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From CNS News, Hoyer Says Constitution’s ‘General Welfare’ Clause Empowers Congress to Order Americans to Buy Health Insurance

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the individual health insurance mandates included in every health reform bill, which require Americans to have insurance, were “like paying taxes.” He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”

The Congressional Budget Office, however, has stated in the past that a mandate forcing Americans to buy health insurance would be an “unprecedented form of federal action,” and that the “government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.”…

Is there any limit to Congress’s power in his view?

CNSNews.com also asked Hoyer if there is a limit to what Congress can mandate that Americans purchase and whether there is anything that specifically could not be mandated to purchase. Hoyer said that eventually the Supreme Court would find a limit to Congress’ power, adding that mandates that unfairly favored one person or company over another would obviously be unconstitutional.

“I’m sure the [Supreme] Court will find a limit,” Hoyer said. “For instance, if we mandated that you buy General Motors’ automobiles, I believe that would be far beyond our constitutional responsibility and indeed would violate the Due Process Clause as well – in terms of equal treatment to automobile manufacturers.”

Hoyer said that the insurance mandate was constitutional because Congress is not forcing Americans to buy one particular policy, just any health insurance policy.

Well, that’s a relief.  I was starting to think I lived in a police state.  More at the link.

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The Food Police are alive and well in New York, teaching children that they don’t need no stinkin’ personal responsibility.  From the New York Times, A Crackdown on Bake Sales in City Schools

There shall be no cupcakes. No chocolate cake and no carrot cake. According to New York City’s latest regulations, not even zucchini bread makes the cut.

nocupcake

In an effort to limit how much sugar and fat students put in their bellies at school, the Education Department has effectively banned most bake sales, the lucrative if not quite healthy fund-raising tool for generations of teams and clubs.

The change is part of a new wellness policy that also limits what can be sold in vending machines and student-run stores, which use profits to help finance activities like pep rallies and proms. The elaborate rules were outlined in a three-page memo issued at the end of June, but in the new school year, principals and parents are just beginning to, well, digest them…

More at the link.

H/T Big Government

What in the world is going on in Great Britain?  SIN BINS FOR WORST FAMILIES

THOUSANDS of the worst families in England are to be put in “sin bins” in a bid to change their bad behaviour, Ed Balls announced yesterday.

The Children’s Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.

They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

Private security guards will also be sent round to carry out home checks, while parents will be given help to combat drug and alcohol addiction.

Around 2,000 families have gone through these Family Intervention Projects so far.

More at the link.

Obama mulls rental option for some homeowners-sources

U.S. government officials are weighing a plan that would let borrowers who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments avoid eviction by renting their homes instead, sources familiar with the administration’s thinking said on Tuesday.

Under one idea being discussed, delinquent homeowners would surrender ownership of their homes but would continue to live in the property for several years, the sources told Reuters.

Also being considered:  the government making mortgage payments for those who fall behind in them, and a welfare housing allowance to go along with unemployment benefits.

Aren’t a priority, in the grander scheme of things.  Analysis | With new charge, saving electricity could end up costing Missourians

Some Missouri residents and businesses soon could see a new charge on their electric bills — a fee for using less energy.

Though it might seem illogical, the new energy efficiency charge has support from utilities, most lawmakers, the governor, environmentalists and even the state’s official utility consumer advocate. The charge covers the cost of utilities’ efforts to promote energy efficiency and cut power use.

Oh, well, if the environmentalists are on board with the political apparatus and the politically-controlled, case closed, game over.  It must be a good idea.  It’s counter-intuitive only if you assume the goal is simply to save energy consumers money.  Once you realize the goal is much bigger than that, it begins to make sense.  Read on.

The assumption is that charging consumers for those initiatives ultimately will cost less than charging them to build the new power plants that will be needed if electricity use isn’t curtailed.

The article mentions no analysis of the savings this kind of program actually generates.   We are to take a positive result on faith, then? And why is it a given that construction of new power plants is a bad thing?

It’s going on already:

For example, the commission last week approved a program in which St. Louis-based AmerenUE can offer credits to businesses that voluntarily shut down or scale back their electricity use during peak demand. AmerenUE will be able to recoup the cost for the program that starts Thursday by increasing the rates it charges business customers.

Kansas City Power & Light Co. already has 19 energy efficiency and demand-reduction programs, said Chuck Caisley, the company’s senior director of public affairs. He said the Public Service Commission is allowing the company to recoup up to $50 million of the programs’ costs under a rate plan in effect through 2010.

One of the company’s more popular energy-saving initiatives has provided free programmable thermostats to about 34,000 residential customers in Missouri and Kansas. KCP&L can remotely control the devices to reduce the frequency at which air conditioners run during peak demand times. The power company overrode customers’ air conditioners four times last year and twice so far this summer, Caisley said.

Just for fun, I searched for programmable thermostats to find the retail cost of the “free” ones mentioned above.  Home Depot offers one for $47.47.
Honeywell has one for $53.95.  I realize that’s retail, and no doubt the electric company gets them more cheaply.  But they’re not “free.”  Somebody paid for them, and that somebody is that company’s customers.  And the part about overriding home thermostats sounds more like remote-control rationing than saving energy.

To me, this is the same thinking that’s behind one proposed healthcare reform, increasing preventive care coverage to save taxpayer money, the idea being that government paying up front reduces costs to it down the road.  But how?  Preventive care isn’t cheap, definitely not “free”–and a study indicates the impact of preventive care on costs is a mixed bag.    We are to take Congress’s word on that, too, I guess.

Cap and tax as blackmail:

Public Service Commission Chairman Robert M. Clayton III said he feared that Missouri’s heavily coal-dependent electric customers will see a sharp spike in rates if federal climate legislation limiting carbon emissions becomes law. That makes it even more important for Missourians to reduce their collective energy use, he said.

And to let essentially government-controlled power companies ration energy use.

On the surface, this sort of program sounds reasonable.  You control the demand of the (relatively) few, for the good of the many, to avoid brownouts and blackouts.  It also furthers the junk science global warming agenda by reducing the number of power plants that would need to be built, avoiding the resulting defacement of the planet.  But are you convinced that kind of power, to control the temperature of the air in your house, won’t be put into the service of some other noble-sounding but freedom-killing public goal, for our own good?  Given the track record of  history, I am not.

Because, you see, as in every other case in which that maxim has been followed, that of allowing the needs of the many to override the needs of the few, or the one, the result will be more government control over everyone.  It is as inevitable as death and taxes.  It’s not, ultimately, about the good of the many.  It’s about the power of the bureaucrats.

Part of the cap and tax bill the House passed in the dead of night:  Democrats’ Cap-and-Trade Bill Creates ‘Retrofit’ Policy for Homes and Businesses

The 1,400-page cap-and-trade legislation pushed through by House Democrats contains a new federal policy that residential, commercial, and government buildings be retrofitted to increase energy efficiency, leaving it up to the states to figure out exactly how to do that.

This means that homeowners, for example, could be required to retrofit their homes to meet federal “green” guidelines in order to sell their homes, if the cap-and-trade bill becomes law.

A brand-spanking-new bureaucracy for the house police:

The program would involve a system of certified auditors, inspectors, and raters who inspect homes and businesses using devices such as infrared cameras (which measure how much heat a building is giving off) to measure their energy efficiency.

The results of these energy audits would then be used to determine what retrofits need to be performed. The audits would examine things like water usage, infrared photography, and pressurized testing to determine the efficiency of door and window seals, and indoor air quality.

So who gets to pay for retrofitting your neighbor’s home if he decides to sell it?  You:

To help pay for the cost of these retrofits, states and localities may provide loans, utility rate rebates, tax rebates, or implement retrofit programs on their own. In fact, the government will even pay up to 50 percent of the cost of a retrofit through financial awards to individual home and building owners.

“PERCENTAGE.—Awards under clause (i) shall not exceed 50 percent of retrofit costs for each building,” reads the bill.

We’re getting to be more like Europe every day.

It’s not just the medical care you get that Democrats want to reform, it’s how you live.  Democrats Bury ‘Community Transformation’ Plans in Health Care Bill

Senate Democrats inserted a wide-ranging provision for “Community Transformation Plans” in their half-completed health care bill, outlining the proposal on page 382 of the now-615 page bill, major sections of which have yet to be written.

Some Republicans have criticized the provision as a means to funnel money to liberal activist groups under the canopy of “community organizations,” whereby they will use the funds to promote big government health care but also monitor people’s eating and exercise regimens in the name of “healthy lifestyles.”

It would essentially politicize the Centers For Disease Control:

In the bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act(pdf), community transformation plans would be carried out using federal money and be overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC would distribute the money as well as coordinate the various state, local, and “community” entities responsible for carrying out the plans.

According to the bill, both state and local governments are eligible for the grants, as are “national networks of community-based organizations,” a group which is not defined in the bill.

Whichever type of group receives the funding, it must submit to the CDC director a plan for community transformation. As it states: “An eligible entity that receives a grant under this section shall submit to the [CDC] Director (for approval) a detailed plan that includes the policy, environmental, programmatic, and infrastructure changes needed to promote healthy living and reduce disparities.”(p. 383)

It would unleash an army of nannies:

“Activities within the plan shall focus on (but not be limited to)— (i) creating healthier school environments, including increasing healthy food options, physical activity opportunities, promotion of healthy lifestyle and prevention curricula, and activities to prevent chronic diseases;

“(ii) creating the infrastructure to support active living and access to nutritious foods in a safe environment;

“(iii) developing and promoting programs targeting a variety of age levels to increase access to nutrition, physical activity and smoking cessation, enhance safety in a community, or address any other chronic disease priority area identified by the grantee.”

The transformation plans must also take action to promote certain “healthy options” at privately owned restaurants as well as “prioritizing strategies” to “reduce racial and ethnic disparities,” although the bill does not explain how racial and ethnic disparities figure in to community transformation.

The state, local, or community organization groups must also monitor the progress of their transformation plans among community members, measuring things such as weight loss, physical activity, and eating habits.

It’s the end of personal choice as we knew it.  Tell your Congresscritters what you think.

Not even the departed are safe from greenie control freaks in Great Britain.  From The Telegraph, Eco-friendly shrouds to reduce cremation emissions

Council crematoria have banned families from dressing the deceased in their favourite outfits, under the strict rules against man-made fabrics.

Parents have even been forbidden from placing soft toys insides their children’s coffins because they could pose a risk to the environment when burned.

Instead, grieving relatives are being told they must pay £60 for a council-approved “fluffy and frilly” shroud made of 100 per cent natural fibres.

Will this be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for the people of Great Britain’s Nanny State?  Bet the local government makes a nice piece of change on the requirement, too.  I can’t think of any other single action that demonstrates so clearly how far their government control has gone, when people must honor their dead according to the state-sanctioned religion of Environmentalism.  Wake up, Brits, and rise up.

Thanks to Green Hell which has a video on the green funeral phenomenon.

The trash police will keep track of who eats their vegetables, and who doesn’t:  S.F. to impose fines for tossing food scraps

Trash collectors in San Francisco will soon be doing more than just gathering garbage: They’ll be keeping an eye out for people who toss food scraps out with their rubbish.

San Francisco this week passed a mandatory composting law that is believed to be the strictest such ordinance in the nation. Residents will be required to have three color-coded trash bins, including one for recycling, one for trash and a new one for compost — everything from banana peels to coffee grounds.

The purpose, they say, is to eventually eliminate waste at local landfills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What punishment awaits environmental despoilers?

Waste collectors will not pick through anyone’s garbage, said Robert Reed, a spokesman for Sunset Scavenger Co., which handles the city’s recyclables. If the wrong kind of materials are noticed while a bin is being emptied, workers will leave what Reed called “a love note,” to let customers know they are not with the program.

“We’re not going to lock you up in jail if you don’t compost,” said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom who proposed the measure that passed Tuesday. “We’re going to make it as easy as possible for San Franciscans to learn how to compost.”

A moratorium on imposing fines will end in 2010, after which repeat offenders like individuals and small businesses generating less than a cubic yard of refuse a week face fines of up to $100.

Businesses that don’t provide the proper containers face a $500 fine.

No word in the article about the costs and results of the future compost capital’s current and proposed recycling schemes.

Walls may have ears, but garbage cans having eyes just goes too far.  San Franciscans ought to teach Mayor Newsom that.

It’s not just healthcare services and insurance delivery the President wants to reform–it’s you.  From Politico via Michelle Malkin:      Barack Obama says shape up now

President Barack Obama eats his vegetables and exercises every day — and he really wants you to do the same.

From the White House garden to his picks for top health jobs, Obama is telling America’s McDonald’s-loving, couch-dwelling, doctor-phobic populace that things are about to change.

Don’t be fooled by the presidential burger runs. Obama and Congress are moving across several fronts to give government a central role in making America healthier — raising expectations among public health experts of a new era of activism unlike any before.

To match the new era of spending, debt and deficits unlike any before.  He does go for the grand gesture, doesn’t he?

By the way, this article is not from the Teenage Groupies For The O Man site.  It is Politico.  I had to check after I read that.

The Personal-Trainer-In-Chief has your program all worked out:

Any health care reform plan that Obama signs is almost certain to call for nutrition counseling, obesity screenings and wellness programs at workplaces and community centers. He wants more time in the school day for physical fitness, more nutritious school lunches and more bike paths, walking paths and grocery stores in underserved areas.

The president is filling top posts at Health and Human Services with officials who, in their previous jobs, outlawed trans fats, banned public smoking or required restaurants to provide a calorie count with that slice of banana cream pie.

Politico predicts that some unenlightened slobs will grumble a bit:

Still, Obama needs to strike a balance between fashioning himself an advocate of clean living and coming across as a public scold or a killjoy. That’s precisely how some people view Jacobson’s group, which has denounced movie popcorn, Chinese food and other indulgences that many Americans — including Obama voters —enjoy. Clean living in balance is an appealing notion, but finger-wagging moralism may not play so well in some precincts of Middle America, where voters may decide government commentary on the size of their beer gut or that plate of nachos isn’t such a good idea.

Why does Politico feel the need to reassure us that Obama voters are just regular folks?  Odd.  Anyway, it’s true that manipulation is hard work, but it is more effective if you understand a little about the idiots whose behavior you want to direct.  A word of advice to the controllers–the problem is not that they’re killing joy, it’s the stamping out of personal freedom.  Your minimizing the issue doesn’t change it.  As for the rubes, they’ll get over it.    They’ll have no choice.  Besides, it will save money in the long run:

The public health community has worked intensively in recent years to build a body of evidence in support of the very initiatives Obama and lawmakers are now embracing. They frame the issue as one of money: Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if the government encourages healthful lifestyles, it could slow the rising cost of health care…

How much money will these measures save?  Just a ballpark figure.

…though the exact savings are debatable.

Ah.  Well, perhaps they should frame it as saving or creating X number of healthy beasts of burden instead.  Why not?  Obama’s been conning legacy media with that bull about stimulus employment numbers for weeks.

And about that statement, the public health community working to build a body of evidence–is the reporter saying that they decided what measures they wanted to impose on people and then made sure their studies supported their position?  Freudian slip or poor word choice?  You decide.

“This isn’t about telling people what to do,” said Nick Papas, a spokesman for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “It is about giving people the tools they need to live longer, healthier, happier lives.”

And penalizing them if they don’t:

…Some of the most conservative members of the House and Senate, as sponsors of the Patients’ Choices Act, want to prohibit junk food under the federal food stamp program and reward seniors who adopt healthful behaviors with lower Medicare premiums.

We’re all our own grandchildren now.

From the same Malkin post comes the news that a Congressman wants meditation to be part of our new health care regimen:

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) says he’s found a cost effective way to address chronic pain, stress, and other illnesses: meditation.

Ryan is urging policymakers to consider adding “mindfulness education”–learning to reduce one’s own stress level–to healthcare reform legislation.

“Every day, I meditate for at least 45 minutes before leaving home in the morning,” Ryan wrote on his website. “I find it makes me a better listener, and my concentration is sharper. I get less distracted when I’m reading. It’s like you see through the clutter of life and can penetrate to what’s really going on.”

We need quiet time legislation?  Well, why not?  As recently as 2007 the British National Health Service was paying for shamen, dowsers, flower therapists and crystal healers.  My guess is they still are.