AT the heart of contention over Obamacare is a mandate to buy something. At issue in disaster mitigation efforts is a resistance to sell something.
This was true of the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma and in the Crutcho Creek area of eastern Oklahoma County. Even when government agents show up with checks, some folks don't want to sell their homes.
Obamacare's individual mandate — requiring the purchase of health insurance — may not withstand a legal challenge. If it doesn't, then the premise of the entire plan is threatened. With disaster mitigation, individual choice remains. It may center more on the selling price of property than a reluctance to move.
Governments take land all the time for schools, lakes, parks, freeways, etc. In those cases, though, homeowners are offered a price but given the option of contesting a condemnation procedure in court. The U.S. Supreme Court, the same body deciding the fate of Obamacare, issued a ruling in the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London case that allowed the use of eminent domain to take property from one owner and sell it to another for redevelopment. The outcry over that case, decided on a 5-4 vote (a likely tally for the Obamacare ruling) is still being heard.
What flows through all the conflicts we've cited is a perceived heavy-handedness.
Crutcho Creek is a low-lying unincorporated area east of Oklahoma City with a history of flooding. Similar conditions prevailed for years in Tulsa's Mingo Creek watershed and in the Deer Creek area of northwestern Oklahoma County. Crutcho Creek and Deer Creek are targets of a county-federal buyout of properties, but some Crutcho Creek residents say they don't want to leave.
The same was heard from people in Ottawa County, where the federal government spent tens of millions of dollars relocating people within an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site affected by lead mining.
Officially, that was a voluntary buyout. But as of 2010 the last family in Cardin had left with a check for far more than their property was worth. This is true as well for Crutcho Creek residents who have taken the bounty. What the county is offering (financed with federal money and receipts from a 2008 bond issue) is more than residents could get from the market — assuming any buyer could be found for property in a flood-prone area.
Property owners have the choice to stay or take what appears to be an inflated amount for the homes and lots. Since eminent domain isn't involved, they can't go to court to get more money. Oklahoma is dotted with townsites where homes once stood and gardens once grew. Some can now be seen only by divers exploring the bottom of lakes. Most disappeared because the people chose to leave.
What motivates a homeowner to stay in an unsafe or unstable area when someone is willing to buy it? Perhaps the same thing that motivates resistance to Obamacare's mandate: a stubborn individualism.
What separates the Obamacare example from the disaster mitigation plans is choice. A government that can force you to leave a home you don't wish to leave, despite its risks, has exceeded its constitutional authority.
Which is precisely the argument being made against Obamacare.