I have heard all kinds of reasons being given for Chief Justice Roberts’ interesting stance on Obamacare. It is an intriguing decision, if nothing else. But I believe that it is something else, although I have not heard my particular take from anyone else. Get ready for the latest installment of: AS THE PLOT THICKENS!
As you may recall, last time we wandered these woods, Mr. Obama was being ousted in favor of Ms. Clinton. This time around, I think that he is just being ousted. All sorts of pundits have theorized that Mr. Roberts’ decision was the result of (take your pick): intimidation by the mainstream media, or by Mr. Obama himself; Mr. Roberts saw the liberal light; or Chief Justice Roberts was protecting the integrity of a court that is unable to enforce its decisions.
I’m not buying any of it. The answer seems perfectly obvious to me, although I haven’t seen this possibility floated anywhere else. I think that Mr. Roberts has effected a very potent wake-up slap upside the head of an electorate that has been abdicating its responsibilities.
“You made your bed, you lie in it,” he’s proclaiming to the voters, the legislative branch, and to the executive (although I am obviously badly mixing my metaphors here). Anyway, confusing imagery aside, here’s my take: Mr. Roberts joined the majority in this decision, just as he did in the Arizona decision, simply to be able to write the opinion, to craft it to say just exactly what he wanted it to say. Despite the 100-plus pages of the opinion, he made his most important point early on: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
Okay, he’s telling us, you voted for it, you live with it. You can’t go around setting things up in a hap-hazard way, without thinking through all of the consequences of your decisions, then depend on the Supreme Court to step in and set things right. The people vote for the government they want, empowering the legislative branch to make the laws, the executive branch to carry them out, while relying on the judicial branch to protect the citizens from extra-constitutional acts. Mr. Roberts loudly proclaimed that the justices will not protect the citizens from overreaching government, just overreaching government that extends beyond its authority.
“Hey, folks,” he said, though in a slightly more formal tone, “pay attention. Those voters who just swoon and coo and preen, batting their lashes and peering coyly over their fans, slyly dropping their hankies to see who swoops in to pluck them from the floor, waiting to be rescued, give up all their power to the knight in shining armor. All that you do when you empower the knights to go out and battle on your behalf is raise the knight class to a position of power, which they are most reluctant to relinquish when the threat has been vanquished. Instead, they will find new dragons to slay, in order to maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Like it or not, your destiny is in your own hands. It is up to you and your fellow villagers to arm yourselves and slay the beasties on your own. You must learn to rely on and support each other.”
“But,” the citizens whimper, “it’s a scary world out there. We want someone to carry the banner on our behalf. We don’t want to have to struggle for a living and provide for our old age and our children and our neighbors. It’s too hard!”
“It’s okay,” the justices soothe. “You don’t have to struggle at all, if you don’t want to. You just have to live with the consequences of your decisions. And the consequence of wanting more security is the loss of freedom. It may not be fair, but that’s just the way it always turns out. Once you have given up some of your power to others, inevitably they look for ways to retain that power, to consolidate their base, and to increase their winnings. If you want to control your own destiny, you have to wrest that power back from them. You must use your own power to get yourself where you want to go. No one else can do for you quite so well as you can do for yourself. It’s your choice. Do you want to retain this behemoth you’ve set up? Or are you ready to begin the process of dismantling the monster, and reclaiming your right to live your life under your own terms? Because you must know that what you’ve created is unworkable.”
And here’s why. As I understand it (and with some 2000 plus pages, I may have missed a nuance or two), here’s what has been set up on our behalf. Of the 30 million uninsured Americans, about 4 million can afford to buy insurance for themselves, but choose not to. These are the only people to whom the penalty/tax will apply. I’m not really clear on whether these people are using the health care system, but not paying for it, because if that’s the case, then they really can’t afford to pay health insurance premiums, can they? Otherwise, they would be losing their assets as the health care providers sued them for reimbursement for services rendered. Or, they have not purchased health insurance, but they are not using the system, in which case they are not the vampires they have been proclaimed to be. Instead, these “freeloaders” are the ones who will end up supporting the rest of the system.
What about the other twenty-six million? They can’t afford to pay the premiums. How do they get coverage? Obamacare was designed to take the penalty/tax that the supposed vampires are now to pay, run it through the federal system, and feed it back to the states through expanded Medicaid programs. (Of course, since the premiums paid by the four million will not be sufficient to cover the charges incurred by the rest of the 30 million, other taxes will also have to be raised).
Now, Mr. Roberts’ subtlety really comes through. All of the debate over the last week has been about whether the tax is a tax or the tax is a penalty. That is a side issue to the real issue. The Court also determined that the states are not required to expand their Medicaid programs in order to keep the federal dollars they are currently entitled to. Okay, then, say Texas and Florida (so far), we say thanks but no thanks, we don’t want to participate in your expansion of Medicaid. We’ll just keep the current program. We recognize the fact that, although the expansion is supposed to be “paid” for by the federal government (read more deficit spending) 100% in the first year, the amount that the feds “contribute” drops precipitously until the states will end up carrying 80% of the load. And that’s too much, say Mr. Scott and Mr. Perry. We won’t do it. So, the means by which the rest of the uninsured were supposed to be covered is being been disbanded. Where does that leave us? Seems like, except for the brand spanking new taxes, no better off than we were before. Smooth move, Mr. Chief Justice Roberts.