It’s interesting that the Supreme Court’s final decisions from last week—the blockbuster healthcare-law decision and the lesser-noticed decision on the Stolen Valor Act—deal with lies. In throwing out the Stolen Valor Act, the Court basically said it’s OK to lie about being a decorated military hero. The decision is regrettable, but we can take some solace in knowing that it will affect only a tiny fraction of the country’s 313 million residents. The ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is quite another matter. In upholding the ACA, the Court aided Congress and the White House in perpetrating a fraud on the American people. Think about it: Only by labeling the law’s individual mandate a “penalty” rather than a “tax” were the ACA’s supporters able to find enough votes to pass the bill—and just barely at that. But only by redefining the “penalty” as what it always was—a “tax”—was the Court’s majority able to salvage the law. In short, the High Court basically said it’s OK for Congress and the White House to lie in order to move unpopular legislation.
Whether this awakens some silent majority committed to liberty and the rule of law or throws open the doors to President Obama’s “L’état, c’est moi” form of government, we will not know until November 6.
What we do know is that the ACA, with all its tendrils and tentacles, lives. The Court had a chance—some would say a duty—to kill it and instead protected it by offering a new rationale for it.
Some observers—grasping, scrambling, struggling to make the most of this anti-liberty decision—have argued that Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion was actually a poison pill for the ACA. “Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments,” he wrote. “Those decisions are entrusted to our nation´s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
Contortionist conservatives point to this paragraph as evidence of Roberts’ real intention: to force the issue back into the political process and to challenge conservatives to make the case in this year’s presidential and congressional elections.
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