January 16, 2013
Steve Benen on MSNBC’s “The Maddow Blog” dismisses congressional efforts to repeal all or parts of Obamacare and admonishes conservatives to get with the program. Why? He says Obamacare “is here to stay.”
What makes Obamacare untouchable? Congress considers countless pieces of legislation “to amend” this legislation or that statute. Already, Congress has just repealed Obamacare’s massive long-term care entitlement.
Consider a public policy that was so “settled” it became part of the Constitution.
Ninety-four years ago today, the 18th Amendment was added to the Constitution. It prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes.”
The 18th Amendment was enacted with far more support than Obamacare. Congress conducted no committee hearings on the proposed amendment and spent a mere six hours in debate before approving it. Three-fourths of the states ratified it a mere month later—lightning speed for an amendment to the Constitution. The then-relatively new Progressive movement was all for the change, as Progressives wanted government to solve social problems caused by wayward individuals—in this case, alcoholism.
The 18th amendment proved unworkable. Even after approving it, states were reluctant to enforce it. Plus, the policy led to unforeseen problems, including the rise of organized crime (it took over the alcohol industry) and a decline in tax revenues.
Finally, in 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified to repeal the ill-conceived 18th Amendment, rendering prohibition an odd moment in American history.
What does this mean for Obamacare today?
Like Prohibition, Obamacare was no model of careful deliberation. Members of Congress voted for it without ever reading it. They were encouraged to pass the bill “so that you can find out what is in it,” then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously commented.