The Supreme Court's Bizarro World Health Care Ruling


what if that's our world?

Although the overall ruling is a victory for supporters of ObamaCare, the particulars of the Supreme Court's decision today are almost exactly the opposite of what most observers expected. It's like a ruling from Bizarro World.

The Court upheld the mandate—but as a tax rather than as a valid exercise of the Commerce Clause.  Most of the lower-court judges, including Democratic appointees, who previously ruled on the case had rejected this argument, and the administration seemed to offer it half-heartedly. Indeed, not only is President Obama on record as insisting that the law is not a tax, but Democrats in Congress changed the text of the bill during the legislative process to ensure that the law's language did not refer the mandate as a tax. Indeed, the Court managed the neat trick of accepting the argument that the federal government can not regulate inactivity or create commerce in order to regulate it under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, but still upholding the validity of the law's mandate.

The Court ruled that the law's Medicaid expansion as constructed was coercive. Technically, Medicaid is a voluntary program, but states argued that the law's Medicaid expansion was coercive because it required states to either expand Medicaid as called for by the law or risk all previous and existing federal funding for the jointly funded health program, which represents a huge portion of all state budgets. Most observers, even those opposed to the law, believed this to be the weakest argument and the one with the least chance of convincing the Court. But the Court's ruling agrees with the states, declaring that "the threatened loss of over 10 percent of a State's overall budget is economic dragooning that leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion." The Medicaid expansion isn't struck down, but states now have the right to opt out without risking existing federal Medicaid matching funds.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with Supreme Court's liberal wing while Justice Anthony Kennedy sided fully with the high court's conservatives. Conventional wisdom prior to the ruling was that Chief Justice Roberts would only vote to uphold the law if there were already five votes to uphold. But aside from Roberts, there were only four votes to uphold the law, and Justice Kennedy, widely presumed to be the swing voter who would decide the case, sided with the court's conservative win in arguing both that the mandate was unconstitutional and that the law should be struck down in its entirety. 

NEXT: Where's That Partisan Supreme Court?

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  1. As a lifelong teetotaler, if there was ever a time when I needed a drink, it’s now.

  2. Me so sad, me want to laugh.

  3. If one could short shares in the United States today you’d make a killing. But probably not after deducting the taxes to come.

  4. Hey, does this mean states can opt out of all sorts of federal mandates and not lose funding anymore, like the 55 mph speed limit and the 21 drinking age? Is there a victory for liberty here somewhere? Or does the ruling only apply to federal programs that are so huge they would have a material impact on state budgets? So the feds can hit you with a hammer, but not a sledge hammer?

    1. Is there a victory for liberty here somewhere?


      1. A pyrrhic one (commerce clause).

        1. Abusive of the Commerce Clause is dead! Long live abuse of the Tax power!

          1. “You see, prison is just a ‘tax’ on your time, therefore we can jail you for anything. Now get in the cell citizen.”

            1. Where’s the limit? Seriously. Why not tax us all 100% and spend the money on whatever the fuck they want? Tell me why they can’t do that under this stupid decision.

              People are citing the “you made us do it with your dumb politics” statement as something good–it’s not. It’s just a further demonstration that the concept of limited government and specific, enumerated powers is a dead letter. Just semantic bullshit and not anything real.

              1. Agree.

                I think now that the veil has slipped and the thread-thin pretense of any limit on government power is obliterated things may get ugly(er).

                1. If only we had the strength to fight against this stupidity. Though maybe Schiller was right:

                  Folly, thou conquerest, and I must yield!
                  Against stupidity the very gods
                  Themselves contend in vain. Exalted reason,
                  Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
                  Wise foundress of the system of the world,
                  Guide of the stars, who art thou then if thou,
                  Bound to the tail of folly’s uncurbed steed,
                  Must, vainly shrieking with the drunken crowd,
                  Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.
                  Accursed, who striveth after noble ends,
                  And with deliberate wisdom forms his plans!
                  To the fool-king belongs the world.

              2. Pro Lib – it would be terrible policy obviously, but if Congress could pass and a Pres would sign a 100% tax rate, what is the Constitutional issue?

                I’m frustrated as hell, too, but I don’t see what your hypothetical has to do with this ruling.

                1. The fact that we’ve come to the point where that’s not laughably absurd is an answer in itself, I’d say.

                  1. Chocolate covered cotton? They have to like it. It’s good for Milo Minderbender (Obama).

          2. Thing is, “reasonable regulations” have more traction with the squishy middle than “tax increases”, especially per-capita tax increases of this sort. Forcing Congress to rely on the tax power is going to make things much more difficult politically.

            Moreover, people are already annoyed with the complexity of taxes — most of us don’t have to directly deal with the majority of regulations on the books outside of those regarding our jobs. But we all have to fill out our tax forms. If Congress has to resort to introducing more and more complications to the tax code, the idea of cutting the Gordian knot is going become more and more appealing to the taxpaying class.

            1. What we need is a sword to cut the knot with.

  5. Twitter: Libertarians planning to leave U.S., but can’t find wealthy Western democracy without universal health care.

    1. but can’t find wealthy Western democracy without universal health care.

      Uhm, no, we just can’t find a wealthy Western Democracy.

    2. Borrowing a trillion dollars a year to spend four trillion and to make interest payments on your fifteen trillion in debt doesn’t mean you’re wealthy.

      1. Bond holders aren’t worried about America’s deficit.

        1. This week.

        2. Only for as long as we are the reserve currency.

          After that, game over.

        3. Might want to check who those Bond holders are.

          short list:

          – US government
          – Banks that are given 0% loans by the government to buy 1% bonds.

        4. Bond holders aren’t worried about America’s deficit.

          Since the Fed has been clearing Treasury auctions for the last few years, nobody really has any idea whether boldholders are worried or not.

          1. Is there any parallel in business for this?

            Can a company issue stock and buy it back without telling anybody how much it is buying back?

            Isn’t that all sorts of illegal?

    3. Don’t need to leave. Just wait until economy collapses and then maybe can win an election.

      I say maybe because most people are really, really stupid.

    4. Fuck wealthy Western democracies. I’m heading to a 3rd World sex tourism spot.

      1. Yay 3rd World sex tourism.

        Although I prefer 2nd world eastern europe sex tourism spots.

  6. Stand tall Libertarians. Don’t blub on your way to the block. It’s not dignified.

    1. Apres moi, le deluge.

  7. Okay, so get ready for the mandatory “you must join a health club” tax, and the mandatory “you must take this new Equilibrium drug for the smooth functioning of society” tax, and the new “you must buy a puppy so the police have something to shoot” tax, and….

  8. A Bizarro supreme court would have struck down the ‘law’ since reducing the power of the government is something that would never happen here.

    Also if 9 of them were together they would kill each other since they’re all lunatics (except Bizarro Ambush Bug).

    I would love to hear arguments from Bizarroberts, World’s Best Judge though.

    1. Another conservative victory for George W. Bush.

  9. Doing the Math: Now, we’ve got 4 liberals, 3 conservatives and 2 independents. Advantage left.

    1. zero libertarians…

      Absolute advantage statists.

  10. This is the logical consequence of hoping for nine people in goofy robes to save us from ourselves.

    1. They’re not actually constitutionally empowered to dictate constitutionality. Short of conquering the federal Congress, our only hope now is state resistance.

  11. Roberts, you rancid cunt. This should have been the outcome:

    “But aside from Roberts, there were only four votes to uphold the law, and Justice Kennedy, widely presumed to be the swing voter who would decide the case, sided with the court’s conservative win in arguing both that the mandate was unconstitutional and that the law should be struck down in its entirety.”

    1. Was there some “prisoner’s dilemma” thing going on between Roberts and Kennedy.

      I mean, was Roberts in another room and wondering if Kennedy would vote to uphold or strike down, and in a rush to not be on the “losing side”, Roberts voted to uphold…If so, I bet he feels like a dick right about now.

      1. I’d absolutely love to know how he’d feel about his decision if this, or something like it, triggered a secessionist crisis. What a clueless cunt of a judge.

      2. just a thought, but maybe they ought to talk with each other on occasion.

        1. They do.

          From my understanding they all sit around a table and tell each other how they are going to vote. Then they are allowed to try to convince one another. Then they have a final vote and who ever gets the jobs of writing the majority and decent is doled out.

          There is no possibility for “Oh i thought you were going to vote x so i voted x” situation.

  12. I think this is the best of both worlds.

    The commerce clause is limited and the left gets their tax.

    Win win in my book


    1. *throws something at jc*

      The commerce clause isn’t limited. What Roberts wrote on the commerce clause was just some justice babbling on about his random thoughts on the subject. The ruling is the ruling.

      The left can now do anything it wants, there need not be any limiting principle on their actions, and they now have two avenues they can approach their expansions of government:

      1. Let’s try with dad (Commerce clause)

      If that doesn’t work.

      2. Let’s try with Mom (tax).

      Roberts just gave the left a new option. What’s better than the commerce clause? An unlimited power to tax clause!

      1. Amend the Constitution. That’s the last chance. Otherwise, reset.

        1. since an amendment won’t happen, here’s your reset: employers will drop coverage since the tax/mandate/fine/penalty will be less than the cost of insurance, OR a lot folks will suddenly become 1099ers.

          1. I can’t believe how full of stupid this country has become. Europe is blowing apart financially, giving us a brilliant example of what not to do, and we’re going to commit suicide, too.

            1. that’s because our liberals/socialists are so much smarter than everyone else’s. This is why much of Europe was so pro-Obama – they knew that he would fuck America up and for too many over there, a diminished US is a win.

              1. Europe will regret their Obama love when the U.S. comes to the EU for a bailout.

            2. We’re not comitting suicide.

              A large organization that claims a monopoly on violence over the land we happen to live in is committing financial suicide.

              And this suicide will be dangerous to us, yes.

              But “we” aren’t the ones committing suicide.

              1. It says “We the People” right at the beginning. “We” had better do something before “They” fuck things up for all of us.

                1. It says “We the People” right at the beginning. “We” had better do something before “They” fuck things up for all of us.

                  RC Dean: I’m getting the government other people deserve.

                  1. Exactly. The Constitution was intended to prevent, among other things, majoritarian tyranny. That’s completely gone now.

                  2. I’m totally stealing this.

                2. It says “We the People” right at the beginning.

                  Just because a bunch of politicians claim to be doing the bidding of the people doesn’t magically make their claims true.

                  Just because some watery tart lying in a puddle says “we”, you have to do what she says?

                  1. Just because some watery tart lying in a puddle says “we”, you have to do what she says?

                    When she’s got a dog-shooting army of guys who follow procedure behind her? Yes.

                  2. Hey, I agree, but so long as stupid people are calling the shots, nothing’s going to change.

                  3. How much are we willing to take before we roll back Leviathan? Does this mean that the system is irrevocably broken?

      2. Again, the Commerce Clause stuff is relevant to Roberts’ ruling, since he makes clear that his Commerce Clause views affected whether the mandate is a tax.

        If the Commerce Clause argument had prevailed, as roberts explained, he wouldn’t have to strain to find that the mandate was a tax. Since the Commerce Clause argument failed, the only way for the ACA to be constitutional was for the mandate to be a tax, so Roberts felt at liberty to strain the language of the statute to make it constitutional.

        Since the outcome of the Commerce Clause argument affects whether the ACA mandate is a tax or not, then Roberts’ Commerce Clause discussion (if you ask me) is not dicta at all. It sounds like a binding precedent which the lower courts better follow.

        1. Again, the Commerce Clause stuff is relevant to Roberts’ ruling, since he makes clear that his Commerce Clause views affected whether the mandate is a tax.

          Ok, legal experts. Roberts eschews the broad reading of the commerce clause, so he crafts the liberal argument for them? Explain this to me please?

          How is this a win for enumerated powers, liberty and all that we hold good, dear and apple pie?

        2. It sounds like a binding precedent which the lower courts better follow.

          I disagree. Roberts didn’t have to say a word about the Commerce Clause to decide as he did. The Commerce Clause discussion is dicta.

          He ruled, essentially, that its valid as a tax, so it doesn’t matter whether its valid under the Commerce Clause. His musings on whether it would be valid under the Commerce Clause are nonbinding.

          1. I disagree. Roberts didn’t have to say a word about the Commerce Clause to decide as he did. The Commerce Clause discussion is dicta.

            Yeah, that. That’s what I was trying to say. Roberts waxing poetical about the limits to the commerce close is a total dicta move.

          2. How do you account for this part of the Roberts opinion:

            “JUSTICE GINSBURG questions the necessity of rejectingthe Government’s commerce power argument, given that ?5000A can be upheld under the taxing power. Post, at 37. But the statute reads more naturally as a command to buy insurance than as a tax, and I would uphold it as a command if the Constitution allowed it. It is only because the Commerce Clause does not authorize such a command that it is necessary to reach the taxing power question. And it is only because we have a duty to construe a statute to save it, if fairly possible, that ?5000A can be interpreted as a tax. *Without deciding the Commerce Clause question, I would find no basis to adopt such a saving construction.* [emphasis added]”

            1. (p. 44 of the slip opinion)

            2. How do you account for this part of the Roberts opinion:

              He crafted the liberal argument for them– a liberal argument liberals weren’t even making– and put a ribbon on it.

        3. So, Roberts’ justification for upholding the law is something akin to the wifebeater’s “Look and see what you made me do to ya!”


      3. You are just being polarizing.

        And I was just being sarcastic.

        1. You are just being polarizing.

          It’s all I’ve got left.

  13. I’ve read all the posts so far, and, as usual, nobody gets to the essentials. Here’s my gift to you. You’re welcome.

    “Socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification of his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.”

    Ayn Rand, “For the New Intellectual,” 43

    1. A fitting description of the sociopolitical views of the viciously retarded, authoritarian cuntstain currently occupying the Office of the President.

  14. I’m confused. People are celebrating on behalf of those who couldn’t/can’t afford insurance. How does this law make it better for them? I thought that there is now a “tax” penalty if you aren’t buying insurance, which is supposedly, in the words of Obama, to prevent freeloaders from getting healthcare that they don’t end up paying the bills for. So how does this make healthcare more affordable for poor people? Is there a subsidy for those people? And wouldn’t that therefore make the mandate tax basically inapplicable to the vast majority of people, given that the reason most people don’t carry health insurance is due to expense in the first place? I’m actually looking for an answer here, because this seems very convoluted.

    1. Dude, it’s called Obamacare. He promised he’d take care of the poor, and he’s kept every promise he’s ever made; even the ones that contradict other promises he’s made.

    2. If you are poor – whatever that means depending on innumerable demographic statistics – the government will subsidize your medical insurance; including Abortion Two-fer Tuesdays down at Planned Parenthood.

      So, its freeloading but through official channels. Which magically makes it not freeloading.

      1. So who is the mandate tax intended for, then? People who can afford health insurance but don’t want it? (Though I guess that whole “stopping freeloaders” was just a rhetorical gesture to make the law seem like it wasn’t ultimately just going to pay for net more healthcare.)

        And what will happen to Medicaid? Is Obamacare supposed to pay for people that are too rich for medicaid but too poor to pay for their own insurance?

        It seems like the mandate/tax is just there as a “fuck you” to people who don’t buy anything from insurance companies; not as a way of avoiding/offsetting costs imposed by anyone collecting healthcare and not paying for it.

        1. the mandate tax, at its root, is meant to drive private insurers out of business and is a back-door means of instituting single-payer. Look at it from a company’s POV: the cost of covering employees is X, but the tax/mandate/whatever is a fraction of X. You don’t need an MBA to make that decision.

    3. I just assumed that if they’re too poor to pay federal taxes, they’re too poor to pay this tax.

      They just get Healthcare paid for by other folks. The ones that are stupid enough to work and pay taxes.

  15. That should be Earth-0 Health Care Ruling.

    Bizarro World is so racist or something.

  16. sided with the court’s conservative win in

    Freudian slip?

  17. I wish somebody could hack the TOTUS and write Amabo Kcarab on it so we could send that fuck back where he belongs.

    1. Hawaii?

  18. Here is the most amusing (or sad) thing about this: because of how opinions are written at the USSC ONE VOTE for the concept that the individual mandate is a tax has now made that concept the law of the land. 8-1, not a tax; yet the majority decision says it IS a tax. What a country!

    1. 8-1, not a tax; yet the majority decision says it IS a tax.

      Awesome analysis.

      Thank you for pointing this out.

      1. If the Chief is in the majority, he decides who writes the opinion. This case illustrates how important that decision is.

  19. I’m seeing growing speculation in legal circles that the court initially rejected the mandate altogether, but that Roberts was at some point pulled over to the other side with this “tax” rationale.

    For instance, parts of Scalia’s dissent today refer to Ginsburg’s opinion as “the dissent” — possibly indicating that at one point it indeed had been.

    1. Since when do jurists find a law unconstitutional, and move the legislators’ goalpost for them?

      Paul’s Daughter: Hey Daddy, can I ride on the back of that boy’s motorcycle?

      Paul: Uhm, no, but you can ride on the back of his bicycle that has a 1000cc motor on it!

      Paul’s Daughter: Oh… ok, I’ll ride on his Bicycle then!

      *Paul and his daughter smile and nod at eachother as she backs through the front door.*

  20. Oh, the tears of unfathomable sadness! My-yummy!

    1. You will be the first up against the wall when the libertarian revolution comes to prevent the government from putting people up against the wall…or something.

    2. Oh well, we’ve still got the contempt vote to fall back on. If that goes bad, then you may have one (1) tear.

      1. Not from me, so we’re clear. From Elizabeth Warren, when I litter in front of her.

  21. Only one justice thought that the government didn’t have the power under the Commerce clause but did under the power to tax, that was Roberts. Four think the Gubmit can do anything and the other four think that the mandate is unconstitutional as a tax or not.

  22. Next up: The Obama Administration eliminates homelessness by imposing a fine on people who don’t own or rent a domicile.

    1. homelessness by imposing a fine on

      You’re not keeping up on current events, man. Tax… it’s a tax.

    2. Actually, it would be curing homelessness by penalizing anyone who doesn’t have an ARM.

  23. Yeah, my head is still spinning, don’t know which way is forward. (So… how, again, did they get out of calling it a “head tax”?)

    On the bright side, now we can officially start calling it the “ObamaCare tax.”

    And we can start asking how a poor family of 4 making $25K who can’t afford healthcare in 2016 will be able to pay the $2085 ObamaCare tax. Prepare to open your pocketbooks for charity! (Before Prince John finds a way even to rob the poor-box.)


  24. Makes you wonder if the Supreme Court justices all understand that their mandate is to uphold the Constitution. Since Chief Justice Roberts presumably knows this is his job he must have some other reason for not carrying it out. I wonder what it on earth it could be…

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