James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Roberts rule the order in Obamacare decision

Posted by James McPherson on June 28, 2012

Like most people, including supposed experts, I was surprised by the Supreme Court’s ruling today on the Affordable Care Act. Like most legal experts, I also thought it should be upheld under existing law regarding the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. But Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority decision in a way that managed to agree with the four most conservative justices about the Interstate Commerce Clause, let agreed with the most liberal justices to keep Obamacare mostly intact.

I suspect Roberts’ decision will keep courts and legal scholars (and I don’t claim to be one) busy for years, though at least one Yale law professor predicted the winning argument. And unfortunately the one part of the bill that the court threw out–an expansion of Medicaid–will leave many poor people uncovered. Ironically, a disproportionate number of those people will be in conservative Southern states, where people were most likely to oppose Obamacare.

Obama obviously comes out a winner, at least in the short term. Some argue that the decision may fire up conservative independents enough to help Romney–especially if the word “tax” can be emphasized enough–but I don’t see how a guy who lies dozens of times in a single week,  whose own state plan was the well-known model for the Affordable Care Act, and whose reaction to the ruling was a weak promise to “act to repeal Obamacare” (which he would have no power to do) if he were elected, can overcome the hole he is in. Some Republicans claim that the decision will actually help kill Obamacare, but that argument is nonsensical on its face, simple posturing by the vanquished.

Another big winner is Roberts, who took advantage of his right as chief justice to write the decision. His interpretation will be debated for years, and likely will shape future policy in a number of areas–unlike any majority opinion written by longtime justices and conservative political hacks Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Conservatives may be cranky with Roberts now, but they’ll get over it when the “evil genious” quickly rejoins the reactionary side of the most conservative Supreme Court in history.

I do hope a Fox News column is right in predicting that the Obamacare decision might be a step toward a single-payer health care system. But I doubt it (and not just because the prediction comes from Fox). And until that happens, insurance companies and drug companies will reap big rewards including whatever company makes the drugs that Michael Savage blames for Roberts’ decision. Those beneficiaries demonstrate one consistency for Roberts: As with the horrendous Citizens United decision, he came down on the side of corporations.

Oh, another winner–all of us, if Rush Limbaugh would just keep his promise to move to Costa Rica.

Saturday follow-up: More evidence that this is the most conservative court ever.

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8 Responses to “Roberts rule the order in Obamacare decision”

  1. I believe something bad is happening in Oz….. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Shh9b8g2n6E

  2. […] Women's Voices. Women Vote « Roberts rule the order in Obamacare decision […]

  3. Reuel said

    It is a Tax now and it raises taxes on the ones under 200,000. I know it not a lie, but it is pretty ironic don’t you think. I think the left is celebrating a little to early and I think 2012 is going to be a another 2010. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and the majority rule it a duck, it’s a duck. You sure have some serious issues with the right. Sorry they are not any more evil than the left. Both side are playing politics and both side are lying to us. Yes the Affordable Health care law is a lie also, it is going to be affordable and it is going to be what it promised us it would be.

  4. Reuel said

    Missed the “Not” in the last part above. What is the left going to do in November when they take another slacking as they did in 2010? Barry may survive but both houses are going to make his life very very different. You know, kind of what happened after the 2006 election. It all equals out in the end.

  5. James McPherson said

    I’m not so sure about the GOP doing as well as they probably should. The presidential winner usually has some coattails, and Romney seems to be doing whatever he can to lose. And while I once thought the Republicans would claim the Senate, now I’m not so sure. They may end up running a couple of guaranteed-to-lose Tea Party sort along the lines of Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, thereby helping the Dems keep a slight Senate majority. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either party claim the Senate, at this point.

    “It all equals out in the end.”

    Indeed–though not often enough for the better, it seems. One side wins, then the other–but we the people rarely do.

    By the way, I hope the wedding went well and that you had a good Fourth.

  6. James McPherson said

    Oh, Reuel, one other thing, about your comment that “It is a Tax now.” A conservative commenter on another site said a tax is on something you do, while a penalty (such as this) is for something you don’t do. I don’t know the legalities, but that definition makes sense to me. Of course the GOP will be chanting “tax, tax, tax” from now until November, despite the fact that our infrastructure is falling apart and tax rates are very low from a historical perspective.

    And of course Roberts seems to be the only justice who really thinks it’s a tax–both Obama and Romney’s spokesman disagree. As for Romney, he says this is a tax but that his own version wasn’t–demonstrating yet again how wishy-washy he is.

  7. Reuel said

    The response was if it’s isn’t a tax it’s unconstitutional, because Congress has that right. Oh how many cans of worms did that open up. I think Roberts did it on purpose, for a reason to become clearer at a later date. No, 4 other justices signed on to his paper that called it a tax. Doesn’t matter you are right the bad and good parts of this will not be sorted out, just political posturing on both sides and we the people actually pay these people to do this to us. Sad. Wedding Excellent, The 4th to darn hot.

  8. James McPherson said

    I agree with you that Roberts has something up his sleeve–probably something that will make conservatives and/or corporations very happy in the long run. Glad the wedding went well–congrats to your daughter and her new spouse. And yes, the country seems to be burning up, except for the corner I’m in. We’re finally supposed to get some hot weather this weekend.

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