Friday, June 29, 2012

SCOTUS and Obamacare

What’s New Today

Story #1 is the story gives you five silver linings for the survival of Obamacare.  #2 lists the seven tax hikes associated with Obamacare. #3 lists the 10 worst things about Obamacare.  #4 looks at the Robert’s decision to see if it is a benefit or a tax to those who are opposed to it.  #5 links you to a viral video of the Obamacare decision.  #6 is Mickey Klaus’ look at the future for Obamacare and specifically can it be repealed.
Today’s Thoughts

Today’s SCOTUS ruling makes you wonder if Obama is thanking his lucky stars his vote against Roberts didn’t carry the day.

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”  Chief Justice John Roberts on Obamacare   So elections do have consequences. 

As we start looking at Obama’s achievements, the successful completion of the relief well (Deep Water Horizon) was on September 17, 2010 some 148 days after the disaster occurred.

1.  Five Possible Silver Linings in the Obamacare Ruling

I have not been as overwhelmed with grief at the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act as some of my fellow conservatives.  I was wondering whether I was just being naive, but since I just listened in person to a talk from Paul Clement, who actually argued the case on behalf of the states before the Supreme Court, and his feelings seemed to resonate with my own, I feel a little more confident now to share what might be some of the silver linings in this decision…:

Cutting to the chase the five silver linings are 1) it pushes new power grabs out of the commerce clause and into the taxing power and tax laws are more difficult to pass, 2) as a tax it will be easier to repeal (no filibusters allowed), 3) the state can now back out of the Medicaid expansion, 4) the Democrats now own the most deceptive tax hike in history, and 5) this focuses the election on whether the government should have more power over the individual or less. 

2.  Obamacare’s 7 tax hikes on people earning under $250,000

By ruling that ObamaCare is constitutional, the Supreme Court has set in motion a slew of tax hikes. Well, someone has to pay for it. For rich folks, looming big is the 3.8% Medicare surtax on investment income, and the 0.9% Medicare payroll tax hike (from 1.45% to 2.35%). And then there are the tax hikes for everybody else.

Obama’s pledge against any form of tax increase on Americans making less than $250,000 a year “was thrown out the window” when he signed the healthcare law, says John Kartch, communications director with Americans For Tax Reform (founded by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist).

Here’s a rundown of seven ObamaCare tax hikes that affect the hoi polloi…

Another promise broken.  Here’s a list of 20 tax increases by the Obama Administration.

3.  10 Worst things about Obamacare

Now, all the rest of us are going to find out a lot more about what’s in the 2,700-page health overhaul law.
The president now must spend the next four months defending a law that the majority of Americans dislike, and the more they learn about it, the more they dislike it. Worse, the part of the law that is the least popular — the individual mandate — has now been declared a tax.

That’s double jeopardy for the president: The unpopular mandate stands, and it is called a tax.  Either the president admits it’s a tax as a way of keeping the law on the books, or he says that the Supreme Court is wrong, that it’s not a tax, in which case his law would be invalid….

…Here’s a quick checklist of the ten worst things in the law — in addition to the individual and Medicaid mandates:

1. Employer mandate. Most companies will have to provide and pay for expensive government-determined health insurance for their employees or face federal fines.
2. Anti-conscience mandate. Religious organizations will be required to provide free sterilization, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, even if it violates their religious beliefs.
3. New and higher taxes. The law contains at least 20 new taxes totaling $500 billion that will hit medical innovators, health insurance, and even the sale of your home.
4. The Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB will still stand, with its rationing power over Medicare.
5. State exchanges. States will be compelled to set up vast new bureaucracies to check into our finances and families so they can hand out generous taxpayer subsidies for health insurance to families earning up to $90,000 a year.
6. Medicare payment cuts. $575 billion in payment reductions to Medicare providers and Medicare Advantage plans will cause more and more physicians to stop seeing Medicare patients, exacerbating access problems.
7. Higher health-care costs. The Kaiser Family Foundation says the average price of a family policy has risen by $2,200 during the Obama administration. The president promised premiums would be $2,500 lower by this year. Hospitals, doctors, businesses, and consumers all expect their taxes and health costs to rise under Obamacare.
8. Government control over doctor decisions. Value-based payments, quality reporting requirements, and government comparative-effectiveness boards will dictate how doctors practice medicine. Nearly half of all physicians are seriously considering leaving practice, leading to a severe doctor shortage.
9. Huge deficits. The CBO has raised its cost estimate for the law to $1.76 trillion over ten years, but that is only the opening bid as more and more people lose their job-based coverage and flood into taxpayer-subsidized insurance. At this rate, the cost will be $2 trillion, not the less than $1 trillion the president promised.
10. 159 new boards, agencies, and programs: The Obama administration will work quickly to set up as many of the law’s new bureaucracies as fast as it can so they can take root before the election.

This will be playing out over time and offers Romney plenty of fodder to use in the coming election. 

4.  Robert’s ruling a Benefit or a Tax?

OK, it’s hard to admit but my initial reaction to this morning’s Obamacare decision by the Supreme Court – a snide tweet branding  Chief Justice John Roberts as another “gift” from President George W. Bush like the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit program – was embarrassingly hasty.

After reading and stewing about it all day, I’ve concluded that what Roberts has done is fundamentally shift the constitutional debate away from the liberal assumption since the Woodrow Wilson era that an Imperial Presidency and supine Congress can pretty much do as they please so long as it’s covered by at least one of those fig leaves known as the General Welfare, Necessary and Proper or Commerce clauses of the Constitution.

The new assumption is, thanks to Roberts, that at least two of those clauses in fact cannot simply be dragooned into the service of whatever a passing majority in Congress wants to do. And having shifted the meaning of those two clauses, courts will likely now have to view the other clause differently as well.
In other words, the Constitution means something today that it didn’t yesterday, at least in terms of constitutional precedent. It’s not a grand rout of liberalism from the field of battle, but the correlation of constitutional forces has now shifted under their feet in such a way that they must go over to the defensive on ground not of their choosing.

Further, the holding that Obamacare passes constitutional muster if it is understood as a tax may be an even more significant victory for conservatives. To understand why, which of these two words sounds more positive? “Benefit” or “tax”? Who is more likely to prevail – the advocate offering a positive benefit without having to explain in any detail how it will be funded, or the advocate who right out front says your taxes have to go up but, trust me, you’re going to love this new benefit?...

This is probably the best silver lining I’ve read about since the verdict on Obamacare was written.  Precedent is a powerful force and Roberts has changed the precedents not to the liberals benefit.  In fact they will now be taxed with the responsibility to telling people not only the benefit but the cost.

5.  Viral Video on ObamaTax

Expect to see a lot more like this.  I especially thought “not any of your taxes.  You will not see your taxes go up.”  Barack Obama was particularly effective.

6.  Mickey Klaus on the Repeal of Obamacare

…After all, why couldn’t Republicans use the “reconciliation” process to get around a Dem filibuster? Lizza says:

But reconciliation wouldn’t work here—the process can only be used for policies that have budgetary effects and a C.B.O. score. Much of the A.C.A., such as the insurance exchanges and subsidies, would fall under these categories. But a lot of it, including the hated individual mandate, does not. Repealing the exchanges and subsides without repealing the mandate and the other regulations and cost controls in the law would create a health-care Frankenstein that a President Romney would be rather nuts to support.

Huh? The individual mandate is a tax! The Supreme Court has now told us. Maybe the Senate parliamentarian calls it something else–but whatever you call it, it raises revenue and repealing it would have a budgetary effect, and hence be reconciliationable.  Here’s Republican Congressional expert Keith Hennessey admitting that the mandate is subject to reconciliation (and this at a time when his interest was in blocking Obamacare, which meant having as few things subject to reconciliation as possible). Certainly the GOPs could cut the monetary penalty (ax-tay) for not having health insurance to, say, a dime. That would certainly have a budgetary effect and a C.B.O. score.

Maybe the exchanges themselves wouldn’t be reconcilable, but if Romney could get rid of the mandate and the subsidies the exchanges would be stripped of their power as a vehicle to ensure universal coverage. Obamacare would effectively be repealed.

Frum,** for his part, thinks politics will preclude repeal even before the main parts of the Act kick in in 2014:

[E]ven if Republicans do win the White House and Senate in 2012, how much appetite will they then have for that 1-page repeal bill? Suddenly it will be their town halls filled with outraged senior citizens whose benefits are threatened; their incumbencies that will be threatened

Again, huh? Senior citizens already have Medicare. They hate Obamacare, in part because it came packaged with Medicare cuts. Why would they storm town halls to protest its repeal?

Facts are not things the left really likes to look at if it goes against them.  I thought Frum’s comments about senior citizens filling town halls with because their benefits are threatened is true.  But it will be Democrats town halls, not Republicans for the reasons Klaus outlined here. 

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