SALT LAKE CITY, July 3, 2012—Like a backhanded compliment, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare by virtue of Congress’s power to tax was a victory for the president that might soon feel more like a defeat.
The Affordable Care Act does not, after all, prescribe a mandate that individuals buy health insurance, as was the consensus until the decision was announced last Thursday. Instead, it imposes a tax on individuals who decide to not purchase it.
“It’s a penalty, because you have a choice. You don’t have a choice to pay your taxes, right?” said White House spokesman Jay Carney the day after the ruling.
Either Carney is fooling himself, or he takes the public for a bunch of fools. A majority of the Court, including President Obama’s two appointees, said in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius that the ACA’s requirement to buy health insurance is a tax. A majority also said that, if it is to be construed as a penalty, then it violates the constitution.
In other words, if Carney’s assertion is true, the law is invalid. It only works as a tax.
It is as if the Supreme Court took the entire 2700-page law and put it through a filter that captured unconstitutional elements. According to the ruling, the filter would not have let through anything like a mandate, or any regulations based upon the Commerce Clause. But the filter let taxes pass through.
To be sure, many on both sides of the Obamacare debate find fault in the ruling, but the ruling stands. It is unable to be appealed, and thus the law of the land. For all intents, the ACA is operative and is reliant on a massive tax.
What passed through the filter, ergo, was a tax, notwithstanding anything the president says.
President Obama said, a few days after the the March oral arguments, that he was confident that the Court would “not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
He was partly prescient, but mostly lucky.
Obama and his allies believed (or hoped) that the Court wouldn’t strike down the mandate, which was the keystone of the law. They made various arguments to justify the requirement for individuals to purchase an insurance plan. Chief among those arguments was that not purchasing a product affects the market for said product, and that market transcends state borders.
The Court didn’t buy it, or any other argument in the mandate’s favor. To the contrary, the majority agreed with every point made by the petitioners who argued against the ACA. The Supreme Court ruled that the Commerce Clause was limited, and that individuals and states still had liberties worth preserving.
But the Court gave Obamacare a pass by default. A win on a technicality. That technicality happens to be a tax—a tax that Obama promised not to levy.
Now Obama is forced into the corner of praising a Supreme Court decision that exposes his grand lie and bumbling incompetence.
Obamacare is based on a tax, no matter what the president says.
Now that the “highest court in the land has…spoken,” the tax represents a box that will be difficult for President Obama to escape.
Learn more about the author at Rich-Stowell.com
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.
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