Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Perspective of the Supreme Court Decision about the Affordable Healthcare Act

The Supreme Court Decision about the Affordable Healthcare Act requires reading the decision and the dissent. The News Media and Politicians are certainly avoiding the finer points of the ruling. They also are avoiding why Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the left leaning Justices.

It will surprise you that I agree with the decision. To be clear, I find the Law abhorrent and believe it to be ultimately harmful to many whom it claims to help. After reading the Decision it seems more hazardous to oppose the decision than to agree.

Justice Roberts rightly pointed out that it is not the duty of the Court to determine whether a Law is wise or "fair". The job of the Justices is to validate Constitutionality. Sadly, that duty relies more on Court precedent than the original Constitution. In this case the Ruling is based on the fact that no existing Federal activity have been found to be unconstitutional.

My suspicion based on the Roberts opinion and dissent is when the Conservative Justices wanted to strike the Law down the Chief Justice had determined for himself that he could not join with that idea because he had figured out that the Law was really using the Tax system to set different final amounts for those who have purchased health insurance and those who have not.

The fact is our country has convoluted tax laws that bill each person differently based on a multitude of variables, whether a person is single, married, have children, have a mortgage, buy their own health insurance, and a long list of other ways that decrease or increase one's tax liability. The Tax system has been used  for decades to reward some choices and discourage others.  Its spider web of complex rules set the stage a long time ago for a Law that rewards those who purchase Insurance and penalizes those who do not.

Despite what we have been told by the President, other Politicians, the media, and others the actual Law really uses the Tax system to work its magic. The Chief Justice and the rest of the Majority reached this conclusion by ignoring what they were told and reading the Law. Some argue that Chief Justice Roberts rewrote the Law to make it pass.  According to the Majority and Dissenting views the only thing that occurred is that the Chief Justice READ the Individual Mandate section and used both his knowledge of Law and previous decisions to determine that the words describe use of the Tax Code.  Could the fact that the reported requirement that everyone purchase or be covered by a Health Plan was called an "Individual Mandate" cause concern that the Law really was not intended to be a Tax on uninsured taxpayers?  

Those who dissent argue that the Law should be struck down because of the insistence of those who voted for and signed the Bill into Law that it is not a tax. Therefore since taxation was not intended the Law as written then only the Commerce Clause could be used to justify the Individual Mandate thus as agreed by the Majority, rendering the Law unconstitutional.   
I found it interesting that the Government argued in legal briefs that Federal taxation power "created a basis for upholding the Law" Source: LA Times.  In my perception the idea of judging intent is dangerous enough in cases like those judged by the Supreme Court.  Whether or not Legislators and the President were being incompetent or malicious when insisting to the public that the Individual Mandate was not a tax (Source: ABC News) is immaterial because of the legal briefs.

The question is whether the Supreme Court best serves the country by deeming a Law "broken" and striking it down OR determines how a Law actually functions and educating the public?  My position is that the Chief Justice's approach of focusing solely on the written law was the most non-partisan of the whole group.  How would it have been "conservative" if those who wanted to strike the Law did so because of their perception of what was intended?  I would like to understand what the Justices who trend liberal were thinking, were they looking for any reason to uphold it?  It appeared that the Liberal-leaning Justices mostly signed on to the Chief Justice's viewpoint with only limited commentary.  I would have preferred to see more from the majority than only the Chief Justice.

Now the the issue becomes whether the public will accept the Tax that was once called "The Individual Mandate". Will the public wonder about how many more creative ways the tax code can be used to coerce taxpayers that are worse than what already exists? It certainly changes the healthcare debate and places the issue front and center this November.
   I am relieved that the Chief Justice exposed the moral hazards of the Tax Code and believe that alternative ideas like a Flat or Consumption Tax may gain more traction in the coming months.

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