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Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse

People pay the price when politicians are ignorant of certain laws.

Years ago as a young inexperienced California Highway Patrol Officer, I found myself in Los Angeles waiting to testify on a traffic ticket. I often arrived at court in advance of my testimony to listen to the cases, and learn how they were adjudicated. On this day a man was in court because he received a citation for having a ladder projecting more than 4’ from the rear of his pickup without a red warning flag attached. His defense was that he did not know of the law. The judge found him guilty but reduced the fine. The judge said, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” It seemed harsh to me, but the judge went on to explain, people have a responsibility to others and must understand activities they undertake. One who hauls around ladders should understand the rules of the road involving protruding loads.

This incident came back to me as I read of the problems arising from the Federal Government taking over the Nation’s health care. Health insurance companies have spent years developing a system which led to the best health care in the world. The selling, processing, rate setting and actuarial activities are the results of trial and error. The trial and errors were incremental and were overseen by State Insurance Commissioners who made sure these companies acted in a responsible manner. During this development period companies tended to select certain groups and concentrate their efforts. Some companies wrote group policies, some wrote individual policies and some wrote for organizations offering their members health insurance at a group rate. Each company understood they could not be everything to everybody. The system was complex, field tested and it worked. How well did it work? On a regular basis heads of states from around the world made the trip to the United States to receive medical treatment when illness threatened their lives. Due to Court decisions, no sick person was turned away from an Emergency Room if they needed care.

The people who wrote the affordable care act were politicians and academics who wanted to make sure the uninsured got the health insurance they needed. It sounds great, and as always with this bunch, they had good intentions. The major problem is they were ignorant of the laws of economics and the rules for supplying health care. One might say they were ignorant of the laws of economics governing health care. So these well-meaning, but functionally ignorant people, overturned a system developed over years and replaced it with 3500 pages of rules and regulations. Now millions of Americans have either lost their health insurance or had their policies changed with higher deductibles and higher co-pays. In case the law was not bad enough, The President and bureaucrats changed the rules on a regular basis making the 3500 page law only a guideline to be ignored whenever it was convenient.

Some poor working guy pays a fine because his ladder stuck out one foot too far, and yet a bunch of self-selected elites destroy the best health care system in the world with no repercussions? Where is the press? The Press always had the role of holding the government accountable? Now the Press are cheerleaders for big government.

The next target of these well-meaning elites is the issue of the minimum wage. Once again, it makes so much sense. If everybody made more money, then everybody would be better off. The Progressives would have us believe the people earning minimum wage are there forever and they all head up households. In truth we know people at the lowest earning levels change all the time as some people get better jobs and move up. When people move out of the minimum wage level, others enter the work force and take their place at the bottom. The availability of jobs, not government dictated minimum wages is what helps the poor. Don’t buy this myth of a 7% unemployment number, look instead at the low labor participation rate.

A good example of how the government can hurt more than it helps with jobs is the oil industry. While the President has declared war on the coal industry and placed restrictions on drilling involving Federal Lands, private industry has led this country toward energy independence. Fracking, usually on private property, has made certain parts of this country a magnet for people wanting high paying jobs. “Ignorance of the law is no defense,” should be applied to the Federal Government.

The health care industry has suffered a severe blow that may take years to fix. The minimum wage increase could reduce jobs for low income people for years. The loss of the coal industry will affect every American with higher energy costs and the loss of thousands of jobs. In 2014 there will be an election. While we can’t fine the Federal Government for Ignorance of the laws of Economics, we can make them pay a price. We can help ourselves by seeking out candidates who strongly express one simple theme, “get the government out of our lives.”

The founding fathers feared a strong central Federal Government. Turns out they really did understand what happens when the government has too much power.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 08, 2014 at 01:12 PM
As usual a very good well thought out article John. IMO, starting at the local level and all the way up to Washington our elected officials have become "CONTROL FREAKS" and "POWER ABUSERS"! This control is manifested primarily to the benefit of their campaign contributors. Where does the "true good for the people" enter into this equation? IMO. politicians are more interested in campaign contributions than in the good for the people!

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