Monday, July 2, 2012

Obamacare Oopsie

I know I promised a major post on the Supreme Court's Obamacare ruling last week.  Unfortunately, through a very specific and freak set of circumstances, I seem to have lost all of the links I had collected from the initial analysis.  Oops.  I am gathering another set of links to put together a new post that will be more focused on where we go from here, but in lieu of the lost post, I'll do my best to summarize and paraphrase based purely on my memory and understanding of the situation.

The Obama administration wanted Obamacare to stand based on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  The Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate any commerce taking place.  Thus, coupled with Obamacare's mandate for all Americans to purchase health insurance, this outcome would open the door for the federal government to force all Americans to purchase (or not purchase) any product or service it wanted.  I'm sure you can see how useful these sweeping new powers would be to politicians and their lobbyist supporters.  However, 100% of the legal and Constitutional precedent indicated that while Congress does have the authority to regulate commerce that is already taking place, it does not have the authority to initiate such commerce, and that was the crux of the matter.  All of the (double-counting, gimmicked, and hopelessly unrealistic) budgetary estimates of Obamacare's affordableness were wholly dependent upon 100% of American taxpayers being forced to pay into the system via the mandate, so if that one piece was ruled unconstitutional, Obamacare was essentially gutted and dead as being hopelessly unaffordable.

It was a given that the four liberal Justices were going to support Obamacare no matter what.  Literally, no matter what.  Justice Kagan, for example, was one of the principle players in creating Obamacare before she was appointed to the Court, so by all accounts and legal precedent she should have recused herself from the case.  She didn't.  Despite this, given the historical precedent of the Commerce Clause and the harsh criticism of the Supreme Court justices during the hearings a few months ago (not to mention the universally panned performance of the Obama administration's lawyer in court), it was likely that it would be overturned 5-4, and the real speculation focused on several follow-on questions about how the mandate's demise would affect the rest of the law.

The ruling came down with the idea of the mandate being unconstitutional.  But...Chief Justice John Roberts shocked everyone when he joined the four liberals on the Court to strong-arm the law into constitutionality through a back door: Roberts chose to look at the law as a tax, and thus, Congress could do it.

Here's where I really wish I had those links, because people much smarter than myself dissected it really thoroughly and with great intelligence, but you'll have to put up with my explanation instead.

Is it a tax?  No.  In fact, Obama himself strenuously denied the fact that it was a tax on a TV interview with George Stephanopolous.  The entire administration from top to bottom denied it loudly and repeatedly because they knew that a massive, multi-trillion dollar tax would be hideously unpopular with the American people.  In fact, the Supreme Court brought in an independent attorney during the Obamacare hearings to argue that it was a tax, then had the Obama administration's lawyer argue against it to disprove it (of course, the next day that same Obama lawyer argued precisely that it was a tax, taking both sides of the issue on consecutive days of the hearings, and they took a lot of heat from several Justices because of that).  The tax idea Roberts cited was actually a fiscal penalty for those who chose not to participate in Obamacare.  That's right, it was a fine imposed on anyone who didn't buy insurance.  Under no legitimate circumstances is that a tax.  Basically, the Constitution outlines only three kinds of taxes that are allowed.  One is income tax (I think in the 16th Amendment), and there are two others, but I don't recall the details.  The point is that Roberts, for some unexplained reason, so desperately wanted Obamacare to stand that he essentially revised the entire legal understanding of what a tax is, cited no previous case law to justify his actions, and re-wrote the Obamacare law itself to twist it into this interpretation over the Obama administration's own arguments.

The four conservative Justices were so incensed by his actions that they refused to reference his opinion in any way during their dissent.  Justice Ginsburg (one of the flaming liberals on the Court) blasted Roberts' opinion as being completely unjustified and incompetent...despite the fact that they were on the same side in the vote!  Her premise was that his argument simply didn't hold water, and that if Obamacare was a tax then none of the rest of it should have been considered at all (remember, she wanted the Commerce Clause victory, and despite the fact that Roberts' decision upheld Obamacare, it didn't grant those sweeping new powers based on the Commerce Clause).

Regardless, it was a viciously controversial decision, and one that seems to have vastly overstepped the Supreme Court's authority.  Their job is simply to rule on the Constitutionality of the law as written, not to assert new interpretations of the law based on an agenda.  So that's the nutshell of what happened.

Bottom line: it appears that there is just one chance left to kill this unprecedented invasion of personal liberty.  That would be the mass removal of all possible Obamacare supporters in the next election, including the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, and to immediately pass a repeal bill.  Given the political momentum and given that most of Obamacare's worst provisions take effect in 2014, if repeal doesn't happen in the next election cycle it is extremely likely not to ever happen.

I'll have more analysis of Robert's motivations and actions, the tax issue, and the political fallout of this decision in the coming days.

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