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ISTOOK: Ruling thwarts Obama’s attack on the profit motive

- - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In President Obama's America, people suffer legal jeopardy because they try to earn an honest profit. That includes the owners of the giant crafts chain Hobby Lobby. Their court case was as much about economic freedom as religious freedom, which is why news stories always mention that Hobby Lobby is a for-profit company.

Only those willing to denounce profits get considered for more-favored treatment under Obamacare. It's part of Mr. Obama's constant attack on free enterprise. Non-profits: good. For-profits: bad.

Meantime, money-losing businesses (like Solyndra and other "green" monsters) get rewarded, thanks to their support for the big government that is their life-support system.

President Obama and his liberal supporters tried and failed to get the Supreme Court to create a dangerous new standard in the Hobby Lobby case, namely that when you try to make a profit, you lose your First Amendment rights. That's what the solicitor general argued in the government legal briefs filed with the Supreme Court. Summarizing the claim, the court majority opinion noted that the government argued that Hobby Lobby (and its co-parties) "cannot sue because they seek to make a profit for their owners."

The majority opinion went on: The Department of Health and Human Services "would put these merchants to a difficult choice: either give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits, available to their competitors, of operating as corporations."

Slapping aside all dispute over whether corporations have rights that must be protected, the majority opinion noted, "A corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends."

The Supreme Court ruling devoted several pages to rejecting the notion that corporations (generally) or for-profit corporations (specifically) must have their First Amendment protections reduced, as was argued by the government. This covered more pages, in fact, than were spent discussing religious freedom issues.

Nobody should have been surprised that Mr. Obama's lawyers pushed such radical claims to strip away rights of companies.

As a believer in redistribution of wealth, the president constantly attacks profits, claiming that what people earn doesn't actually belong to them. His philosophy is, "You didn't build that; somebody else did." He denounces profits in health care, education and wherever else he can get away with it.

As Mr. Obama once said, "A whole lot of people out there are having bad experiences because they know that recommendations are coming from people who have a profit motive." He has accused doctors of performing unnecessary amputations, just to make money.

Thus our president is always ready to tax corporations to do his work for him. He makes the promises and sends others the bill. As an advocate of the "anything goes" approach (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and the 57 gender varieties on Facebook), Mr. Obama claims that contraception should be free, a right just like free speech. But since taxpayers don't want to finance people's sex lives, bureaucrats wrote Obamacare regulations to place that expense on employers. So despite the screams from Planned Parenthood, it's not employers who are trying to make sexual decisions for workers; it's Mr. Obama's bureaucrats.

Fortunately, despite Mr. Obama's disincentives for free enterprise, he hasn't yet succeeded in killing our whole economy. He's made too much progress, however, as shown by the 2.9 percent shrinkage of our economy in the first quarter.

We have dodged two sneaky bullets fired by the left. They aimed at religious freedom and economic freedom. Fortunately, they missed both times. But since the ruling was 5-4, those misses were way too narrow.

— Ernest Istook is a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Listen online to his daily talk radio show at www.kzlsam.com, noon to 3 p.m. ET. Get his free email newsletter by signing up at eepurl.com/JPojD.