion worth of new power.

More troubling is that so many of the American people feel inclined to let them get away with it, or at least voice only the most placid objections.  Too many of us have accepted the notion that massive, presumably benevolent government powers should not be thwarted by fine points of law.  Such people are happy to live within an increasingly complex maze, while their betters float serenely above.