As he neared the end of reading the majority opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act???s ???individual mandate,??? I was somewhat surprised to hear Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts defensively declare that the courts shouldn???t be in the business of protecting citizens from the consequences of their political decisions.
He???s right, of course. The question of Obamacare???s constitutionality is significant, but ultimately, it???s the political argument that needs to be won. Now that the court has upheld the mandate on a 5-4 vote???literally writing legislation from the bench by turning a mandate into a ???tax??????conservatives will focus on the political case for repeal. And the Supreme Court???s decision fortifies their case.
Since its passage, the GOP has deployed two lines of attack. The first was a constitutional and philosophical case: Washington should not coerce individuals to partake in commerce. That case is lost. But now, what was once a highly unpopular individual mandate will be a highly unpopular individual mandate tax. If polls have reflected a consistent disapproval of Obamacare before the decision, anticipate much worse.
Moving forward, Democrats will not only be compelled to cheerlead for the law that allows Washington to micromanage our most personal decisions and work only by coercing millions of America to participate, but they will have to defend a tax they claimed never existed.
The decision also provides Republicans with an opportunity to point out that Obama was being untruthful with the American people. When George Stephanopoulos asked Obama in 2009 whether he believed that the mandate was just another ???tax increase,??? the president replied, ???I absolutely reject that notion.??? At a rally the same year, the president also claimed that health insurance should ???never be purchased with tax increases on middle class families.???
Yet, that is exactly how it will be underfunded???with a Medicare surtax, a medical-device tax, a ???premium??? tax, a mandate, a mandate tax and around 20 other new taxes. Rest assured, when cost explodes, and inevitably they will, there will be calls for new ???revenue??? streams. Has anyone ever won an election on a platform of tax hikes?
According to the president, this is the pièce de résistance of his first term, the ???most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act passed in the 1930s and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s.???
The mounting evidence of the legislation???s failure???the higher than anticipated costs, the warnings of corroding quality, the people being forced to leave their insurance, and the dearth of individuals signing up for Obamacare programs???already gives Republicans a compelling argument against the president???s cherished achievement. Had liberty advocates prevailed in court, the attack would have been blunted.
Obamacare, one of the animating issues of the grassroots-driven Republican congressional victories of 2010, will once again be the center of debate. That???s good news. Add to all this, the court???s momentous smack down of the Commerce Clause (see sidebar) and you???re looking at a potential long-term victory. After all, if Obama loses, Obamacare, if we can believe Republican nominee Mitt Romney, is finished.
???What the Supreme Court did not do on its last day in session, I will do in my first day in office,??? claimed Romney, whose campaign raised more than a million dollars in online donations in just hours after the decision. Is this the first indication of a consolidation on the right? Perhaps???because whatever conservatives may have thought of Romney before they probably won???t be thinking much about it moving forward.