I listened to as much Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and talk radio as I could stomach and then I actually read a few things directly from the Supreme Court (I did not read the entire decision), all with hopes that I could offer some kind of reasonable response to the madness.
We are screwed. (Unless my theory at the end of this piece proves to be true)
And by 'we' I mean the following:
- Anyone who does now or may someday pay taxes
- Anyone who does now or may someday need to see a doctor
The Good News
The Court invalidated the withholding of existing Medicaid funding to the individual states as inherently coercive, thereby finding an enforceable limit on the Spending Power. In short, the individual states reserve the right to take part in the Medicaid expansion or not, and if they choose not to do so the Federal government cannot penalize them by withholding existing levels of Medicaid funding. Call it a back-door win for the 10th Amendment.
According to legal scholar and Obamacare critic, Randy Barnett the "Founder’s scheme of limited and enumerated powers has survived to fight another day."
What We Thought Was Good News
The Court also ruled that the individual mandate did in fact exceed Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause. Chief Justice Roberts wrote: “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause. That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.”
The Bad News
Everything seemed to be fine until Justice Roberts inexplicably reversed his own logic and contradicted himself with an absurd opinion about Congress's ability to tax activity, or in this case, inactivity.
When writing about the Commerce Clause, Justice Roberts agrees that Congress cannot regulate an individual unless they are engaged in some sort of commerce. With this argument he sides with Conservative, Libertarian, and Constitutional scholars.
But then Roberts got distracted and forgot where he was (Constitutionally speaking). As far as taxation is concerned, not buying health insurance is “just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.”
According to our esteemed Chief Justice of the United States, Congress has no business meddling in the business of a person who isn't doing anything except that Congress can tax a person for not doing something. My friends, this type of thinking is why people like me are afraid of government and the bureaucrats who inhabit it, in the first place.
Forget the "compelled to buy broccoli" childishness of the rabid Right, understand that now -- according to Congress, the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court -- you can be taxed for not doing things like:
- Installing solar panels on your roof
- Driving a car that exceeds a certain EPA-set mileage rating
- Sending your chidren to anything other than a government school
- Commuting privately instead of taking mass transit
- Accepting Food Stamps or other government-aid
- Maintaining a pre-determined level of personal hygiene
We're getting the exact government we've been asking for for twenty years: sloppy, hasty, ill-informed, partisan and unable to understand what it is they're talking about.
Roberts is correct when he says "it is not [the Supreme Court's] job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices." He sounds to me like he was struggling with the total absurdity of his decision, however, instead of striking down the law as it written, Roberts acted the part of judicial activist and took an un-Constitutional facet of a law (the individual mandate) and forced it to be Constitutional by calling it a "tax" instead. The man is either so smart we mere mortals can never understand his brilliance, corrupt in the extreme, or so dumb he needs help tying his shoes -- unfortunately, only history will tell us which of the three it is.
On the other hand, and Justice Roberts' kind of dopey logic aside, the Supreme Court did exactly what it was supposed to do: read a poorly written, politically expedient law and judge whether or not it was Constitutional.
“We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders.”
“Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” - Chief Justice Roberts on his decision on the Affordable Care Act
The Ugly Truth
Socialists are spiking the football over a ruling on a law they know very little about, (and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying -- Speaker of the House Pelosi admitted she hadn't even read the bill before voting on it).
Conservatives are bemoaning, and rightfully so, the loss of personal freedom and over-reach of the Federal government the ACA represents, not to say anything about what this Act is going to do to the economy, starting this morning with the Stock Market's reaction.
Constitutionalists are happy the equal branches of government worked as they were designed to work. It's not the Constitution's fault the American people are too dumb and distracted to give themselves a decent government to carry out the functions the Founder's intended.
Something inside me tells me that maybe, just maybe, Justice Roberts has outfoxed the foxes we've put in charge of the henhouse. Taxes need to originate in the House, not the Senate, and Obamacare started as a Senate bill, so maybe he gave his opinion expecting a future lawsuit. There is also the possiblity that Robert's decision has paved the way for the blocking of future similar legislation because of his taxation explanation extrea of the Commerce Clause.
But I'll be gobsmacked if that bit of hopeful reasoning on my part comes true. Right now I'm just thinking that the future of the American individual doesn't look too bright.