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News from the Votemaster

Roberts Reportedly Changed Sides after Oral Arguments

Reports are swirling that Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the four conservatives on the Supreme Court at the initial meeting on the Friday after the oral arguments but later jumped ship to side with the liberals. Unsurprisingly, conservatives are furious with him and suspect the switch was politically motivated. The worst accusations are essentially that he was afraid of the "liberal media" (which is conservative-speak for the New York Times). Nobody outside the Court knows if he did switch. Even if it is true, probably nobody inside the Court knows why. Roberts had no trouble with the Citizens United case and other cases that the "liberal media" hated, so that is probably not the real reason, again assuming he did flip. Our best guess is that he plans to be Chief Justice for the next 30 years and did not want to inflict massive damage on the Court's reputation with another bitterly divided 5-4 decision along partisan lines. Also in the back of his mind he might have realized that it takes only 60 votes in the Senate to expand the Court to 15 or 25 or 99 justices and some time in the next 30 years, the Democrats might again have 60 seats.

Finally, maybe Roberts just wanted to keep his powder dry. In the Court's next term, cases on the Voting Rights Act, voter ID laws, and same-sex marriage are going to come before the Court. By making this decision on the ACA, Roberts may have innoculated himself against criticism when he votes with the majority in 5-4 cases, saying he is just calling balls and strikes. All the liberals who are now hailing him as the second coming of Thurgood Marshall are likely to be quite surprised in June 2013. While everyone is intensely focused on the controversy du jour, nobody seems to be asking the question of whether it is a good idea of having 9 unelected men and women having the final say on practically everything, overriding the elected Congress and President. After all, nothing in the Constitution gives the Court this power. It just took it in Marbury v. Madison, itself a highly political case, and nobody stopped it.

Several States Have Already Rejected the Medicaid Expansion in the ACA

One of the few points the plaintiffs won in the ACA case is that the federal government cannot withhold funds from the existing Medicaid program simply because a state refuses to expand it to cover everyone up to 133% of the poverty level. In some ways, the Medicaid expansion is even more important and significant than the much-fought-over mandate. This expansion means that the government will pay all or part of the insurance costs for poor people up to a fairly high level (about $40,000 for a family of four). With poor people, old people, and veterans all covered by government plans (Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA system, respectively), the country is ever-so-gradually moving to a single-payer system in a stealth manner. It is not hard to imagine that 133% becoming 200% in the future and the Medicare age becoming 55.

Conservative governors understand this well. Already those of Florida, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Kansas have said they will not accept the Medicaid expansion funding and will not set up the exchanges the law requires them to set up. The former is both a political statement popular with conservatives and an economic decision that federal funding won't cover the bill down the road and they don't want to expend scarce state money on health care for poor people. That a state might have priorities elsewhere is a legitimate political decision for a governor to make.

Not setting up exchanges is pure grandstanding. Why is it a government takeover of health care to set up a Website where private insurance companies can offer competing plans for uninsured citizens to compare, especially since they have to pick one or pay a "tax"? Besides, the ACA says that if a state doesn't set up an exchange, the federal government will do it. Apparently these governors find it better for the federal government to do something they claim is a state matter.

As an aside, as of this morning, the Fox News Website had a headline reading: Gov. Scott: Florida will not implement insurance exchanges or expand Medicare. Apparently Fox doesn't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid or is just trying to scare seniors. Nothing in the ACA requires states to expand Medicare. States having nothing to do with Medicare. It is a federal program.

Romney Says the ACA Penalty is not a Tax

Completely undercutting the Republican message since the Supreme Court ruling on the ACA, Mitt Romney has now said that the penalty for not buying insurance is just a penalty, not a tax. He probably took this position because Romneycare has the same penalty as Obamacare and if it is tax, Democrats can say that he raised taxes when governor of Massachusetts. What's a tax anyway? Some definitions:

  • Dictionary.com: a sum of money demanded by a government for its support ...
  • Merriam-Webster: a charge usually of money imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes
  • Oxford dictionaries: a compulsory contribution to state revenue

The general theme of most definitions is that its primary purpose is raising revenue. That really wasn't the case with the ACA penalty, so using the normal definition of tax, Obama and Romney are right and the Supreme Court came up with a new definition of tax. While linguists may fret over a bunch of lawyers redefining a very old word, the main problem here is Romney taking down the Republicans' message that the ACA is a massive tax hike.

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---The Votemaster

Previous Headlines

Jul02 Which Party Is Best at Managing the Economy?
Jul02 Does a President's Religion Matter?
Jul02 Bain Ads Apparently Working
Jul01 Obama Gets a Boost from Supreme Court Ruling on the ACA
Jul01 Billionaires Are Starting to Fund Down-Ticket Races
Jul01 Was Roberts Sending a Dog Whistle to Congress: Save the Institution?
Jul01 Is Mexico Leading the Way in Polling?
Jun30 Americans Evenly Split on Supreme Court Decision on ACA
Jun30 A Rarely Mentioned Objection to the ACA
Jun30 Red States May Try to Bargain on Medicaid
Jun30 Difference Between ACA and Raich Explained
Jun29 Supreme Court Upholds Affordable care Act
Jun28 The Moment of Truth Has Arrived
Jun27 Wendy Long Wins New York Republican Senatorial Primary
Jun27 John Roberts' Big Moment?
Jun27 Speculation about Romney's Veep Choices
Jun27 Tipping Point Page Changed
Jun27 New Data Pages Available
Jun26 Supreme Court Strikes Down Part of the Arizona Immigration Law
Jun26 Supreme Court Says States May Not Ban Corporate Money from Campaigns
Jun26 Primaries Today in Five States
Jun25 Key Supreme Court Rulings Expected this Week
Jun25 On Social Issues, Voters Trust Obama More than Romney
Jun25 Charlie Cook Does Not Expect Another Wave Election
Jun25 A New Partisan Divide: Old vs. Young
Jun23 Bain Capital's Firms Outsourced Jobs Overseas
Jun23 Wealthy Democrats Not Donating to SuperPACs
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Jun23 Only 34% of Americans Believe Obama is a Christian
Jun22 Romney Reverses Course on Immigration in Speech to Latino Officials
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Jun21 LeMieux Formally Ends Florida Senate Run
Jun20 Supreme Court to Rule on Whether States Can Stop Corporate Campaign Donations
Jun20 Democrats to Push DISCLOSE Act
Jun20 Interesting Analysis of the Political Effects of the ACA Ruling
Jun20 Schumer Plays Nice with Wall Street
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Jun19 Immigration Issue Could Affect Other Races
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Jun18 Crisis Averted in Greece as Center-Right Party Wins Election
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Jun18 Child Propaganda Takes Off
Jun18 Interactive Chart Shows Unemployment Numbers
Jun17 Greek Vote Today Could Roil Financial Markets Worldwide
Jun17 What If the Supreme Court Strikes Down Just the Mandate?
Jun17 What If the Supreme Court Strikes Down Just the Mandate?
Jun16 Obama's Action on Immigration Opens Fissure within Republican Party
Jun16 Ohio Speeches by Obama and Romney Preview the Campaign Ahead
Jun16 Ginsburg Hints at Sharp Disagreements Ahead
Jun15 Campaigns Waiting Anxiously for Supreme Court