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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare shocker: It's a tax

Chief Justice John Roberts jumps ship.

UPDATE, 7:55 a.m.: The actual Supreme Court decision is here. It's like the health care law itself: a chopped-up mess.

And speaking of jurisprudential disaster areas, here's another opinion today in which they couldn't get five justices to sign the same opinion.

UPDATE, 8:02 a.m.: Here's some funkiness: Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito all sign a dissenting opinion (that is, none of them do).

UPDATE, 8:20 a.m.: For the tax geeks among us, a majority of the Court in the health care case did make some law about the scope of a "direct tax," which Congress is not allowed to impose without apportionment among the states:

A tax on going without health insurance does not fall within any recognized category of direct tax. It is not a capitation. Capitations are taxes paid by every person, "without regard to property, profession, or any other circumstance." Hylton, supra, at 175 (opinion of Chase, J.) (emphasis altered). The whole point of the shared responsibility payment is that it is triggered by specific circumstances — earning a certain amount of income but not obtaining health insurance. The payment is also plainly not a tax on the ownership of land or personal property. The shared responsibility payment is thus not a direct tax that must be apportioned among the several States.

UPDATE, 8:28 a.m.: So, is Roberts the new Souter?

UPDATE: 8:38 a.m.: Consolation prize for the Republicans: Five Justices, including Roberts, did say that Congress could not have passed the individual mandate using its powers under the Commerce Clause. But since it's a tax, that didn't matter in this case.

Comments (52)

I don't like the federal government ordering anyone to buy something. Calling it a tax goes back to the early days of, "No taxation without representation." If your healthcare premiums go up based on what a corporation decides, isn't that taxation without representation?

P.S. I'm totally winging it here.

For all his other losses Obama now has a win going into the playoffs.

It would have been so much easier for Romney to argue the Presidents impotence, rather than failings associated to Obamacare. Critics and supporters of the ruling can chime in all they want, but the bottom line is this ruling will help the Pres get re-elected.

I don't think it will change the outcome of the election. The Fox News types have lost the argument "It's illegal." But they've still got "It sucks."

"It's a tax, stupid" may not be all that helpful to Obama and the State's rights to opt out may be problematic.

Add to that the lack of promised savings, inability to keep one's own insurance, and widespread waivers for special interests and this is ONE BIG Government mess that will only make government more messy, unmanageable and dysfunctional.
Chaos on a grand scale without any congressional cure possible.

Enjoy the broccoli.

"Obama now has a big win going into the playoffs." I'm not sure you're right, but that's a great sentence.

I apologize for not being a scholar on this, but it's cyberspace.
We're all equal in cyberspace:

I always assumed the mandate would be tossed, and I'm a progressive. I think what I forgot was that we are creeping - sprinting - toward corporate control of America and the world.

I assumed Roberts would base his decision on the Constitution, and I'm kiciking myself now for not seeing this. Roberts usually does what Big Business - the corporations - tell him to do. Maybe that's what happened here. I think the Big Corporations - Big Pharma - want this. That's the End Game.

As far as the politics, the only time I was sure Candidate Obama was genuinely outraged about something, it was when he talked about watching his mother hassle with our incredibly screwed up healthcare system as she became sick and ultimately died.

This is an area where Michael Moore is right: Our healthcare system is sicko. I sensed it myself years ago, when I used to say to co-workers, "We have good health insurance as long as you stay in good health. If you get sick, that's another story."

This ruling is a mess times 100, but the healthcare system is a mess times a billion.

Roberts loves bureaucratic power. But he did take a pretty good swipe at congressional power under the Commerce Clause -- a portion of the case that he didn't need to talk about at all.

I do not think the HC law is a good law, but not for the reasons the Right thinks. It does not go far enough. But I love that the Right had to send the champagne back. I think if the save it for November they might need to switch to beer to find something to cry into...

Scalia was almost ready for a straitjacket BEFORE this ruling. He must be ready to blow.


Can you explain what the state medicare means? Does this open the door for states to ignore expanding medicare? Also as a "tax" does this mean that it could still be thrown out in a few years after people have to pay it?

Incidentally I'd point out that Slate's Dalia Lithwick called it right months ago:


And it is a tax, so what? We get plenty of taxes all the time. Big deal. Uninsured people clog up our ER's, stiff doctors and hospitals who provide care and generally make our system a mess. Time to get off the dole. If you can afford, pay or get fined.

It's not a fine. It's a tax.

The logic in this decision is shocking, but at the same time, familiar... except... Sam Adams isn't on the Supreme Court.

Sarah Palin weighs in: "Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn't a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies."

Uhh, I thought it was Roberts who said it was a tax...you know...George W. Bush's Roberts. Isn't it possible President Obama was just as surprised as anyone at that rationale?

I agree that our health care "system" is not only sicko, but virtually non existent unless, you have lots of money or are completely indigent. Insurance companies and big pharma rule. That is why people who can, go to Mexico for drugs and health care.
I suppose time will tell if this so called "Obamacare" will help.
And I want to see Scalia's head blow up. Will he now take the gig to appear on Rush's radio show?

Of course, you don't mean physical harm to Justice Scalia, but this could explain why he sounded so chapped during the Arizona ruling, even going off the traditional path to delve into some talk radio-style commentary.

He's got to be furious. Let's just say if Cheney and Scalia go duck hunting again and they invite me, I'm not going.

My gut reaction was this is a boon for the GOP for decades to come because with individual mandate being a tax, Democrats under President Obama have created a new tax, which the GOP can use as a sledgehammer come every election year.

Trying to understand the quote, does it mean that the US Congress, specifically the House where every budget originates from according the US Constitution, is now barred from legislating on the specific tax rate of the individual mandate?

In simpler terms, did the US Supreme Court just create a new tax category, which is untouchable by the representatives of the US population?

I've since heard that the Obama lawyers called it a tax in arguments before the court, but this is still on Roberts.

Doesn't this feel like taxpayer-guaranteed loans to banks? The image I have is of tubes inserted into the body of the taxpayer ready to draw out whatever the corporations want without any process at all.

Fortunately, like the those who wrote it , passed it ,and contributed to obama, I as a government employee will get a pass on taking part.
Unfortunately , We all will feel the largest tax increase in American history.

Guilt free welfare for the 80 percent. I can't afford to compete with public servants to purchase health care services, but they'll tax me (fine me, jail me) if I do not sign up to get the subsidies from the Unicorns to deliver to government-approved companies. We have all been forced to join the raiding party. The price for services will sky rocket, and so too will the value of becoming "government-approved".

On the bright side (or dark side), PERS bought some of Bill Frist's Hospital Corporation of America. What do you call it when the public servant party becomes the capitalist pigs? Look up the definition of fascism and try to distinguish it from where we are headed. Just try.

If I die in a car accident tomorrow the only joy (value) I get is to vent in a comment on a blog today.

I think what I forgot was that we are creeping - sprinting - toward corporate control of America and the world.

My thought is that they got some American people to accept this idea of "making others pay no matter what" as their premiums went sky high and emergency rooms filled.
Do people really think that people won't get insurance because they don't want to pay?
Sure there may be a portion of population where that might be the case.
In my view, many don't have insurance because they simply don't have the money.
I would expect that people are extremely distressed about it too and would prefer to have insurance if only they could afford it!!
What is this about, Wait until 2014!
Perhaps it helps create an illusion that it is not really happening yet anyway,
doing this in incremental steps.
What next? Debtor's prison?

This is one of those days when we should all forget the Republican/Democrat dynamic and try and see what's really taking place in the world.

In my opinion corporations are not humans, but they are creatures, and even if there are humans inside them, they will act in ways that are not in the best interests of humanity.

Corporations have purchased the US government, and subverted the will of governments around the world.

When a ruling comes out like today, it's a rare chance to see the creatures that hide at the bottom of the swamp. Another recent example was when corporations were given the OK to build new nuclear power reactors in Georgia, with the understanding that if anything went wrong, the US taxpayers would cover it.

At least in medicine, you sometimes get a feeding tube. What these corporations have done, is to stick a series of tubes into the body of the American People - tubes that take wealth out.

This is a great example of it. The final proof that this isn't a Republican/Democrat thing is the notion of the Chief Justice - selected by Bush - siding with liberals to turn more guaranteed revenue over to the corporations.

Yet, all the rage and gloating immediately falls into the people-versus-people dynamic, the Dems versus the Republicans. Where's Sarah Palin's diatribes about Justice Roberts? That doesn't fit the narrative her head is stuck in. She's all about hating Obama, and that's all this is to her.

This is really a power play by corporations over all the American People.

It's chilling, but looking at it, and not seeing it, is even worse.

Roberts usually does what Big Business - the corporations - tell him to do. Maybe that's what happened here. I think the Big Corporations - Big Pharma - want this.

I was reading a couple of weeks ago that they were involved in the bill prior to passage, so you may well be right. In that case, Pelosi was wrong when she said "We have to pass this bill so that people can find out what's in it."

Some people, it appears, may already have known.

This is really a power play by corporations over all the American People.

Brought to you by Wyden, who killed the public option.

My bad, I over thought the decision. After reading it, the US Supreme Court ruled the individual mandate constitutional under Taxing and Spending clause, not the Commerce Clause. Nevertheless, I do not like the US Supreme Court redefining the intent of legislation. Then again, if the intent is unclear and you have one side arguing it is a fine, while the other side is arguing it is a tax, then I guess the US Supreme Court is compelled to rule one way or the other.

The ACA is the perfect triangle of corruption between the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and Corporations (the health insurance industry) to put into law legislation requiring the entrance into a marketplace by non-participants. Then again, some could cogently argue with our current health system, the first market we enter into from birth is healthcare because pregnancy and delivering of babies is done in a place of business (hospital).

With the ACA upheld, it is entirely reasonable for further triangles of government and the private sector to occur. We have seen it for centuries with the military-industrial complex and now the healthcare-governmental complex.

All you had to do was follow the brutal treatment of Big Pharma during the healthcare debate.

We started with Candidate Obama saying the talks would be open. He even said they'd be on C-Span.

Obviously the cost of pharmaceutical pills is a huge part of the problem, so any attempt to fix the healthcare system would have to address this area, right? Then what happened?

In a secret deal before the debate President Obama not only agreed that he wouldn't harm the interests of Big Pharma, but he actually sweetened their situation when it came to the length of exclusive patent rights for specific medicines, etc..

Big corporations had their hooks deep into this before it even took its first breath.

That's corporate power.

The whole thing is a big giant mess. First of all insurance is supposed to be for something that is unlikely to happen, but if it does, you need coverage.

So called Health insurance is something you need all the time, so of course the cost will keep rising - as big agra and big pharma continues to make us sicker and sicker.

While it might be a mess to us, big business now has endless revenue stream - living off of us like a maggot upon a corpse.

The matrix is here and now...

Soon other insurance will join the triangle. Transportation insurance for cars, trains, airplanes, bicycles, and walking will become regulated with a federal mandate. Maybe food can become covered under the ACA. No wait. I forgot c insurance can be regulated by the ACA.

I remember hearing in school years ago, we were the only industrialized country that didn't have insurance for all.
We didn't do much about it then and now the scene has escalated to disastrous results for some. Don't imagine it will be a problem for the 1% until......
We've come a long way baby!

A couple of observations...

It can't be a tax, the great constitutional lecturer told us so when this hash was being debated...

Odd how those on the left are firm in their belief that the SC was wrong in the Citizens United case and will not shut up about it.
Now however they are adamit that those who oppose this act and the ruling must shut up because "the court has ruled"

Funny how that is, isn't it ?

At longlast, Hillary's revenge. (Today Venus stationary, turning direct in motion ... you know, the planet in the news recently crossing in the face of the Sun.)

It is NOT 'health care' in the literal sense that its institution is going to care for, that is enliven anyone's health, that is life. They only branded it Health Care to connect it with Hillary, most likely at her insistence. Clout, she's got.

Shifting tax revenues into public-administered Health Care means, in order to keep individual tax payments at the same level as today then a lot of money is going to shift to Americans' health being taken away from the Pentagon, the Dept. of Defense, the Milit'ry Madness ... that spending on non-Americans' ill-health.

Personal note: I enjoyed listening today to Rush Limbaugh talk while his head exploded. Hillary's revenge.

It's a tax, it's not a tax, it doesn't matter. What matters is that it is within the Congress's taxing power to enact it. The other good news is that, based on the limitations of the commerce clause and the necessary and proper clause articulated by the majority, we don't have to worry about privatized social security accounts being shoved down our throats.

What happened to the 80% rule? With that, it's a limited public franchise. Without that, it is health care slavery.

Medicare for all. Not shutting up about HC 'til we've all got it.

"The Fox News types have lost the argument 'It's illegal." But they've still got "It sucks.'" Yebbutt, everything that sucks about it was stolen from Romneycare.

Fire up your search engines. Not vouching for this, but, somebody forwarded a thing that said one of news stories slipped quietly under the door while we are all quacking about this HC shocker is something about a Carl Rove bisexual interracial affair spiced up with patronage or influence peddling or some such. Influence peddling? Carl Rove? I'm shocked!

BoJack and Bill McDonald should team up to publish all the posts in which Bill comments. It would be an instant best seller: A book that makes you laugh a lot, makes you cry a little, and makes you shake your fists in rage more than you'd like to admit. See you on the NYT best seller list ...

And a tax on the middle class, no less.

It boils down to Obama being super-duper smart. He invariably knew that if he tried to sell ACA as a tax it would fail. But his smartness figured out that the Act would go to the Supremes and Roberts would see through all the mess, and he'd be able to convince a majority of the Court that all the other arguments were superfluous.

I think Roberts attended the Beer Summit and they hashed this all out. It's all a conspiracy. If you check the White House arriving convoy videos you'll see Roberts, and concur.

Uninsured people clog up our ER's, stiff doctors and hospitals who provide care and generally make our system a mess.

Except under this law it will be the government who will be in the business of stiffing doctors.

I figured out the conspiracy theory, but I can't figure out how the additional $500 Billion dollars in "taxes" makes the Affordable Healthcare Act "Affordable".

The title ObamaCare will always stick.

If the comments to this post are correct, then why would anyone support Obama? Apparently he and the supporters of Obamacare are controlled by corporations, as are the five justices who formed the majority in today's ruling. Obama nominated two of the five justices, Clinton two, and Bush Jr. one.

The four justices who joined in today's dissent against corporations were appointed by Reagan (2), Bush Sr. (1), and Bush Jr. (1).

I've received emails today from Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer trumpeting today's huge victory, so apparently they're controlled by corporations too.

And I know that these same people kowtow to public employee unions, which are also big corporations.

So I guess if I'm against big corporations, then I shouldn't vote for any of these people.

I feel better now.

No matter how you spin it, and I've heard dozens since lunch, this is the best day President Obama has had in a long time.

Some claimed an overturn of this unpopular plan would actually help him, but I never bought that. This is his singular legislation, and for it to have been judged unconstitutional would have been a disaster.

Going forward Republicans and conservatives must work overtime to ensure this is a Pyrrhic victory, but today, those who support the President are entitled to some celebrating--its only fair.

Andrew for the WIN: Enjoy the broccoli!

If I'm recalling correctly, and I think I am, Obama's people were meeting with the healthcare industry (and perhaps big pharma, too) during the summer of 2008, prior to his election. The "mandate" part of the ACA (which, by the way, apparently has no tax collection/enforcement mechanism included in the law, so...) was always meant as a gift to the private health care industry by providing millions of new paying customers. At least that's my understanding of the politics behind getting the industry on board.

Also, many posters here seem to think that everyone in the country will now be taxed. And that now you will not be able to keep the insurance you currently have. Seriously? Check out some other cable news channels besides Fox.

I guess someone should notify Kaiser Permanente because I got an email from them today regarding the SCOTUS decision, and they somehow left out the fact that I would no longer be able to keep them as my healthcare provider.

The proposed tax is meant for people who can afford to buy health insurance, but don't. If you currently are paying for health insurance, you will not be taxed. Under the ACA, people who can not afford to buy health insurance are supposed to be covered at the state level by Medicare, funded 100% by the federal government. They will not be taxed. And, yes, that means that we all pay for them because that's what decent human beings do.

The SCOTUS decision says that states can opt out of accepting that Medicare money, and 28 states have already indicated that they do not want to participate (all Republican-led, I believe). We'll see if these Governors are actually depraved enough to turn down this federal money and allow their people in need to suffer. I'm betting they are.

I agree with some posters about Roberts; my opinion is he went out of his way to find constitutionality for the ACA because, fundamentally, the law is pro-health industry. That's why the ACA blueprint was originally a CONSERVATIVE plan for health care reform, and why Romney adopted a very similar plan for MA.
Either that, or, since I believe he's as partisan as they come, he went out of his way so the "tax' issue would now give the Republicans something they can use politically and perhaps even use as a basis for repeal.

Oh, by the way, another lovely thing our government did for its people was pass a law that prevented us from ordering drugs from Canada where they are cheaper, because, you know, most other countries don't allow corporations to unfairly gouge their citizens. That didn't apply, though, to animal medications so I order my dog and cat Frontline from a Canadian company and pay half (if not more) of what one pays here for the exact same thing. Just one small way I can stick it to the man.

Private entities setting the tax amount and collecting the "taxes".

Just doesn't seem right.

Garage Wine,
Wow, thanks for the kind words.

Mark Ellis,
I thought you nailed it. In fact, it seemed vaguely familiar: An African American man with obvious talents but widely hated by his critics, has a really big win. It's LeBron James all over again. Both may be just as hated as before but it's muted now because they both won, and America loves a winner. Charlie Sheen said it best, "Winning!"

One thing that I personally gloated about was watching the Glenn Beck types say things like, "This destroys Bush's legacy."

Are you kidding me with that? Yeah, you'd hate to see the destruction of the American economy, and an unnecessary war in Iraq ruined by your Supreme Court pick.

It's one thing to sense Glenn Beck is an obnoxious idiot but to have him step up and prove it? I must admit that made me glow with joy.

Plus, we've been inundated by calls to stop blaming Bush for everything - this is Obama's fault now - so to have these same people turning their venom to Justice Roberts, Bush's pick? Spectacular.

Then finally, there was the Maestro of Mistakes himself, the Screw-Up Son George W., who came out of the shadows where they're hiding him 'til after the election, waved into the cameras, and took one last cataclysmic dump.

Wow, he's still got it.

For a second there, I was almost nostalgic.

Wow, Bill, all these years, you just "sensed" that Glenn Beck is an obnoxious idiot? It took this long for you to definitely reach that conclusion? Jeez Louise, you must be one nonjudgmental guy.

The saddest part of the decision to me, is that if it was a tax all along then according to the bs made up senate rules it could have been passed as a "reconciliation" vote requiring only 50 votes. That means it could have been a much, much better bill with a robust public option or, even better, a medicare for all option since the dems would not have needed all those so-called blue dogs like Nelson or Landrieu.

Thanks, Bill, I think. Not up to speed on the basketball analogy, but I do think its healthy for the national dialogue when people respectfully acknowledge the successes of their opposition, the way most conservatives gave President Obama his due for getting bin Laden.

Or the way most conservatives gave John Kerry his due for serving in Vietnam.

Anointing Roberts a liberal hero may be a bit premature. He did the following 4 things here.

1. Maintained the prestige of the court and is helping to develop an image as a Maverick. (Personal aggrandizement)

2. Labeled the mandate a 'tax'. Romney can beat him over the head with that quite a bit. It's Obama's only tax increase.

3. Weakened the commerce power of the federal government. Yay state's rights!

4. Weakened the spending power of the federal government. Yay state's rights!

Brilliant move really. Playing both sides.

"And it is a tax, so what?"

Well, the issue is that it is now a tax on not doing something which is very troubling.

One for the precedent it sets which opens a whole new list of possibilities for politicians that are very creative when it comes to taxes.

Second, when it comes to taxation without representation, who the heck has standing to represent those who've done nothing?

Steve's absolutely correct. Now that the taxing power is unlimited .gov can tax until political pressure makes them stop.

Say the Repubs get a hold of the House, Senate, and the Presidency and they want to curb abortions. Don't ban it, just tax it. $25K per D&E ought to do it.

Don't even need a filibuster proof majority to pass a tax.

The possibilities are endless.

This knife has two edges and some very creative people in Washington who will be willing to wield it.

They could always tax you for not doing something. Didn't give to charity, didn't buy a house, didn't pump out kids. Your taxes are higher if you don't do these things.

Making a distinction here is splitting hairs.

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