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It is said that hope springs eternal in the human breast. This is certainly true when it comes to Republicans, as no sooner had Chief Justice Roberts exploded all of the expectations that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be overturned due to the mandate that requires Americans to make certain purchases or face a financial penalty than various Republican commentators were attempting to manufacture a silver lining from the unadulterated equine ejectus of Roberts’ opinion.
Apparently there are not one, but three silver linings in the newly declared constitutionality of forced consumption that is Obamacare. The first is that this proves that Obama is a liar. He claimed that the Affordable Care Act was not a tax. Republicans asserted that it was, and now the Supreme Court has declared the Republicans were correct. But while it’s true that the decision shows Obama to be a liar, this is hardly news. Remember, we’re talking about a man who didn’t write his own biography and publicly released a forged birth certificate from the White House! No one cares if Obama lies because almost everyone expects him to do so without shame. His own supporters openly boasted, correctly as it turns out, that he was lying about his opposition to homogamy, and about the only way he could more completely betray his anti-war campaigning would be to personally fire drone missiles at Buckingham Palace.
The second supposed silver lining is that the Obamacare decision is good for Mitt Romney. And while that may be true, that doesn’t mean it is good for Americans or America. Romney is every bit as bad as Obama on the banks, on the wars and even on health care, as evidenced by the Massachusetts system. And the fact that it was John Roberts who played the judicial Judas role first perfected by Earl Warren renders void the last remaining argument for conservatives to vote for Republican presidential candidates. One cannot take the Supreme Court appointee argument seriously any longer when the Republican-appointed justices simply take turns voting with their Democrat-appointed colleagues to ensure that the Supreme Court moves consistently leftward. Mitt Romney’s hypothetical judicial appointees would no doubt look more superficially conservative than Barack Obama’s, but there will be no difference between them when it comes time to making the big constitutional decisions.
The third, and most fantastic, defense of the Roberts decision is the idea that he has somehow created a precedent that will reduce the likelihood of justifying future federal interventions in the national economy with the Commerce Clause, which has been the activist liberal’s Swiss Army Knife over the last few decades. But even if this is true (and sophisticated observers already know that the Supreme Court only finds itself bound by precedent when it wants to be so bound), that is only because the chief justice’s perverted reasoning now renders any such justifications unnecessary! By stretching the interpretation of the taxing power of the federal government to the absurd extreme that he has, Roberts has invented the new constitutional power of forcing private consumption.
This is arguably one of the most significant economic acts since Richard Nixon took the United States off the gold standard, because whereas the primary congressional tool for economic intervention was formerly public spending, Roberts has now supplemented traditional fiscal policy with consumption policy. There is no need to justify public spending or even simple regulations with the Commerce Clause now that the Congress can simply attach a penalty to failing to engage in the legally required economic activity. Every corporation with a lobbyist in Washington is going to be attempting to devise some excuse for rationalizing why their products should become tax-backed mandates while Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman must be celebrating the end of the demand gap.
The next economic stimulus won’t have to involve any government spending at all, as the government can simply require Americans to spend a specified percentage of their income or face paying a tax instead. Instead of utilizing monetary policy and transferring trillions to the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet in a desperate attempt to prop up the housing market by keeping interest rates low, Congress can now pass a law requiring anyone with an annual income over $100,000 who does not own a home to purchase one or face paying a tax. That may sound insane, but this is only because it is the logical consequence of the Supreme Court’s insane decision.
Once it becomes clear to Congress that their new taxing power permits them to force private consumption at will, it should not take long for them to begin enacting forced consumption laws on an emergency basis. Congress will find it sorely tempting to use their new capabilities to create instantaneous demand in any market where prices are falling, from the housing market to the stock market. But, as we know from everything from the income tax to the various executive orders still in place many decades after the fact, the emergencies never end.