When does skeptical become cynical? Right now. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision which upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, is being debated for its political implication but looking solely at the climate around the decision I am left feeling cynical.
Reason for Optimism
On what was one of the most polarizing political issues of our time Chief Justice Roberts decision could be seen as one of one which values law being independent of politics. In a case with immense political baggage Roberts was the lone justice to vote in opposition to the party of the president that appointed him. Whether or not you think he’s right you have to acknowledge this kind of independence is the way the court system is supposed to work.
Reasons for Pessimism
Within minutes of a supreme court decision liberals and conservatives came out to lampoon or support a court decision based on whether or not it serves their purposes. How many of those discussing it know anything about legal precedent and whether or not, structurally speaking, the insurance mandate qualifies as a tax? How many of them even care? Two reactions from people who do have law degrees today still left me pessimistic:
In an interview on the Supreme Court steps Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said, without her face falling off, that the ACA being upheld the path to the U.S. becoming Greece. Yes because we all know, whether or not the national debt is increased by the ACA or jobs are gained or lost, that mandated private insurance is going to stop the U.S. from having its own currency and the U.S. will be forced by another country to have steep austerity measures in the middle of a depression. This is the type of non-sequitur that makes “Robocop is riding a unicorn, your argument is invalid” seem like it would be a reasonable debate tactic in our political climate.
Meanwhile President Obama, who opposed the individual mandate during his 2008 campaign for president, just had a celebratory speech which begun by claiming to be not about politics. He then promptly went on to tout the popular provisions of the law which will undoubtedly help him politically. Moreover who doubts if the had ACA had been struck down that same planned speech would have been openly partisan and he would have run against the Supreme Court during the upcoming election?
As a true cynic would say: There may be honor among thieves, but there’s none in politicians.