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The Supreme Court upholds most of Obamacare including the individual mandate

June 28, 2012

  When I first heard the ruling come down I ran through a gamut of emotions; initially I was stunned and shocked, but that was quickly replaced by anger and eventually I settled into  a state of numbed acceptance. I had thought that parts of Obamacare would be upheld but I believed with all my heart that the individual mandate would be deemed unconstitutional and the only thing I find more surprising that the individual mandate stands is the individual who provided the deciding vote on the matter–Chief Justice Roberts–and his explanation of why the mandate is constitutional.

  The chief justice started his opinion by stating what we all thought was going to be good news for opponents of the mandate when he declared the government could not force a person to buy healthcare coverage under the commerce clause and said because of this the individual mandate was unconstitutional:

The majority opinion, authored by Roberts, said the federal government does not  have the constitutional power to compel “individuals to become active in  commerce… [so] the individual mandate cannot be sustained.”

  But then he undid this be reclassifying the mandate as a tax, and because this is a tax the Congress has the authority to punish people for not entering into commerce because the Congress does have the authority to levy taxes. The semantics might be different, but the end result is the same–John Roberts simply gave the federal government another way to implement policies which otherwise might violate the commerce clause. Some conservative pundits are now trying to spin this into a victory (much like the media tried to spin the failed Wisconsin recall vote into a victory for Barack Obama) because the chief justice placed limits on the commerce clause but all he really did was provide the Democrats with a precedent which can now be used to regulate our behavior on any number of issues while avoiding a possible conflict with the commerce clause.

  We have already seen some cities begin banning large soft drinks and we can expect these bans to grow until junk food intake is regulated at the city and at the state level. And eventually, as the government continues to intrude in the healthcare business, we can expect the federal government to begin to do likewise under the justification that if they force the people to eat healthier it will bring down the cost of healthcare. The one problem with the healthcare mandate is the fact that the tax isn’t high enough to “urge” people to change their habits, but we can expect the government to rectify that problem when food intake and exercise are closely regulated. You don’t eat properly and you can be taxed. You don’t exercise enough and you can be taxed. Where does it end?

  Under the guise of “environmental justice” can the government now tax people who decide not to buy a Chevy volt or some other hybrid automobile? After all, they are chosing to not enter into a certain type of commerce with which the government approves and therefore the Congress can now regulate non-behavior according to John Roberts.

  There was a little bit of good news in John Roberts’ decision: First; the federal government can no longer hold the prospect of cutting off funds to the states if the states do not do as the federal government commands, and second; by classifying the mandate as a tax it has exposed a truth that Barack Obama would have rather kept quiet.

  This tax can now be used as a campaign issue and now it will be up to the people to vote out every single man and woman who voted for Obamacare. Our future is in our own hands and it is time for us to rise up and take this country back to its founding principles. The constitution is (was) a limiting document and the founders never envisioned a scenario where the government could force people to purchase a product or face a penalty, but that is precisely how John Roberts has interpreted the constitution.

  But even this is not much of a victory because what is our choice? Voting for Mitt Romney is our only option and does anyone believe this man when he says he will repeal Obamacare on day one? How does he plan on doing that? Through executive order? Obamacare is now the law of the land and if Mitt Romney wins he will swear to uphold the laws of the land and he should not stoop to Barack Obama’s level by simply ignoring the laws he disagrees with or by creating new laws out of thin air. Isn’t that a major problem conservatives have with Barack Obama as of late?

  And even if Mitt Romney does keep his promise and manages to get Obamacare repealed John Roberts has set a precedent which will never go away and one which will be used from time to time by people on both sides of the aisle. I would argue that today John Roberts contributed  as much–if not more–than Barack Obama has in guaranteeing the expansion of government at the very time when it is critical to scale the government back. This is why I have slipped into a state of numbed acceptance: the truth is that this was our best chance to stop Obamacare and we lost today and there is probably nothing we can do to change it.

  I am going to use a Democrat line for the first time here–this is all Bush’s fault, he gave us John Roberts. Barack Obama is fond of talking about the mess he inherited, do you think he will thank George W Bush because he inherited John Roberts? I defended John Roberts’ decision on Arizona’s immigration law but I cannot defend this.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 7:34 pm

    I’m still in the anger phase and I don’t think it will go away any time soon. Our country was severly wounded when the Patriot Act was passed. Today’s wound could prove fatal. It pisses me off that my grandchildren will have to pay for the health care of the baby boomers for the next forty years.

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    • June 28, 2012 8:18 pm

      I’ve move past anger, but it could be that I am just feeling defeated at this point. I agree this could be a fatal blow to the future direction of this country as I don’t think we will ever repeal this law.

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    • lou222 permalink
      June 28, 2012 9:26 pm

      I am in a “reading” phase at the moment, seeing what others that I value their opinions are saying. I do believe that calling this mess ObamaTax needs to be said loud and said often. Will it get conservatives off their butts to vote, hopefully!!! To see Kennedy vote the way he did and then see Roberts with his vote was a BIG blow, wasn’t it? I know that Romney said on Day One he would repeal it, but then again, once something is put into motion, can you ever get ALL of it? Ever? I know a few people that thought healthcare was going to be free, I told them only for the ones on the dole now, that THEY will be forced to buy it. They didn’t understand THAT part of it, ha, shame on them. When I said that if they don’t buy it, they will be hit up by the IRS in their bank accounts and Tax returns, their answers were that the government could not do it…..haha! Now I am being a smart *ss, but think I have earned that right. I am ANGRY as well, Jim, but we have our children and grandchildren to think of, so we must fight on.

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      • June 28, 2012 9:42 pm

        I think the Republicans will hammer the tax issue home all Summer long and I think it will help them. But I do not think this will ever be repealed, I think this was our last chance at stopping it. Maybe I am wrong, we will have to see how it plays out.This will get people motivated like they were in 2010 and I would bet anything Obama hated to hear Roberts call it a tax even though it upheld his signature legislation.
        I briefly thought about calling it quits this morning because I was so down, but like you said we have our children and grandchildren to think about and so we will press on.

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  2. June 28, 2012 7:36 pm

    Roberts gave a brilliant opinion. He made it clear that commerce clause does not authorize Congress to compel you to act but it does authorize Congress to restrain your behavior.

    He made it clear that the constitution gives Congress the power to decide how it wants to tax and spend. As well, Congress will suffer political consequences if the people find the tax too burdensome or the expense too burdensome.

    By calling the mandate portion of the mandate a tax he allows for relatively swift reprisal from voters. Since the bill was pass under reconciliation with only 51 votes needed it can be repealed as a tax under reconciliation with only 51 votes.

    No matter if the left or right or anyone in between is more or less happy about the details of the ACA, Robert’s opinion is hopeful in that it will support and guide future justices’ opinions to restrain future Congress’ from interfering with private persons.

    As well, a lot will be said in coming days and weeks about the SCOTUS, by a vote of 7-2, giving power back to the states.

    Roberts really thought this through. I think he was taking a long term view. He got four liberal justices to defend the commerce clause.

    As well, by making the mandate a tax he has thrown it back to the people. There is more to the courts decision than first meets the eye.

    Pretty good day! He gets as conservative a ruling as he can for the long term, he increases respect for the Supreme Court, and he leaves it up to the voters, who should be the ones to decide what they want to do to fix our health care system. To Fix it voters simply choose a new President and a few new Senators.

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    • June 28, 2012 8:21 pm

      Just when I am feeling down and out you managed to cheer me up a bit. I have heard some of the pundits say this could end up being a win for our side but I guess I was too down to believe it. I hope you are right, we are still trying to figure out exactly what happened today and maybe, just maybe, we will end up the long term winners.

      Like

  3. LD Jackson permalink
    June 28, 2012 7:50 pm

    I am still gathering my thoughts on this ruling. To be sure, I did not expect to see it go this way.

    I have already read that some conservatives were claiming this was a victory because of how Justice Roberts framed his decision. That may be the case, but I am not exactly convinced, not yet. I am afraid this will open a door we may never be able to shut.

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    • June 28, 2012 8:22 pm

      KP just made a compelling argument that this will be a victory in the end because of the way he framed the decision so I guess we will have to wait and see.

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  4. June 28, 2012 8:00 pm

    We’re all playing checkers while Roberts is playing chess and he just put Obama’s king in check.

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    • June 28, 2012 8:23 pm

      So you are with the conservative pundits and with KP above? Perhaps I need to let this play out a little more but maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought.

      Like

      • June 28, 2012 8:32 pm

        To be honest, I have no idea what conservative pundits are saying. I was just trying to figure out why Roberts would uphold the individual mandate (soon to be referred to as the Obamacare tax).

        As much as I hoped that the individual mandate would be found unconstitutional, I’ve always knew that it was constitutional because it was actually a tax (think I even said something to that effect on this blog way back when).

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      • June 28, 2012 9:00 pm

        I heard several of them on the radio saying that Roberts pulled a fast one on Obama with the way he wrote the decision, I thought that is what you were referring to.

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  5. LD Jackson permalink
    June 28, 2012 8:52 pm

    @Terrant

    So you think the Supreme Court, with Justice Roberts in the lead, made the right decision? I’m not trying to argue, but I am trying to come to terms with the idea that the federal government can force individuals to purchase any particular item and call it a tax. I can’t quite grasp that concept.

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    • June 28, 2012 9:03 pm

      Roberts’ decision is confusing, on one hand he says the government can’t force you to purchase anything, but on the other hand he says they can punish you if you do not. I still haven’t figured this whole thing out yet either.

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      • LD Jackson permalink
        June 28, 2012 9:06 pm

        I am seeing a variety of opinions about the ruling. I am inclined to think Justice Roberts failed us on this, but I can also see where he could be playing a long-term strategy. Every time I mull this over, I always come back to two things.

        First, Roberts redefined the mandate in order to justify it as constitutional. Second, I fail to see where Congress has the authority to force Americans to purchase a particular service or product, or face a fine, ie. tax.

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      • June 28, 2012 9:25 pm

        I agree Larry, I am trying to understand the people who are claiming this is a smooth move by Roberts and I want to believe it but I keep coming back to the fact that he upheld the mandate no matter what his reasoning was.

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    • June 28, 2012 9:04 pm

      Actually, I do not. The individual mandate was the reason I did not like the Republican’s proposals in the 90’s during the Hillarycare debate. Upholding the individual mandate leaves a horrible precedent. If I can be forced to buy health insurance, what to keep them from forcing me to buy something other that is “good” for me? I was just hoping that I was wrong about it being upheld as a tax.

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      • LD Jackson permalink
        June 28, 2012 9:07 pm

        Okay, I misread you. My apologies. I think you and I are on the same page with this.

        Like

      • June 28, 2012 9:28 pm

        And yet the Republicans nominated a candidate who imposed mandates in his state! While it might be justified on a state level vs a federal level most people do not differentiate between the two.

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  6. June 28, 2012 9:14 pm

    Certainly an unexpected development. As you can well imagine, it has certainly lured some extremists out into the open – one US Representative, whose name I have mercifully forgotten, is calling for the impeachment of Justices Kagan and Roberts, and some fellow put out a press release that he is filing charges against them for violating their oaths of office and something else, I forget.

    On the other hand, it was certainly refreshing to come here and read a handful of conservatives reflecting on the decision and its meaning. No calls to start melting tar and plucking feathers, nobody sharpening pitchforks . . . you get my drift.

    This is politics – it’s a rare day when everyone walks away happy.

    From my perspective, I was long taught that SCOTUS tries hard to leave laws intact and let the legislature fix them, especially recent laws, unless they’re especially noxious to the Constitution. The Roberts Court so far has been more activist than some of its predecessors, but in this particular case it exercised judicial restraint.

    The matter now rests in the hands of the people – if they want Obamacare, they must evct the GOP from control of the House and restore the Dems to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. If they don’t want Obamacare, they must do the reverse.

    Have a pleasant evening. Sleep well, drive safely, and may God bless us all!

    TGY

    Like

    • June 28, 2012 9:33 pm

      Yet that Rep didn’t call for Thomas’s head even though there was a good case against him for ruling on this case? Not surprised.
      I am glad you chimed in on this issue TGY, I was looking forward to your opinion to see where you came down on this issue. I think most of us are still in shock at the way the mandate was upheld, moreso than the fact it was upheld. In the interest of full disclosure; if I had posted right after the decision the pitchforks may have come out. 🙂 Sometimes you do need time to reflect on the issues rather than being overly reactionary.

      Like

    • lou222 permalink
      June 28, 2012 9:41 pm

      TGY, good to see you! No, there will be no tar and feathers, I think most of us here are just trying to digest what just happened. Kind of like a death, there are phases we will be going thru. I think maybe now there will be more people taking an interest in what is going on in politics instead of just worrying about “the game” on tv. That it has gotten this far and we have allowed them to start calling the shots on what we eat, drive, drink, etc, is our own fault. That they can start taxing us for not complying is NOT acceptable. Hopefully we will get a handle on the government and put them back in the place they should be, DOING WHAT WE TELL THEM TO DO, not the other way around.

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      • June 28, 2012 10:01 pm

        We really are to blame for this because for whatever reason we have allowed Washington to get away with it for so long they don’t even think twice about it anymore. I hope more people are waking up to what is going on and are ready to put the government back in its place.

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  7. June 28, 2012 9:17 pm

    By the way, I share the fear of my conservative friends that this series of events may well mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the nanny state, with our good friends in Washington coming up with all sorts of recommendations on how to lead our lives . . . and tax penalties for failing to follow big brother’s guidance.

    TGY

    Like

    • June 28, 2012 9:34 pm

      It is a scary thought and one that both sides may find too enticing to pass up if we let them get too used to this.

      Like

  8. bunkerville permalink
    June 28, 2012 10:58 pm

    Jim raised a question earlier, and the pundits are commenting as well. If it was a tax, how did the bill arise out of the Senate? Taxes come out of the House. Anyway, I dont have to chew on it. Ann Coulture (SP) had him pegged years ago. I will try and dig out her old post on him. SHe did not to trust him one bit. And these damnable conservatives who are spinning this while the death panels and our healtcare system goes to hell in the meantime while trying to find some kind of “pure” conservative spin.. I cannot abide it.

    Like

    • June 29, 2012 6:10 am

      That is a good point, the House is supposed to start all tax bills but nobody seems to be talking about this. Today should be an interesting day because people have had time to digest what happened yesterday.

      Like

  9. June 28, 2012 11:32 pm

    As others have said… how in the HELL is the penalty a tax?

    Like

    • June 29, 2012 6:11 am

      You know, that really is a good question but I suppose that’s what all the new IRS agents are for.

      Like

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