Thursday, February 17, 2011

Federalism & Health Care

Welcome to our 1st blog assignment of this new semester! Since we're just finishing up our work on Federalism, what the Federal Government has the power to do vs. State Governments, etc., I thought a perfect (although perhaps not terribly easy to understand) topic for this first assignment would be the controversial new Health Care Reform law that President Obama and the Congress enacted last year. As with many of the issues we mentioned in the past week (gun control, civil rights, gay marriage, even illegal immigration), for our purposes the debate isn't simply "do we think what the law does is GOOD or BAD?" (there are strong opinions on both sides of that when when it comes to Health Care), but rather "do we think it should be the FEDERAL Government who takes care of this or should it be up to the STATES?"

For this assignment you will be looking at some information on a website as well as watching two different short video clips. Click on the title of the post above ('Federalism & Health Care') to go to a website which presents some basic information about the issues involved in the Health Care debate, as well as some arguments for and against the law. Read through those 'pros and cons,' and I encourage you to watch some of the video clips or click on some of the PDF links, as well, for statistical data and other additional information. After looking at the pros and cons, consider the following questions:
  • Of all the arguments given on either side, with which one do you AGREE the most strongly? Why?
  • Of all the arguments given on either side, with which one do you DISAGREE the most strongly? Why?
  • I realize the Health Care bill is a very complex and confusing thing and you may not feel like you know a lot about it (I freely admit to not completely understanding it myself), but based on what you've read and what you've heard, what are your general thoughts about this law, or in a larger sense, about the role of the federal government in providing access to health care for its citizens?

You're also going to watch a couple of video clips by clicking on the links below. The first is a Fox News interview with Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia who, on behalf of his state, is suing the federal government over the health care law, claiming it is unconstitutional. The second clip is an MSNBC interview with Thurbert Baker, the Attorney General of Georgia, who completely disagrees with Mr. Cuccinelli and therefore is not taking part in the lawsuit being brought by several states against the federal government.

The main issue is the so-called "individual mandate," which requires that all Americans buy health insurance, just like how you're supposed to have auto insurance if you drive a car. There are other controversial parts of the law, but this is the provision that's getting the most attention; the question is: does Congress' power to "regulate commerce" include a power to regulate a "lack of commerce?" In other words, can the government force a person to engage in commerce (buying insurance) if the person hasn't already done so?

I realize that these and other legal points made in the interviews may be confusing, but I think several of the issues or concepts that were brought up should have sounded familiar, so let's keep the questions relatively simple and straightforward:

  • What terms or concepts did you hear in either video clip that sounded familiar based on what we've been discussing in class for the past week or so?
  • Who do you think made the better argument, Mr. Cuccinelli ("the law is unconstitutional") or Mr. Baker ("the law is constitutional")? Why do you say this?

Your TWO (2) comments on this topic must be posted by 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, February 22. Your 1st post should simply be your responses to the questions I've posed after looking at the 'pros and cons' website and watching the videos. The 2nd post should be a response/agreement/disagreement to one of your classmates' comments. Please be sure that all your comments are appropriate and respectful; you can criticize someone else's ideas or arguments, but any sort of personal attacks will not be tolerated. Good luck and have fun--I look forward to reading your comments! --Silvy :)