Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts on the Obamacare Ruling

First of all, it must be said and often repeated that elections have consequences.

People voted for representatives who voted for the monstrous piece of legislation that was Obamacare and the administration that rammed it through. Congress has and has always had the power to levy taxes; I do not know why anyone should be surprised that 1) liberals voted to raise taxes and 2) tax increases are constitutional.

During the day, Drudge Chief Justice John Roberts' smiling picture as his headline with the caption "TAKE YOUR MEDICINE!" It is awful medicine indeed.

Second, it is not the court's role to strike laws because they were passed by politicians that lied to the people about what they were really doing. The recourse for dealing with lying politicians has always been at the ballot box.

I do think that the American people have never been lied to so brazenly about a domestic public policy initiative in recent times as they were about this. One need only spend a few moments with a search engine to turn up literally scores of video clips of Democrats asserting--in a bald-faced lie laid bare by Chief Justice Roberts' opinion--that this was not a tax increase.

Third, it is probably true that the ruling of the court will soften public opinion about the law somewhat in the short term (and look for the media to tout polls asserting as much). However, elite opinion has insisted for quite some time that the law was constitutional and this did not make it any more popular.

Affirmation of the law's constitutionality (convoluted as it was in Roberts' opinion) by five elites in black robes seems unlikely to change many opinions in the longer term. People didn't like Obamacare before, and they have never liked taxes. Will they now like something they didn't like upon the revelation that it also contains Supreme Court-approved tax increases? I agree with Stuart Rothenberg that such an outcome seems unlikely.

Fourth, I agree with Legal Insurrection and do not think that conservatives should grasp at straws hunting for smaller victories in the Roberts opinion. There were four votes to strike down the law--indeed, dissenting Justice Anthony Kennedy (supposedly the moderate swing justice of the court) was said to be visibly angry while Roberts read his opinion--and a Republican-appointed ostensibly constitutionalist and conservative justice failed to vote to do so for whatever reason (sincerity in the reasoning of his opinion, outside pressure, or a desire to husband the public image of the court, or whatever else).

This is an onerous piece of bad public policy that greatly expands the power of the state over the lives of the citizenry of this country, and the record of this country when it comes to the rollback of government power (to say nothing of entitlements) is not a good one. I have no hopes that the outcome of the election in November will see the law repealed root-and-branch as a 5-4 vote the other way clearly would have done.

Perhaps John Roberts is playing a longer game. Playing chess, as Erick Erickson calls it. But this assumes that the board will be such that he can advance a longer game. Should we get another liberal justice, that will never happen. The chance to stop this expansion of Federal power and end this assault on individual liberty was now, not ten years hence.

Which brings me to my fifth thought, which is that the court decision is a short-term victory for Republicans, as they will likely benefit from the wrath of the electorate over this in November. Democrats, after all, are dancing for joy just as many voters realize they've been had and are now subject to the largest tax increase in American history.

In the longer term, the court's decision is a great defeat for this country. It shrinks individual liberty, enshrines bad public policy, worsens the country's fiscal situation, and relegates vast sectors of the nation's economy to direct or indirect state control.

What is bad public policy when it was passed did not become better simply because five people in black robes decided to rule it constitutional.

Sixth, the fact that Obamacare is ultimately unworkable and will collapse under its own weight should not encourage anyone. History is replete with countries that have suffered great hardship because their leaders (elected or otherwise) failed to make blatantly obvious and common sense, but difficult, choices. Look at Europe right now.

Seventh and finally, if you want to feel encouraged (and I don't find it particularly encouraging, but you might), I invite you to read this piece by Sean Trende, which compares this ruling to the ruling in Marbury v. Madison, in which the chief justice outwitted a power grab by another president, trading a short-term defeat for a long-term victory.

And here's where I come back to my first point.

Elections matter.

Who we elect matters.

There's an election coming.

It's time to get to work.