The Affordable Care Act Ruling: The Chief Justice is not Frankenstein
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
June 28, 2012 03:19 PM | 2823 views | 5 5 comments | 113 113 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I have not gone to law school, and Supreme Court rulings are far above my expertise. However, I am enough of a student of history to know the majority opinion on the Affordable Care Act was destined to be controversial no matter what the verdict.

In fact, if the ruling had gone another way, many people would still be unhappy.

As it stands, forcing an individual to participate in commerce has been ruled beyond the power of the federal government, but this matters naught as the majority of justices have also accepted the argument that the mandate requiring every American citizen to maintain healthcare is actually a tax, which is within the reasonable purview of Congress.

The logic per the ruling is framed within the government’s assertion that “even if Congress lacks the power to direct individuals to buy insurance, the only effect of the individual mandate is to raise taxes on those who do not do so, and thus the law may be upheld as a tax.”

How exactly this tax will be levied on American citizens now seems to me a complex and onerous question because nothing about Obamacare is as it was presented to be to the American people.

Contrary to what Democrats claimed while forcing the bill against popular opinion and into law, the costs of healthcare have not been curbed; a major tax is being levied on American citizens, and guarantees for keeping in tact current coverage for those who like their healthcare plans are viewed by most as empty.

Of course conservative pundits are excoriating Chief Justice John Roberts for his acceptance of the argument that the individual mandate is a tax. The hope was that this heart of the bill would be ripped out and destroyed as unconstitutional. Now the Chief Justice with his unexpected swing vote has acted like Dr. Frankenstein, allowing the monster to live.

While I am an unabashed conservative who feels this signature “accomplishment” of President Obama’s is destructive, I took the time to actually read the logic used in the ruling, which is undergirded with precedents that lend strength to the opinion.

As the ruling states, “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not [the Court’s] role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

I can speculate with these words that Chief Justice Roberts—and even, perhaps, his more liberal peers—sees much in Obamacare is not wise, fair, or desirable for the nation. There are many implications for the economy and the American healthcare system that one can argue are not good. In fact, aspects of Medicaid expansion have been ruled unconstitutional, and this will impact the funding and execution of this law.

But Chief Justice Roberts did not create the Affordable Care Act. His only job was to interpret whether or not contested aspects of the thing could stand under our Constitution. In my opinion, he has not acted unfairly here anymore than he was an “ideologue” when ruling in cases such Citizens United that left liberals calling foul and seeing red. He has simply analyzed the case and expressed his opinion.

Certainly the merits of this ruling can be argued as they are argued in an equally articulate dissent, but I can respect the rationale so succinctly written by the Chief Justice. In fact, I fervently hope that people forming an opinion on this ruling look at the source documents rather than rely exclusively on the talking heads that dominate our media. After all, we must respect rulings by the Supreme Court even when they are not what we expected them to be, and we should try to understand more than sound-bytes.

Besides, while Obamacare’s heart may still be beating, this creature birthed exclusively by Democrats is ugly, hated by a strong majority, and surely doomed to lumber into a life of unexpected consequences that will not increase its popularity. If one really despises this legislation, the way to fight it is in the voting booth. The way to kill it is to elect a Republican President and Republican Senate.

After all, per Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, “The Framers created a Federal Government of limited powers, and assigned to this Court the duty of enforcing those limits…. But the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”

Now let the people speak.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 03, 2012
I think columns like these need to acknowledge that they are based on a half-truth. Barbara and others like to lead readers into believe that the tax penalty applies to everyone when in fact it will only apply to the small percentage of people who opt not to purchase insurance. So when you say "a major tax is being levied on American citizens" it sound much worse than when you say "A major tax is being levied on American Citizens who refuse to buy health insurance!" See the second one looses much of its teeth because it moves the onus away from the government on onto the person who refuses to buy health insurance. Can we all agree that those wilfully uninsured folk provide the potential and likely risk of raising healthcare cost for the rest of us.
B. D. Lane
June 29, 2012
Also, thank you, Oliver. Most kind.
Lib in Cobb
June 29, 2012
As per an article from AP. The state with the lowest % of unisured residents is MA. Why? Mitt Romney implemented healthcare for all legislation while governor of MA. Now, Romney is explaining how ACA by President Obama is going to be repealed if he is elected. Will Romney also repeal the MA healthcare plan, which was used as a blueprint for the ACA by the Obama administration.
Oliver G. Halle
June 28, 2012
Barbara, this is by far and away your best column. We are alwasy going to disagree with decisions from our courts, but as Americans we accapt the rule of law and the way our constitutional government functions. The attacks on Justice Roberts have already begun. Sadly, too many don't understand the process as you so eloquently laid out. Today's decision, agree with it or not, is proof that the separation of powers is a system that works. The voters can alwasy vote for representatives to change the law, and/or a president who will draft a new bill. This peaceful process is why our government has stood for 223 years. Let's hope that whatever our differences, we as Americans will alwasy adherre to the rule of law.
Concerned Citizen
June 28, 2012
I will vote. I believe that the entitlement mentality that has engulfed our country is leading us to ruin. Obamacare is only a part of that mentality. It is not the answer, in my opinion, and now it has been defined, not as a mandate, but as a tax. (I believe President Obama said that it was not a tax.) Everyone knows that our nation must do something about the cost of healthcare and about other programs that are leading us toward bankruptcy. Cities such as Stockton, CA should be sending that message clearly. I think that your defense of Chief Justice Roberts is well thought out. He has allowed the monster to continue. He has also suggested that we as voters have the opportunity to consider its wisdom. I hope that Romney will take this opportunity to give us better plans and to seize the moment to gain support and to defeat President Obama.
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