As I predicted, my day lilies are still blooming beautifully, I'm still married to the love of my life, and the Commissars do not seem to have started liquidating the kulaks yet.
Obviously, I would have preferred this decision to go the other way. I also would have preferred a decision which made sense, which this decision doesn't really seem to. Despite my general distates for this law, I thought the argument that Congress couldn't bully the states by threatening to take their Medicaid money away was nonsense, and yet there the Supreme Court goes, agreeing with them. Meanwhile, the Court has rewritten the mandate as a tax, even though everyone who passed it said it wasn't one. There's dim hope in the fact that they refused to expand the commerce clause—but only dim, because future expansions of the commerce clause are going to be decided more by the future composition of the court than by this ruling.
But much as I dislike it the general direction of the ruling was hardly unexpected, even if the actual outlines of the decision are pretty much what exactly no one was predicting. I'm not super surprised that they voted to uphold--though I suspect that Justice Roberts has ducked outrage from liberals only to now get just as much outrage from his own side. This is the political environment we now live in. The age when liberal academics could comfortably expect to see their dominance of the academy translate into a broad progressive consensus on the court are over. We'll be battling over the composition of the court for a long time—and if a liberal or conservative justice is forced to retire while the other party holds the presidency, I expect to see things get vicious indeed.
Meanwhile, let's look on the bright side. Some reasons to be cheerful:
1. Those of us who are skeptical of government power are no worse off, and arguably better off, than we were yesterday. It could have gone way worse.
2. Back in 2010, when the bill passed, I made some predictions about the effects of the bill. One of them (#5: a major funding source will be repealed, which arguably describes the Class Act) may already have come true. But that leaves seven others. Will infant mortality decline to the level of the Netherlands? Will mortality drop like a stone? Stay tuned to this space in 2014!
3. Some people, maybe including me, will be helped by the bill. Even if you think that this bill will, on net, make more people worse off, you should still be glad for the people who are being helped.
4. I assume that we're all looking forward to seeing Obama campaign on his large middle class tax hike. Pass the popcorn!
I do still expect a fiscal crisis which will be made worse by this law. And I'm waiting on those upside surprises I was promised by the bill's supporters. But I've still got a sunny spot in the garden where I can wait with the aforementioned husband, and maybe a nice broccoli margarita.
Peter J. Boyer
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