The ruling upholding most of Obamacare was an as-yet-unappreciated boon for the GOP. A brilliant move by Roberts, he managed to preserve the remaining integrity of the court — and raise his own stature — while at the same time increasing the odds of a Romney win. How? By recasting the mandate as that third-rail of politics, a tax. Let’s dissect both these statements.
First, how can we be sure it wasn’t a major victory for Obama, pundits notwithstanding? There is a “market” in presidential election predictions, www.intrade.com. One may place bets on candidates and while, like the stock market, it is wrong sometimes, the “price” of each candidate does react to events. So, for instance, Rick Perry’s price fell 75% within seconds of his forgetting the name of the third cabinet department he was going to eliminate. And yet, a full day after Obama’s “victory” the “price” his re-election chances still has not budged. It bumped briefly and has since fallen back to the same $5.40 (to win $10 if he wins—a 54% probability) that it’s been hovering at for weeks.
Second, was Roberts accurate, or just politically astute, in re-casting the mandate as a tax? Answer: The latter.
It’s not a tax or even really a “mandate.” The best analogy for the bare-bones coverage that uninsured people will be required to purchase would be as follows. Suppose you buy a refrigerator. There is an optional service contract. If you want repairs covered, you buy the service contract. But what if the repairs were covered even if you didn’t buy the service contract…but the cost of those repairs was included in everyone else’s service contract, driving the cost of those contracts up? Of course, you would demand that other people pay their fair share by purchasing their own service contracts.
So, unless you were part of Ron Paul’s “let-him-die” chant during the Republican debates, you would still advocate universal access to “repairs”, in the form of emergency and catastrophic care, to the uninsured population, many of whom would run out of assets long before their bills for such care were paid, and be bailed out by the rest of us.
Why, then, if they can afford it, shouldn’t they have to buy the service contract?