How could you do it, Johnny!?
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts went out of his way and against common sense judicial logic to side with liberal-minded justices in upholding the insurance mandate portion of Obamacare.
The Chief Justice spent several pages in his written decision explaining in great detail how the mandate violates the constitution if imposed under the Commerce Clause. Then, he inexplicably, ruled that the mandate was a tax, not a penalty, and thus fell under Congress’s constitutional authority to levy such taxes.
The dissenters articulated in a very clear and compelling manner that the mandate could not possibly be construed as anything other than a penalty assessed to those who don’t carry health insurance coverage. Since the commerce clause did not permit the mandate and the payment forced on citizens is a penalty for failing to comply with the federal government’s wishes, the individual mandate should have been struck down because Congress has no authority to take a policing action against people who choose not to do something.
Chief Justice Roberts took us on an intellectual whirlwind to get to his conclusion that the mandate was nothing more than a tax (not a fine) levied against people for making a choice that the government deems undesirable.
By a 7 – 2 decision the court threw out the Medicaid expansion penalties under Obamacare that would have given the federal government the authority to strip all Medicaid funding from a state that refused to comply with the new expansions. Yet, unlike the dissenters, the court allowed the rest of the law to stand even though the consequences of expanded coverage by some states will create new costs for all states.
The dissenting opinion not only threw out the government’s argument on the constitutionality of the mandate as well as the Medicaid penalties, but also made clear the without those two pillars, the rest of the law must be thrown out as well. And of course, without those two provisions, the resulting bill would bankrupt states, insurance companies, doctors, and Medicaid itself.
I understand how the 4 liberal justices came to their conclusion that the whole bill is fine as is. I think they all like the bill as policy and were hunting for legal language from the court’s past to bolster an opinion that they assumed would be in the minority.
I can not wrap my mind around how Roberts came to his conclusion, one that ended up being the deciding vote. If you refuse to take an action (purchase a health insurance plan from a private provider) the federal government will take some of your money. In what universe is that not a fine or a penalty? Under what odd-ball interpretation of U.S. tax laws could you possible levy a tax against an inaction?
At one point Roberts tried to suggest that going without insurance is equivalent to buying gasoline or earning income and thus is an action that can be taxed as those actions are.
The obvious problem is that not buying insurance is not an act at all. It is inaction. It is a choice not to act. The ruling today seems to suggest that Congress can now pass a tax that will only be paid by people who fail to take a specific action defined by Congress.
I don’t think the Chief Justice believes in what he wrote today.
I think he wanted to protect his court and his name from scrutiny. He did not want to throw out an act of Congress, signed by the President. He just flat didn’t want to do it.
As a reasonable person he had to see the Commerce Clause did not apply to the mandate and that the Medicaid penalty was an overreach of federal power. With those two pillars gone, the entire bill would have to have been thrown out if the tax clause was not upheld. Robert’s knew he could not rule the mandate unconstitutional and still save the rest of the bill.
So he upheld it because his desire to protect his reputation trumped his obligation to protect the rights and freedoms of the American people as articulated in the U.S. Constitution.
Reading his opinion gave me the feeling that Roberts was mad that he was even in this controversial position. In a narky statement, he wrote “it is not our job to protect the people from the consequence of their political choices.” It’s as if he was saying “You don’t like this law? Take it up with the President and Congress, I don’t have time for this.”
First the Legislative Branch violated our individual freedom of choice with the mandate. Then the Executive Branch concurred. We turned to the Judicial Branch as our last line of defense, and the Chief Justice looked back at us in disgust. He could have upheld our freedom. Instead, he chose to turn his back, protect himself and let us burn.
Perhaps the Chief Justice sent all Americans a message today: “a people who would elect such an awful set of leaders who pass bad laws are not worthy of the freedoms they inherited.”
Yet it is Roberts who was put in power to help protect those freedoms. He did not and today, individual freedom’s friends, as they so often are, were in the dissenting minority.