The Messenger published my letter to the editor recently, citing the idea that the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was a good decision for those of us who believe that legislation should be repealed and replaced.
Since then, quite a number of my friends and usual fellow conservative people have accused me of being wrong in my opinion!
It seemed appropriate to revisit my thinking and to enhance its explanation.
The justification by the originators of the Affordable Care Act is that everyone not buying sufficient insurance would have a penalty for not buying it. Such penalty was justified with the interpretation that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in what’s called its “Commerce Clause” did permit such penalties. That clause provides that anything involved in interstate commerce may be regulated by the federal government. That idea about other legislation has been floated in discussions of the past, but the Affordable Care Act was the first one actually incorporating that idea into law. That is the item that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional! Wonderful! That is correct!
In so ruling this mandate unconstitutional, it laid to rest any idea about other legislation of the future some might propose with mandates forcing people to purchase goods or services against the will of the individual. Now we know with Constitutional certainty that the government cannot force anyone to buy something unwillingly.
Even though the originators of the Affordable Care Act created a lot of financial obligations on citizens called penalties or fees, the Supreme Court decision said that funding for such an act can only rely upon the taxing power of Congress. Even though called penalties and fees in the legislation, the Supreme Court said this is a misnomer on the part of Congress. In reality, they all are taxes.
Now, the thing about identifying all of these financial obligations as taxes, the Supreme Court decision suddenly alienated a good number of original supporters of the Affordable Care Act, once they learned it was taxed and not just fees and penalties. Taxes are much more difficult to get passed in Congress. Likewise, high taxes (as is in the Affordable Care Act) are so high and odious that the Act will be somewhat easier now to repeal in Congress, especially after the November general elections.
Lastly, the federal government has played around in the past with states by coercing participation in federal programs under the treat of withdrawing funds for other purposes, if the states did not cooperate. i.e., If states did not want to participate in the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court decision last week said that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold highway funding or educational funding, etc. That is an absolutely wonderful precedent to have set, as it now means the federal government can never bully states with budgetary blackmail.
It is the responsibility of the U. S. Supreme Court to protect the citizenry from Congress and the president regarding legislation contrary to the U.S. Constitution. It is not the responsibility to protect the citizenry from bad policy or bad legislation, if it’s Constitutional. It is the responsibility of Congress and the president to get bad policy or legislation corrected. Otherwise, it is the responsibility of the voting citizenry to replace Congress or the president with elected officials who will correct such bad policy or legislation.
In summary, the Supreme Court decision, as explained in Justice John Roberts’ published opinion of the majority of justices, solidified the 14th Amendment’s Commerce Clause limitations; said that all those costs in the Affordable Care Act are taxes, no matter what someone calls them; and made it certain that the federal government cannot bully the states with non-related financial deprivations. It paved the way for Congress most likely to repeal the Act early in 2013. I think that is a good decision by the court.