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.