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John Roberts gives us health reform

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.

I think.

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.

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15 comments

15 Responses to 'John Roberts gives us health reform'

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  1. John,
    Rash or not, it is fair to say that Chief Justice Roberts, just handed the election to Obama, barring any unforeseen calamities that might occur to alter the election between now and November.
    It is also fair to say, that I wish we had more choices to vote for other than GOP or DEM’s. Yes there is Green, Libertarian, and a few fringe folks, but, you and I both know that the system is geared to re-electing incumbents to office. Sad to say that the “2 party system” in this country has failed miserably and all of us suffer because of it. Things that need to get done don’t get done. At least when you and I were growing up, a politician might campaign very hard against his/her opponent, then, once into office, would find a way to get things done. That is NOT the case anymore.
    This “Obamacare” was “getting something done” Is it perfect? Hell no it’s not, but it’s a start and maybe, just maybe, some people will get elected in the future to fine-tune this law and make it workable for the country.
    If a person really looks in the mirror and does not believe that real change CAN come for the good of this country, then where are we headed? What will it take for that change? I wish I had all the answers, but I am trying to make that difference in my small way.
    American citizenship comes at a price. That being that most citizens NEED to participate in the “process” on many levels. Local, State, and Federal. They need to (for the most part) turn off “Dancing With The Stars” and get involved and hold elected officials feet to the fire.

    Greg D

    28 Jun 12 at 10:46 am

  2. “Kennedy went with the three right-wing kooks — Scalia, Thomas, Alito” …. John you are better than that, just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t make them a “kook”. Shame on you, you are too talented to stoop to name calling.

    LevyRat

    28 Jun 12 at 11:59 am

  3. Ok. Extremists.

    jbrummett

    28 Jun 12 at 12:06 pm

  4. Get ready for the Mother of All Backlashes. Speculation is that states can opt to drop out. What will all this mean for Arkansas, whose legislators bet the bank on this being defeated?

    Cynthia Peven

    28 Jun 12 at 12:10 pm

  5. cynthia: i think you may be overstating. maybe not. but it seems the court reined in the law’s provision that said the federal government could penalize states for not expanding medicaid as provided in the law by reducing existing medicaid funding. court said that was too far. fact is: the feds will pay all of additional medicaid for first few years. maybe, yeah, arkansas republicans are going to say we don’t want this federal money to cover more working poor under medicaid. and maybe we’re going to get a whole new majority slew of them in november. but if democrats cant’ resist that — if they can’t successfully argue that our poor folks ought to get the same aid as poor folks everywhere else — well… i’ll stop there.

    jbrummett

    28 Jun 12 at 12:34 pm

  6. Let’s call them the Three Amoebas for their often primitive view of things.

    Randal H.

    28 Jun 12 at 12:24 pm

  7. Mr Brummet..I could not agree with you on this matter more..Now we can actually start to sensibly take care of our most valuable resource..we, the people..The healthier the populace is, the longer they actually work and the more taxes they pay.. Seems pretty simple to me.
    While the current affordable care act is far from perfect, it is a start.
    As for you calling Alito, Thomas and Scalia cooks..well, sometimes you gotta call a spade a spade.
    With their public pronouncements on social issues, Thomas’s wife’s financial relationship with conservative(radical) organizations that were actively campaigning against Health care..Scalia’s “founding fathers strict interpretation”myopia.. Those three are reliable kooks..While the Right wingers howl about items such a the Presidents Birthplace, Denial of Evolution, Global warming and all things scientific, the reasonable middle are generally silent.. No more.. We need to call these fruitcakes for what they are..Kooks
    All in all a very good outcome
    As for the Republicans and repeal and replace..replace with what? They have been against ALL social programs from FDR on.. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Healthcare.. Against them all.. The silence from the Fox candidate is deafening.. Probably wants to “replace” it with just what they deemed okey-dokey for 60+ years.. Nothing..and I really wish ole Mit would tell us just exactly how he would repeal this law if elected.. Perhaps someone needs to tell him that a president can only propose legislation.. He would not be a dictator..cause this an’t Bain Capital.. This is a Three branch form of Government.
    I would suggest he watch the Simpsons episode about Capitol City and how a Bill becomes Law..

    dan hill

    28 Jun 12 at 1:23 pm

  8. My wife is a health professional, and the Drs she works with are saying they are against Obamacare.I dont know enough about it to have an opinion.
    Also, would calling you a Socialist be stretching the truth?
    I like it when a liberal reverts to calling right wingers “Kooks”

    mike graves

    28 Jun 12 at 1:41 pm

  9. well, ok. then, if the doctors are against it… delivering new customers to the private health insurance industry — that ain’t socialism. that’s good bidness. wish the govt could mandate that people advertise in the newspaper….

    jbrummett

    28 Jun 12 at 1:50 pm

  10. MG – as a liberal i am not going to label all right wingers as “kooks” but to vote with their mindset on this issue does make them, in this case at least, “kooks”. This shows lack of progress and narrow mindedness.

    A kook may be a person who says that the government SHOULD be able to restrict someone having an abortion (disregard whether the person having it has same belief system). Same person may have a bumper sticker that reads “Charlton Heston is my President”. Having the belief that the same government can only take their guns if they pry them from their cold, dead hands.

    BTW, if being a socialist means sacrificing some wealth and riches to take care of the less fortunate, poor, and those without connections – i think i would love being called a socialist. If the same bible thumper that invokes their opinion on abortion and gay rights missed the chapters on taking care of others. I guess WWJD means that the “J” would be a socialist – since he walked and cared for the poor above all else.

    Bill Baker

    28 Jun 12 at 2:50 pm

  11. All in all, a fair assessment! Thanks John!

    Don Moore

    28 Jun 12 at 2:53 pm

  12. If it’s done through private insurance, it ain’t Socialism. It’s a windfall profit for health providers, except they are limited in how much of premiums they can keep above claims. So far, over $1 billion in premium overcharges has been returned to consumers. Not to shabby for the early years.

    And, contrary to whatJohn Bohener and Mitt Romney say, you will be able to chose your doctor and hospital, at least in so far as the private health insurance companies allow you to. As you know, the insurance companies controlled that before anyway.

    bkennamer

    28 Jun 12 at 3:27 pm

  13. Spot on John! Kooks are always kooks. Calling them something else only confuses people. I’m always amazed that the ones crying about being Christians the loudest are the ones not willing to have the government provide for the healthcare of it’s citizens. Many of the least fortunate among us would never see a dollar from the wealthiest if not for a law like this or through an employment program. It’s not perfect but it’s a start! Let’s get on with it!

    Martha

    28 Jun 12 at 11:03 pm

  14. we may not agree, but at least yall care
    Am enjoying this thought provoking exchange.
    This drought/heat has most of us pissy.

    mike graves

    29 Jun 12 at 7:21 am

  15. I would agree its better for Obama politically to win than to lose this fight. But I think its only marginally in his favor for the election. Granting that given how close this election may be, the each “marginal” advantage is important. But this SCOTUS decision won’t make the unpopular health care act popular. It does make Roberts appear to be a statesman. But there is something for conservatives to like in the opinion. It seems to continue the court’s trend to limit the application of the commerce clause. Romney remains the underdog in the election, given that Obama has more potential ways of putting together the needed ellectorial college votes. Interesting times.

    tfish

    1 Jul 12 at 4:16 pm

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