ObamaCare decision helps a muddled GOP

June 28, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

From Watchdog.org

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Thursday upholding the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s sweeping health-care law was, of course, shocking given that everyone — including, reportedly, the president and his administration — expected the high court to toss the individual mandate portion of the law. I could almost hear the screams of angst in newsrooms, where reporters have no doubt pre-written much of their work on the demise of ObamaCare.

There are two significant portions of the decision. The first upholds the government’s decision to force the public to buy health insurance, a chilling expansion of government power even in a nation where government’s reach has expanded into nearly every part of our lives.

The second significant part voids as unconstitutional the law’s granting to the federal government the authority to withhold funds from those states that refuse to approve the expansion of Medicaid.

Much of the commentary will now focus on the politics of the decision. Democratic National Committee staffers are busy gloating via Twitter, and Democratic partisans see this as a vindication for the president’s signature health-care law. They see it as a victory that the beleaguered president can take into the campaign season. Republicans — despite their nomination of a man whose Massachusetts health-care law is seen by many as the precursor to ObamaCare — are attacking the decision and promising to bring up a repeal vote in the House of Representatives.

The good news: The public will at least have something approximating a substantive debate for the fall election about the role of the federal government in something that affects our everyday lives. Mitt Romney has been dancing around the issue, still backing the reform he signed asMassachusetts governor while attacking the president’s national health-care law. He’s going to need a clear and believable story line. American voters might not pay careful attention to the nuances of policy debate, but they rarely embrace candidates who waffle, dodge and weave.

My sense is the decision will bolster Republicans, who have more evidence to back their admittedly overstated claim that this is the nation’s most important election ever. I’ve been hearing that claim since I started following politics in the mid-1970s. Still, this is indeed an important election given how much farther this president has taken the country toward domestic socialism. As much as I dislike the court’s decision, this does throw the main problem back where it belongs – on Congress, which passed this travesty in the first place and can now undo the damage.


We will no doubt see election-related clarity. This is the statement from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision sets the stakes for the November election. Now, the only way to save the country from ObamaCare’s budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president. Under President Obama’s signature legislation, health care costs continue to skyrocket, and up to 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based coverage. A panel of unelected bureaucrats now has the unprecedented authority to come between elderly patients and their doctors. Meanwhile, the rules and regulations placed on job creators and small businesses make it nearly impossible to hire new workers at a time when Americans desperately need jobs.”

That’s a significant statement; the gauntlet is thrown down for the election.

While the Medicaid portion is sensible under any rational understanding of the nation’s system of states’ rights, the upholding of the individual mandate is appalling. Chief Justice John Roberts’ argument is an open door to governmental intrusion in any way and any area of life — provided it is gussied up as a tax. It’s the equivalent of what liberal justices have done over the years in contorting the constitution to justify whatever expansion of power they prefer.

Roberts started out by making the right argument: “Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Con­gress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast do­main to congressional authority. Every day individuals do not do an infinite number of things. In some cases they decide not to do something; in others they simply fail to do it. Allowing Congress to justify federal regulation by pointing to the effect of inaction on commerce would bring countless decisions an individual could potentially make within the scope of federal regulation, and—under the Government’s theory—empower Congress to make those decisions for him.”

It’s a tax

But while the majority could not uphold the individual mandate under the provisions of the Commerce Clause, it did uphold the requirement as the equivalent of a tax. According to the court, “Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes.”

All any wannabe authoritarian need do in constructing any new law is provide an alternative. You must submit to governmental edicts forcing you to act in an affirmative way or else the IRS will impose, say, a 99 percent tax on your income. I suppose most people will obey. This is even more bizarre because the law does not describe this payment as a tax, and the court even notes that it describes it instead as a “penalty.”

Here’s a perfect example of liberal activism (forget the words, look for the penumbras) and the decision was authored by John Roberts, one of the Republican-appointed justices championed by conservatives.

Libertarians have always argued that conservatives are unreliable because they have no actual opposition to big government. Conservatives are supportive of the national security state, of an enormous military complex, of most federal programs and powers. Romney has defended federal government “entitlements” from efforts to reform them. Republicans and conservatives in particular argue for a smaller government than Democrats argue for, which isn’t hard to do given that Democrats are the party of government. In every domestic area (and many overseas areas as well), the Democratic Party is a permanent lobby for bigger government and higher taxes.

Because Republicans have no principled opposition to big government, we end up with justices such as Roberts, who think a massive governmental intrusion into our lives, including provisions that affirmatively force us to do things (buy insurance), are fine as long as they are cast as a tax.

And now Republicans have nominated a candidate for president whose signature achievement as governor is a health-care bill that isn’t all that different from the one championed by the president. Romney has many positives, but this ruling hits him at his weak spot.

I still think the GOP gains from this as it has a solid narrative to take toward November. But it does get tiring expecting that the mantle of limited government is dependent on the likes of Justice Roberts and politicians such as the government-expanding Republican president who appointed him to the court.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity; write to him at [email protected]


Write a comment
  1. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 28 June, 2012, 12:21

    So Chief Injustice Roberts, like a demonic Solomon cuts the baby in half! He says Obamacare is a penalty for the purposes of avoiding limitations under The Anti-Injuncion Act but a tax in order to avoid the limitations of The Commerce Clause. This kind of statist sophistry is what we have come to expect from the black robed, black hearted mandarins of The Supreme Soviet.

    Damn George Bush!, damn him to hells boiler room for giving us this injudicious tyrant.

    Reply this comment
  2. Claire Voyance
    Claire Voyance 28 June, 2012, 12:53

    I support the Individual Mandate because it contains exemptions for the poor (see H.R. 3590 Sec. 1501). I am happy that SCOTUS declared that the Individual Mandate is constitutional, which was the correct ruling under the Taxation Clause.
    However, I also support intelligence and honesty.
    The Messiah is either an idiot or a liar.
    The Messiah is an idiot IF he believed that the Individual Mandate was constitutional under the Commerce Clause. That argument is absurd.
    The Messiah is a liar IF he knew that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, he knew that the Individual Mandate was a tax, he knew that the Individual Mandate would be declared a constitutional tax under the Taxation Clause, and, accordingly, he knew that the Individual Mandate constituted a raise in taxes.
    The Messiah said that he would not raise taxes.
    In my opinion, based on my inferences drawn from the facts, I believe that the Messiah is a LIAR!

    Reply this comment
  3. Hondo
    Hondo 28 June, 2012, 13:35

    Obama care is the largest tax increase in the country’s history. Roberts was correct in that ruling of the mandate, it is and always was a tax. It’s just that Obama lied to us voters that it wasn’t a tax. He sold it to the American people saying it wasn’t a tax and then, to make it legal, he told the Supreme court that it is a tax. That’s all on video.
    Roberts was correct in his narrow judgement. It is a tax. The largest in Americas history.

    Reply this comment
  4. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 28 June, 2012, 13:52

    “He sold it to the American people saying it wasn’t a tax and then, to make it legal, he told the Supreme court that it is a tax”. FDR did the same thing with Socialist Insecurity. He told the American people it was an insurance program, then his solicitor general argued before the Supreme Soviet that it was a tax. See a pattern here? The idiot American people never learn. We live in a nation of suckers, chumps and dupes.

    Those of you who consider the mandate legal because presumably congress has unlimited taxing authority should consider this:

    Daniel Webster, in arguing the case of McCullock vs. Maryland, said: “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy,” 17 U.S. 327 (1819).

    In his decision, Chief Justice Marshall said: “That the power of taxing it [the bank] by the States may be exercised so as to destroy it, is too obvious to be denied” (p. 427), and “That the power to tax involves the power to destroy … [is] not to be denied” (p. 431).

    THE POWER TO TAX IS THE POWER TO DESTROY. If in fact The Congress has unlimited taxing power as is now the case, then it has been granted by our judicial mandarins the power to destroy our liberty and prosperity completely. IS THAT WHAT YOU THINK A GOVERNMENT OF LIMITED POWERS SHOULD LOOK LIKE. If you accept such a proposition then you are in favor of tyranny, plain and simple you fools.

    Reply this comment
  5. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 14:22

    Feel better blowing smoke? Supremes validated the law….
    Move on!

    Reply this comment
  6. Bob
    Bob 28 June, 2012, 14:36

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus: “Today’s Supreme Court decision sets the stakes for the November election. Now, the only way to save the country from ObamaCare’s budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president.

    That’s hilarious. And what kind of name is Reince Priebus??? Did they get the guy outta Mad Magazine? Anyway, Reince and the Romulan are fulla [email protected]@.

    Get real, anyone who thinks the inventor of Obammie Care is going to get rid of it is delusional.

    When the choice in November is between the inventor of Obammie Care and the implementor of Obammie Care it’s pretty [email protected] clear Obammie Care is here to stay. (Until the economy and country collapse, of course.)

    Reply this comment
  7. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 14:44

    Bob sounds like an olden times prophet!


    Reply this comment
  8. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 28 June, 2012, 14:59

    Normally I enjoy your articles Mr. Greenhut but this one is a bit unfocused. In particular your speculation that this helps the Retardpublicans is feeble. Frankly I don’t see how, particularly since (as Ginsberg pointed out in her opinion) Mitt Obamney instituted the blue print for Obamacare in Massachusetts and the majority opinion today was written by a “conservative” justice. Romney still supports the awful Massachusetts healthcare law but most of his parties voters do not. The stink of Obamacare is all over Romney. How can he run against it without being a laughing stock?

    Then there is this curious statement “Romney has many positives, but this ruling hits him at his weak spot.” Coming from a hard core libertarian like you that first phrase is a bit mystifying. What exactly are his many positives? A history of hostility to 2nd Amendment civil rights. Craven support of the military industrial war machine. A recklessly interventionist and Zionist foreign policy. Unwavering support for an individual mandate at the state level as well as community rating and forbidding exclusion of pre-existing conditions for health insurance. I could go on but you get the point. The man has a nearly unbridled love of the Leviathan welfare/warfare state.

    Personally I see him as an opportunistic, money grubbing empty suit who like George Bush sees himself as entitled by birth to be the most powerful man in the world. With Republicans like this who needs Democrats? Personally I will be sitting out this November so that I don’t have to keep kicking myself in the butt for supporting yet another Retardpublican loser.

    Reply this comment
  9. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 28 June, 2012, 15:01

    Hey U.U. why don’t you shock the world and write a complete sentence for once?

    Reply this comment
  10. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 28 June, 2012, 16:41

    LOL– Greeny !! Nice try on the spin– this is a full blown disaster for the Grand Old Party amigo. They doubled tripled and quadrupled down on the constant mantra that the President is violating the Constitution. He didn’t. It is settled Con law now. This is what the founder’s designed.

    President Obama (Con Law Professor and slayer of terrorists) once again is 100% correct and our nation is the better for it. The GOP continues to be the party of the ft cat and the misinformed slave to the fat cat. The Teabag Queen Ms. 1/2 term Gov. Palin tweeted anti President rhetoric within 10 minutes of the news today…..the speaker and the other usual suspects continue to do the same— I wish I could say I took some pleasure in watching the GOP implode, but, I do not. We need a robust GOP, what we have is a barely breathing moderate wing and a goofy ultra right religious fascist wing. It’s bloody sad.

    Roberts is a wise and smart judge. The Court is an institution of the Constitution. The founders designed a system above politics, –you aint.

    Reply this comment
  11. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 16:54

    Here is a complete sentence.

    Stop whining and accept the rule of law in a civilized society!


    Reply this comment
  12. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 28 June, 2012, 17:04

    And…Pack and Ship ™

    Reply this comment
  13. Joseph
    Joseph 28 June, 2012, 17:23

    I gotta admit, you boys in the peanut gallery certainly are amusing.

    Reply this comment
  14. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 28 June, 2012, 22:16

    U.U. I don’t whine, I opine. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, my opinions are more thoughtful, better informed and far more insightful than the mindless collectivist drivel you spout so inarticulately.




    Reply this comment
  15. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 28 June, 2012, 23:18

    Insults are articulate? This is not junior high school. CWD site is the diverse arena of ideas. This was a stressful day. Your forgiven.

    Reply this comment
  16. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 29 June, 2012, 01:27

    John, Brian, Katy- Teddy’s sock puppet still posting-please fix – thank you, the Readership 🙂

    Reply this comment
  17. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 29 June, 2012, 09:39

    @ 15. “Insults are articulate?” Yes, mine are at least. Perhaps you’ve never heard of the ancient art of calumny. For a preeminent example of the art of ridicule I suggest anything ever written by H.L. Mencken, a man from whom you could learn a great deal, not the least of which would be a vocabulary.

    Reply this comment
  18. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 29 June, 2012, 10:58

    Dys…thanks for the tip. Always looking for improvement from those on other side of the divide. Your feeling pretty chipper after taking a hosing from Honorable Chief Justice Roberts. Things will look up!

    Reply this comment
  19. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 29 June, 2012, 12:37

    The sock puppet is still posting

    Reply this comment
  20. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 30 June, 2012, 06:46

    Wonder Dog left the building due to philosophical issues with his conservative heros who constantly let him down.

    We offer him rehab re-education camp to join us in peace and happiness.

    Reply this comment

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