Republican sound and fury over Obamacare
Chief justice John Roberts has appalled his fellow conservatives by finding the Bill constitutional
THE VETERAN Republican strategist Mark McKinnon called it “message mayhem”, but mayhem, full stop, might be a more accurate way of describing the aftermath of the supreme court’s ruling on June 28th to uphold the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Republicans ganged up on the Irish-American chief justice, John Roberts, who appalled his fellow conservatives by finding the Bill constitutional according to legal, rather than political, criteria. “Treachery!” screamed the former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Roberts “should be ashamed of himself,” scolded Donald Trump, the property billionaire, reality TV star and supporter of the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
The conservative radio host Glenn Beck sold T-shirts with the word “Coward” printed beneath Roberts’ photograph.
Michael Savage, another talk show host, suggested Roberts was rendered irrational by medication he may or may not take to prevent seizures. John Yoo, who was a lawyer for the Bush administration – which appointed Roberts – said the vetting process had gone wrong, and that if Romney is elected “he will obviously have to be more careful” in choosing supreme court justices.
Roberts said “it seemed like a good idea” to take a holiday on the “impregnable island fortress” of Malta.
The Democratic grin and metaphorical swagger have grown more marked this week, as Romney split with Republicans over the meaning of the supreme court ruling.
Republicans thought they’d found a silver lining in the hated decision: the court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional as a tax, since Americans who refuse to purchase healthcare insurance will be charged a small penalty.
“What we have now is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world!” Beck crowed. “What we have been told by the chief justice of the supreme court and four liberals: Obamacare is just a massive tax increase. That’s all it is. Obama lied to us about that.”
The Fox News commentator James Pinkerton went further, describing Obamacare as, quite simply, “the biggest tax hike in the history of the universe”.
Economists have said that even when one adds up the 1 per cent of Americans who are expected to pay the penalty, the $200 billion raised from Medicare payroll taxes on the wealthy, $60 billion in taxes on insurance companies, and $30 billion on “Cadillac” luxury insurance policies, Obamacare still constitutes only the 10th largest tax increase since 1950, smaller than those imposed by presidents Reagan and Clinton.
Romney’s spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom (the man who told us Romney would erase his policies “like an Etch A Sketch” after the primaries) said the Republican candidate “disagreed with the ruling of the court . . . He agreed with the dissent written by [the arch-conservative] Justice Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax”.
Romney has a personal problem with calling Obamacare by the dreaded T-word. If Obama’s individual mandate – which was modelled exactly on the individual mandate that Romney enacted in Massachusetts in 2006 – is a tax, then the penalty that Romney imposed when he was governor is also a tax.