I have not gone to law school, and Supreme Court rulings are far above my expertise. However, I am enough of a student of history to know the majority opinion on the Affordable Care Act was destined to be controversial no matter what the verdict.
In fact, if the ruling had gone another way, many people would still be unhappy.
As it stands, forcing an individual to participate in commerce has been ruled beyond the power of the federal government, but this matters naught as the majority of justices have also accepted the argument that the mandate requiring every American citizen to maintain healthcare is actually a tax, which is within the reasonable purview of Congress.
The logic per the ruling is framed within the government’s assertion that “even if Congress lacks the power to direct individuals to buy insurance, the only effect of the individual mandate is to raise taxes on those who do not do so, and thus the law may be upheld as a tax.”
How exactly this tax will be levied on American citizens now seems to me a complex and onerous question because nothing about Obamacare is as it was presented to be to the American people.
Contrary to what Democrats claimed while forcing the bill against popular opinion and into law, the costs of healthcare have not been curbed; a major tax is being levied on American citizens, and guarantees for keeping in tact current coverage for those who like their healthcare plans are viewed by most as empty.
Of course conservative pundits are excoriating Chief Justice John Roberts for his acceptance of the argument that the individual mandate is a tax. The hope was that this heart of the bill would be ripped out and destroyed as unconstitutional. Now the Chief Justice with his unexpected swing vote has acted like Dr. Frankenstein, allowing the monster to live.
While I am an unabashed conservative who feels this signature “accomplishment” of President Obama’s is destructive, I took the time to actually read the logic used in the ruling, which is undergirded with precedents that lend strength to the opinion.
As the ruling states, “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not [the Court’s] role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
I can speculate with these words that Chief Justice Roberts—and even, perhaps, his more liberal peers—sees much in Obamacare is not wise, fair, or desirable for the nation. There are many implications for the economy and the American healthcare system that one can argue are not good. In fact, aspects of Medicaid expansion have been ruled unconstitutional, and this will impact the funding and execution of this law.
But Chief Justice Roberts did not create the Affordable Care Act. His only job was to interpret whether or not contested aspects of the thing could stand under our Constitution. In my opinion, he has not acted unfairly here anymore than he was an “ideologue” when ruling in cases such Citizens United that left liberals calling foul and seeing red. He has simply analyzed the case and expressed his opinion.
Certainly the merits of this ruling can be argued as they are argued in an equally articulate dissent, but I can respect the rationale so succinctly written by the Chief Justice. In fact, I fervently hope that people forming an opinion on this ruling look at the source documents rather than rely exclusively on the talking heads that dominate our media. After all, we must respect rulings by the Supreme Court even when they are not what we expected them to be, and we should try to understand more than sound-bytes.
Besides, while Obamacare’s heart may still be beating, this creature birthed exclusively by Democrats is ugly, hated by a strong majority, and surely doomed to lumber into a life of unexpected consequences that will not increase its popularity. If one really despises this legislation, the way to fight it is in the voting booth. The way to kill it is to elect a Republican President and Republican Senate.
After all, per Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, “The Framers created a Federal Government of limited powers, and assigned to this Court the duty of enforcing those limits…. But the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”
Now let the people speak.