Here’s an instant take on one of the biggest U.S. Supreme Court rulings of our time.
It’s got a real twist to it, but the fact is that health care reform survives and we may now proceed on our way to more sensible health care policy in this country.
I thought it would come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, as most things do, to swing the vote 5-to-4 either way. It didn’t.
Kennedy went with the three right-wing kooks — Scalia, Thomas, Alito — in saying the whole danged health care reform law was unconstitutional.
It came down to the chief justice, John Roberts, who joined the liberals — Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan — but not on the general issue that the individual mandate is legal as a matter of federal regulation of interstate commerce.
No, he agreed with them on the point that the income tax add-on — or fine, or penalty — for failure to comply with the mandate is, in the end, a federal tax, thus wholly within the firmly established authority of the federal government.
If you permit the penalty on a 5-to-4 vote as a simple tax, then you are affirming the penalty for not complying with the mandate, even if you are not specifically affirming the mandate under the interstate commerce regulation clause.
That’s a quick reading.
Either way, a conservative chief justice has just written his legacy counterintuitively and America proceeds to broader, fairer, saner health insurance.
My political reading had been that, if the Supreme Court reined in the mandate as too much government, the Republicans would win with the spin that it just goes to show what an abusive big-government socialist so-and-so this Obama is.
Forget that. I will not say what I’m thinking, which is that John Roberts just handed the Obama the presidency.
That’s a rash thing to say.
It’s also an unconventional reaction. Others are saying this will fire up the Republicans and have the Democrats defending a tax.
There is irony. There always is irony in our politics because our politics are so inane. Democrats wouldn’t call this a tax. It survives legally because it’s a tax. Hmmm.