Thursday, June 28, 2012

My 2 Cents on the Supreme Court and Obamacare

I think the court did the right thing. And pretty much what I expected.

They overturned the mandate under the commerce clause. Hoorray! There is some limit to the commerce clause!  I think they had to do this. If they upheld the whole thing, they would have said there is no limit whatsoever to Federal power.

They upheld the mandate as a tax. Swallow hard, free-market friends.

If the Federal government has the power to adjust your taxes based on whether you buy an electric car, cover your roof with solar panels, use 1 btu of petroleum to create 1 btu of corn ethanol, take out a mortgage on your mansion, hire a nanny to take care of your kids, and all the other silly things it does in the tax code, it surely has the power to adjust your taxes based on whether you buy health insurance.

Roberts: "The Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

Yes, the administration didn't call it a tax. But for the court to overturn this whole law,  one of the Administration's proudest accomplishments, based on that technicality would have been petty and political. They did the right thing to look at the big picture.

I think our country needs a lot more Supreme Court decisions that say "we think this is a really stupid policy, but alas, it is constitutional."  (And, "we think this is a great policy, but alas it oversteps the constitution.")

As I said before, the mandate was never the weakest part of this law as a matter of economics.  It's the rest of the perfectly constitutional thousands of pages, and the perfectly constitutional thousands more arbitrary regulatory decisions that are the problem. Relying on the court to throw out the bathwater on the basis of the mandate was always a stretch.

We should not rely on the court to determine economic policy or write laws. That's what Congress and Administration are for. If you don't like the health care law, try to find someone of either party with the courage to say just how he or she will repeal and replace, and vote.

This will be healthy for both parties. Defenders can't say how wonderful it would all have been except that the nasty polticized court threw it out. They will have to own Obamacare as it falls apart at the seams. Opponents will have to work to repeal, and explain what they will replace with.

Yes, it would be nice if the constitution forbade silly economic policy, and it would be nice if it forbade arbitrary discretionary regulation.  For that you need to overturn a century's worth of precedents. Nobody even asked the court to do that in this case. (Time to start!)

Disclaimer: This is based just on news reports. I haven't read the decision yet, and will comment more when I do. There are lots of other issues.

Update: Two more cents here in a follow-up post.  "Tax" and "Mandate" really are very different in important ways.