Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On Public funding for Pet Government Programs Part II- Ethanol, Abortion and Health Analogies

 Last Sunday we addressed whether continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood and NPR made sense in these fiscally-troubled times or was otherwise justified on a public-policy as well as basic "fairness" basis in light of significant public ambivalence to their questionably partisan (or worse) ideologies and goals vs the alleged overall benefit of their "services" for the vast majority of Americans, see here. As promised, today we continue by examining the case for continuing taxpayer subsidies for ethanol production in the U.S. and, to a lessor extent, agricultural subsidies in general.

 While putting off what some would insist is a related question of whether we should drill for more oil in America, (another topic for another day), we begin with a slightly different premise for today's discussion, taking for granted that lessening our national dependence on foreign oil-- and to a lessor extent, use of oil in general, see below-- while certainly a matter of differing political opinion, is, in fact, a legitimate objective of government that benefits a wide and general swath of the American electorate (certainly more than the percentage of those who desire to avail themselves of the elective abortions provided by Planned Parenthood or the programming of National Public Radio). Indeed, while the use and benefit to all our citizens of NPR or the services of Planned Parenthood are user specific and to a great extent a free choice among many available, we think it is beyond dispute that all citizens are forced to use energy and for the most part benefit from its uses.

 Now before our friends on the political left go getting all excited vis a vis attempts to justify Obamacare-- I can just see my more astute liberal readers who have been following the posts here on the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," as its officially called, going completely apoplectic at the seeming “double standard” in reasoning-- first allow me to explain that although it is true one could plausibly claim that all citizens will also use in a general sense over time“health care” services in the country so as to justify the government funding and implementing Obamacare for the same “wide and general benefit” of the populace, there are key differences that render this argument impotent. I therefore ask for patience as I briefly digress to consider them before getting back to the primary purpose of today's post, (that of examining the case for ethanol and federal agricultural subsidies generally).

 First of all, not only do one's lifestyle choices directly effect both their health and their perceived need for health services at any given time-- a matter which is, if not entirely a completely subjective affair, than one that is largely so-- but under our current health care system one is largely free to choose their own health provider, not generally the case with energy providers, (at least at the macro level where your most momentous choice is whether or not to flip a light switch or turn up your thermostat).

 Granted, while one could argue this is not exactly analogous to what we are talking about here, but rather matters effecting the production and sale of more personal fuel-use products, (i.e., 'gas'), which in fact is subject to individualized subjective choice, we would counter that which convenience store to pump your gas from is not equivalent and is still subject to the fact that, in any case, the fuel standards themselves, that is, what the fuel is going to be composed of and/or vehicles manufactured or not that can use only that kind of fuel, by and large is a matter of national-- or at least regional-- policy set by governmental bodies and leaders far removed from the consumers' choices at the pump. Therefore, our analogy stands.

  However, even were this fact of governmental policy over fuel mixtures and regulation not the case, we find a final and extremely compelling reason for a distinction between the two: Unlike one's energy choices at the micro level, only health care carries with it a related right as old as the ancient Greco-Roman empire from which our Republic has derived many of her democratic and legal traditions, (along with our strong Judeo-Christian heritage).  I am speaking here of an individualized and substantive right that has been recognized by our Supreme Court as a constitutional bulwark from America's earliest days of existence against encroachment by the State, namely, the right to refuse medical treatment.

  This right to refuse treatment has been so regularly invoked throughout our nation's legal history, and in every kind of case imaginable, from the right to refuse vaccinations based on religious beliefs to the right to create “living wills” refusing psychotic medications and/or refuse medical intervention at a future and as yet unknown time so as to hardly be open to dispute. Nevertheless, it is unclear to what respect such a right will remain viable in a system in which government proscribes what is, and isn't, considered a necessary and covered “treatment” under Obamacare's one-size-fits-all-mandated-plan of insurance and coverage as envisioned by the sweeping law. (NOTE: For those who in turn counter that a “democratic” government, even one so large and bureaucratic as ours, would NEVER go so far as to dictate proactively what choices people must make regarding accepting particular medical decisions for themselves or their families, we kindly refer you, once again, to the actual experience to the contrary provided from our Democratic neighbors to the North who already have just such a system in place and which we have already extensively addressed vis a vis the Baby Joseph story, (see here). You know, the case in which his parents were ORDERED, that's right, ordered by the court to pull out his breathing tube, (see here and here). And while one could possibly say, well that's different because there the London Ontario Superior Court only ordered them to remove him from his ventilator, (aka “medical device,”), not to make a health decision to put one in, we say in reply show us the difference in an actual case at law, (Canadian or American, your choice). 

  We might be wrong, but from our research have yet to be assured that any court has ever held there is any practical difference between being ordered by one's government to accept a medical treatment or procedure and one to decline the same, (though it often comes up in cases where the parent's religious beliefs dictate they should wait for healing from God rather than run to "man's medicine." Indeed, the importance and relevance to other modern controversies can't be overstated; in many ways such cases track a very similar debate currently being waged in our nation's federal courts regarding Obamacare, i.e., does its “individual mandate” to buy insurance constitute “activity” subject to regulation or merely mental “non activity” not subject to Congress' right to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution's so called “Commerce Clause”?)

   And while we at the ACLP are not lawyers, as best we can tell from all applicable law a medical or “health decision” to undo or not do some act is still a “health” decision, and if the government can force you to acquiesce in removing a medical device or deny“treatment,” we suggest it is plain that it can equally order you to acquiesce to accepting such device or treatment. 

  Thus, it is this threat of empowering the government to total control and invasion over our health choices which Obamacare envisions, (and frankly why we wonder why more women's and libertarian groups aren't vocally opposed to this expansion of federal power over our lives, after all, isn't that what they claim the “choice” debate vis a vis abortion is all about?)  In any case, and accordingly, it is also the reason why one cannot use the same “overall benefit and use by society” argument when judging the acceptability of public funding for the creation and development of new forms of energy as compared to a government health care system such as Obamacare. (There is simply no equivalent constitutional right to energy use that could be said to be undermined or infringed upon).

   That's not to say however that this means that legislation mandating the imposition of new “environmental friendly” forms of energy or public funding for such energy forms' creation should be publicly subsidized with taxpayer funds. It is this question that we are going to attempt to address here. Unfortunately, we shall have to do so in tomorrow's post, as dealing with these prevenient matters has taken up far more space (and time!) than I envisioned.  jp

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