March 23 2012
The columnist Charles Krauthammer has a succinct way to describe the meaning of what begins on Monday as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments about the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act: the Reckoning.
Rarely has one law so exemplified the worst of the Leviathan state — grotesque cost, questionable constitutionality and arbitrary bureaucratic coerciveness.
Here is another succinct characterization of what is at stake from the Wall Street Journal:
The powers that the Obama Administration is claiming [in the Affordable Care Act] change the structure of the American government as it has existed for 225 years. Thus has the health-care law provoked an unprecedented and unnecessary constitutional showdown that endangers individual liberty.
The Obama administration, with a man who taught constitutional law at its helm, persists in seeing this as a public relations issue. The same piece in the Wall Street Journal notes:
Consider a White House strategy memo that leaked this month, revealing that senior Administration officials are coordinating with liberal advocacy groups to pressure the Court. "Frame the Supreme Court oral arguments in terms of real people and real benefits that would be lost if the law were overturned," the memo notes, rather than "the individual responsibility piece of the law and the legal precedence [sic]." Those nonpolitical details are merely what "lawyers will be talking about."
The White House is even organizing demonstrations during the proceedings, including a "'prayerful witness' encircling the Supreme Court." The executive branch is supposed to speak to the Court through the Solicitor General, not agitprop and crowds in the streets.
This is on the intellectual level of displaying Warren Buffett’s secretary at the State of the Union address. Also distressing, Linda Greenhouse, who covered the Supreme Court for the New York Times for several decades, mocks the brief of Paul Clement, who is arguing that the law is unconstitutional, for repeatedly using the word “unprecedented.” One might expect the venerable former court scribe to know that precedents play a key role in law.
It’s anybody’s guess what will happen. If the Supreme Court does uphold the law (if I were betting, I’d say some of it at least gets overturned), there is still a political avenue available to those who oppose the law.
National Review has a great symposium this morning on whether Obamacare can be overturned. In it, Carrie makes an excellent point:
Obamacare isn’t just bad policy; it’s also a lost opportunity to advance positive health-care reforms. This is a critical point for the public to understand as the Supreme Court considers Obamacare’s constitutionality, and as we begin a presidential election in which the future of the health-care system will be a central issue.
The debate isn’t between Obamacare and the status quo. No one thinks our current system is optimal. It’s inefficient and costly, it encourages the over-consumption of care, and it unfairly disadvantages those who don’t receive insurance through their employer. The question is which direction we should go. Should we follow Obamacare’s path of greater government control or find a different way to encourage greater efficiency, control costs, and improve outcomes?