When Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices in deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), his decision did not uphold the Obama administration’s argument on the “mandate” on the argument that it fell within Congress’ power under the interstate commerce clause. Instead, and “at the last minute,” Roberts upheld the mandate under Congress’ authority to tax.
Within minutes, Republicans fell like a brick on the issue of taxation to characterize Obamacare as the largest tax increase in history. Albeit the outrageous claim has been largely debunked, the volume with which Republicans are saturating the media with the claim has, like the death panel lies during the debate over the ACA, threaten Democratic political aspirations for November.
Characteristically, the rhetoric used by the reactionary Republicans take comments out of context, like ABC correspondent George Stephanopoulos’ question in an interview, “Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?” Used as it was, as though it were a rhetorical question used to state Stephanopoulos’ own opinion, it lends the credibility of the opposition’s own misgivings to their argument.
Nor has talk of death panels passed into the annals of a bygone day. Resurrected by the original chicken little of the death panel panic that sent senior citizens over to the Republicans in 2010, Sarah Palin is at it again. Again, the potency of such rhetorically loaded statements, despite being debunked, leaves a divided electorate vulnerable to misinformation becoming the currency of fact.
A statement made by Roberts, “it is not our role to protect the public from the consequences of their political choices,” is deeply suggestive of an ulterior motive.
Roberts wrote that the law “makes going without insurance just another thing the government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning an income.” His words offered Republicans disappointed by the ruling something of a political silver lining: They have been hitting the law as a vast tax hike and clearly plan to do so through to the election.
Roberts has shown himself time and again to be a partisan ideologue. Considering the gift of a talking point, and the fact that three seats on the Court will potentially be filled by the next President, his decision appears to be far from deserving the vitriol aimed at him from the right, and the left needs to awaken to the fact that their presumed victory will be hollow indeed if they fail to get their message across to the voting public.
Update: Additional evidence that further supports the speculation in this article has surfaced.