(Terry apologizes for missing last week’s blog. He was attending to a family emergency. All is well now, he thinks.)
The Supreme Court is a venerable institution. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing a case argued there. The lawyers in the case, all experienced attorneys, had shaky knees and quivering voices as they tried to reason their way past these intellectual giants. Every attempt at obfuscating was met with pointed questions designed to find every crack in every argument, no matter which side. I was inspired.
Naturally, I don’t always agree with Supreme Court decisions. Sometimes, they get things horribly wrong, as in their Kelo v. City of New London decision, which approved of the use of eminent domain to forcibly transfer private property to another private owner for the purposes of “economic development.” Sometimes they get things wonderfully right, as in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, in which they slapped down an attempt to limit free speech by corporations and unions.
Conservatives hate the Court–when it suits their purposes. School prayer decisions forced them to confront the fact that public schools are not the place to evangelize. Liberals hate the Court–again when it suits their purposes–as was the case when their airy fantasies of controlling speech for the good of the masses were fanned away.
When we citizens get irked at the Court, it is good to remember why it exists. The Founders were deeply skeptical and wary of government–even representative government. They knew that power seated in any particular branch was dangerous. Legislative bodies like Congress are wont to impose all manner of laws on the electorate. Some stem from outright lust for money and power, as when bribes and near-bribes are exchanged for favors. Some stem from a inclination to serve as a surrogate parent, as when soft drink sizes are regulated. Both are despicable.
Which brings us to the Obamacare decision. When I first heard that it was found constitutional, I convulsed. I would have bet good money that the individual mandate would fall on the basis of the Commerce Clause. Then I remembered something I read when the arguments were first heard. John Roberts, someone opined, might join the majority so he could write the opinion. And by golly, this is just what he did.
For the record, I think Obamacare stinks on ice. It is an abomination that will result in fewer choices, higher prices, and a significant reduction in our liberties. The key, though, lies in how Roberts and the majority upheld it. They noted that under the Commerce Clause construction, the law would be unconstitutional. It is constitutional only because of the way the “penalty” for not purchasing health insurance is administered–through the IRS. Refuse to buy insurance and the IRS will simply take your money, thus making it a tax in the Court’s view.
As the Chief Justice was quoted as saying this morning, it is not the Supreme Court’s job to protect citizens from their bad political choices. Now the ball is in our (citizens’) court. If we have any guts left, we will throw out the scum that passed the bill in the first place and replace them with better scum, or at least scum that recognize there are just some places government should not go.
In the end, John Roberts may come to be recognized as the only person standing between us and a limitless interpretation of the Commerce Clause. Liberals got what they wanted, but when they come floating back down to Earth, they may realize they got smacked stupid on the way up.