I’m at Youth Conference in Flaming Gorge, Utah, with my daughter, and all I have is my iPhone. So I have to tell you what this Obamacare Supreme Court decision means by typing entirely with my thumbs.
I can do this.
There’s plenty of noise out there, but very few real insights. So here are the takeaways that I think the masses are missing.
1. This is very, very good for Mitt Romney, politically speaking.
Obamacare gave the House of Representatives to the GOP in 2010. Since then, the Tea Party’s influence has been – thankfully – fading into memory. For better or for worse, this ruling puts them in the game again. It also forces their religious bigots to unite behind the Mormon, because he’s the only guy who can repeal this. It solidifies Mitt’s base in a way nothing else could.
On Facebook, many of my friends point out that Mitt’s current opposition to Obamacare is intellectually inconsistent with his previous positions. They’re absolutely right – and it doesn’t matter a whit. Mitt has to repeal this, and both he and the GOP base know it. That’s why they’ll cheerfully ignore the fact that it’s 180 degrees from where he was before the primaries.
The official transformation of the mandate into a tax helps Mitt immensely, too. Now he can rail against it in economic terms, tying higher taxes to our overall economic woes. That message works. It makes discussion about Obamacare a tributary of discussions about the economy. That’s a winner for Mitt and the main reason Obama will lose.
Which leads me to the second takeaway here:
2. The Roberts opinion is brilliant, right on the facts, and a long-term boon for constitutional conservatives.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts writes. In other words, it’s not the Court’s job to fix bad laws – only to ensure they pass constitutional muster. As Antonin Scalia said on another occasion, it’s possible to be both dumb and constitutional at the same time. Conservatives looking to the court to unlegislate bad legislation for them are not too far removed from liberals who use the courts to implement legislative policies for which they can’t get the votes. The Constitution is a great framework for how to operate a representative republic, but it’s not very good at telling the republic what it ought to do. I think the best solution to bad legislation is good legislation, not judicial fiat.
Still, Constitution fans have much to celebrate here. Roberts’ opinion puts clear limits on the Commerce Clause and provides opponents of the law a clear roadmap for repeal. It’s actually a remarkable thesis that limits the Court’s ability to legislate from the bench. George Will gets this – read his article on the subject. I’d find it for you and link to it here, but I’m typing with my thumbs.
3. Obamacare is not the apocalypse, and just blindly opposing it isn’t enough.
I’m conflicted by the fact that Obamacare has been very beneficial to the Cornells, in light of my daughter’s spinal cord injury. It’s lifted the lifetime limits on her benefits, and it’s prevented our insurance company from dropping us. Those, at least for me, are very good things.
I think the law has serious problems, however. It solidifies the bond between employer and employee in providing benefits, rather than make health care portable. It’s expensive, and it’s funded in ways that are unsustainable from the outset.
That said, I’m intensely frustrated with ideological zealots who scream “Repeal!” without providing any viable alternatives. The status quo stinks, and I refuse to side with people who defend a bad system because they don’t like the president’s proposal.
We live in a nation that refuses to let people die in the street because they can’t afford healthcare. I’m cool with that. So people who claim that healthcare should be left entirely to the free market ignore the fact that the market doesn’t treat people who can’t pay. You want Obamacare gone? Great. Show me something better.
It’s 11:35, and my thumbs grow weary. Good night.
MORNING THUMB-TYPED UPDATE:
The Hill notes that Mitt has raised $4.3 million online in the past 24 hours with an email plea for repeal. “Early signs indicate the ruling also stirred up voters who could be active in the November election.” Ya think?
Here’s the magnificent George Will piece I mentioned. Regardless of your political persuasion, you ought to read this.
David Frum, a guy I usually see eye-to-eye with, thinks this ruling is a disaster for Romney. He makes the mistake of thinking that people will now start debating the specifics of health care reform, when, instead, Romney will use this ruling to hammer home the larger message of Obama’s economic failure. But it’s a well-thought-out analysis, and I offer his contrarian view here.
And finally, William Shatner’s pants fell down at the airport.