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The Obamacare Ruling Post-Mortem



No, I'm not going to dissect Chief Justice Roberts' ruling.  There's no point.  As much as I hate to use this expression, it is what it is. There's no more appeals, no other avenues, the whole things stands, end of chapter.  But it's not the end of the story.  So the question is, where do we go from here?

Lots of people don't care about that question.  They are more interested in how we got here.  And in doing so, a lot of shit is going on that should have people outraged, but nothing is happening on that front.

For those of you who don't think there's some sort of shell game going on here, consider this -- the news has been awash with reports that Roberts changed his opinion at the last second, that he was originally going to side with the four striking it down but then went with the other four.  I dismissed those reports initially as the kind of reflection that occurs when something massive and beyond understanding happens.  This is how tin foil hattery gets started.  But then came proof.  Roberts did indeed change his decision in the eleventh hour, as discovered by CBS News.

(P.S.  For those of us wondering how Roberts could have made the leap of logic that the penalty was a tax, there's an answer.  That line of reasoning was in the briefs Donald Verrilli, the Solicitor General, filed with the court.  The long and the short of it was that it operates in practice as a tax law since no one would be prosecuted or punished for not having health insurance, they would be paying a small tax penalty.  Roberts concurred, and the rest, so to speak, is history.)

People are talking about a conspiracy.  Oh, there's a conspiracy, all right.  Not that he changed his mind.  People change their minds all the time.  The question is, how did the proof get out?  This isn't just speculation, we know he did.

Why?

I worry that this could be a rather leaky Supreme Court.  We don't need to know this stuff.  Roberts made his decision, and that's it.  Why alert the general populace to this?  Why set up a potential scenario where information that can put other Justices in the public crosshairs?  Several ideas explain this, and none of them are good.

The parties are still grappling with what to do about the ruling.  Obama is sort of caught between definitions here.  The Supreme Court ruled that the Individual Mandate was a tax, not a penalty.  Verrilli argued such in his briefs.  So what's the problem?  Obama has sworn up and down that it is not a tax, it is a penalty.  The Supreme Court ruling means that, if Obama says it's a penalty, it violates the Commerce clause in the Constitution.  But if he says it's a tax, it's Constitutional, but voters will be pissed about yet another tax increase.  77% of the money from penalties is estimated to come from the middle class, and clearly that is where all the swing votes in this election are.  Otherwise, they would just be ignored.

The R's aren't sitting any better.  The drums started beating about it being a tax until Romney told them to knock it off by agreeing with Obama's statement that it's a penalty, not a tax.  Romney is in trouble himself.  Remember, Obamacare was closely patterned after Romneycare, the MANDATORY health care plan Romney signed into law in 2006, that he declared would be a model for a national health care system, and is still popular in Massachusetts.  Too much attacking, and Romney looks like he's dumping his own plan in a state that traditionally leans D.  An issue from Heaven, and Romney can't touch it.

Actually, no one is touching it.  In the days building up to the votes back in 2010, the R's basic line was to say Obamacare was bad policy and terrible, but don't advance any counter ideas.  When you're like me and believe the only cure for bad ideas is better ideas, this is an egregious omission.  That is continuing to this day.  R's appearing on shows like Face The Nation are continuing to say Obamacare must be repealed and struck down, but when asked what they want to replace it with, have no answer other than, "That is not what we are discussing."  Uh, yes, it is.  Different does not necessarily equal better.  Especially from a party that is just as beholden to special interests as the one it claims to be fighting.  My enemy's enemy is not necessarily my friend.

The sad part is, even though the R's are advancing no alternative whatsoever other than, "Trust us," the D's are still losing the image war.  Obama and his staff are continuing to argue about moving on from Obamacare and getting hammered on message.  By a group with no message.  No wonder Obama is skittish about the election.

With Hilary Clinton stepping down in preparation for a run for 2016, her numbers among the party faithful are going up.  Might they decide to abandon Obama for his sin of unlikability and focus on creating The First Female President?  It is a concern as she, along with fellow Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel, become the highest profile defections, taking the idea of a Team Obama with them.  Clinton was constantly doing shit to rub out Obama in 2008.  I have no proof but lots of confidence she's thinking along those lines right now.

Obama was hoping that the Supreme Court ruling would give him some breathing room in the election.  In a way, the victory in the Supreme Court is the worst thing that could have happened to him.  Had the court ruled against Obamacare, he could have had an out.  "Oh, I wanted to provide health care for all, but those meanies on the Supreme Court and their Republican allies wouldn't let me!"  Now, however, Obama won.  But his signature piece of legislation points to all the effort he put towards it and doing nothing to fix the economy.  Unemployment is still high, jobs are not coming back, and he could be painted as ignoring all these other problems as he chased his social policy.  Other than Obamacare, there hasn't been any major legislation he can point to as a victory.

Let's take a look at history and two other liberal icons of politics, FDR and LBJ.  FDR spent two years fixing the Great Depression before he got around to trying to implement Social Security.  In other words, this landscape-altering legislation was coming at a time of growth and prosperity for the US.  It was an easy sell under those circumstances.  On the other hand, LBJ with his Great Society ideas?  Some worked, some didn't, and he couldn't really sell his plan because of his involvement in Vietnam.  People had faith that FDR knew what he was doing.  LBJ?  Not so much.

This is Obama's quandary.  With the Obamacare issue settled once and for all, the election will now turn to his record on the domestic front.  And it's not a pretty picture.  He should be glad the R's are using it as their rallying flag.  If they turn to his record, from spending to the bailouts to ACTA to the Fast And Furious scandal that keeps threatening to gain traction, he's screwed.  If everything stays on Obamacare, he has a fighting chance.  He needs the misdirection.  Obama seems determined to get rid of the one thing in the news that trumps the others.  A very suspicious poll was reported that said most Americans want the politicians to move past Obamacare.  Yeah, that sounds like a PERFECTLY understandable question for a pollster to ask.  It was a bought and paid for piece to try and tilt the news and the people reading it.  Obama might want to reconsider that.  Maybe.  Even Obamacare isn't that great.  And if anything, implementation of Obamacare makes it worse.

For the employed who think that having work-provided health care shields them from any nightmares, nope.  Obama said, "I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year."  (I'm going to ignore that 26 million Americans are not, in fact, covered by the resulting bill.)  Looking at my pay stubs, my costs certainly have not gone down.  In fact, generally speaking, health care costs have been climbing for nine years now.  Yeah, it started with Shrub, but it's not like Obama has done anything to improve it.  Not only are employers ready to dump employees over health care costs, with some doing so already, but the Administration itself has stated that, "as a practical matter, a majority of group health plans will lose their grandfather status by 2013."  Employers in the Chicago area (and no doubt elsewhere) are talking about setting up a general fund for health care that employees contribute to to help defray the increased costs, since not everyone paying into it (young vs. old) is going to be using it.  I believe this is referred to as a "pyramid scheme."  That's going to cause some resistance.

Among Obama's talking points was that, "Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase."  A senior economist with the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers, and found that 75% of the estimated $500 bil over ten years will come from families making less than $120,000 a year.  What makes it happen?  The individual mandate, a 2.3% excise tax on medical devices, a 10% excise tax on indoor tanning, and an adjustment to the floor of medical deductions (going from 7.5% of AGI to 10%).

With some of the portions of Obamacare dropped even before the ruling and people balking at participating, it's looking like implementation will add $1 trill to the deficit.  Which still has to be paid off, no matter how the Economic Class Dropouts in Congress act.

Retirees like my dad are getting a rude awakening.  Medicare is already dangerously underfunded.  Obamacare puts it in line to go the way of the dodo.  Physician reimbursement costs are getting slaughtered, there are new spending caps, and an unelected board will be charged with making this whole thing work.  The only people I trust less than politicians is their "Can't hold them accountable" buddies who are rewarded for their friendship with cushy jobs.

I'm warning you all -- we need to keep an eye on the shell with the pea under it.  Do not have faith that a businessman like Romney has our best interest at heart.  If anything, he might come up with a tighter way to screw us.  We have to be careful out there.

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