Regarding The Obamacare Decision

I didn’t mean to post on that particular issue today, but as I was running through the Daily Brief archives looking for something else entirely, I found this entry from nearly a year ago – which is rendered timeless by today’s events. That’s the trouble with having a huge blog-archive, by the way – one is always finding quite splendid entries that one has forgotten entirely.

(A comment by Xennedy at this thread on Belmont Club which struck me as being particularly perceptive — and histoically apt.)

I’m not thinking of military history for this one. I’m thinking of the various schemes by which the southern states retained political dominance of the United States over the increasingly more numerous and anti-slavery northerners prior to the Civil War. Eventually these schemes became so odious and unpopular that they destroyed the political structure of the Union as it had existed. The response of the South wasn’t to accept demotion or immediate war – it was to engineer a supreme court decision to end the house divided, as Abraham Lincoln put it, and make the whole union slavery friendly. I’m thinking of the Dredd Scott decision, and in my evaluation of that ruling in theory southerners could bring their slaves into (say) New York and compete with free labor unhampered by the free state status of that state. In practice the Civil War intervened before anything like that actually happened, but my point is that the political establishment of the day attempted to rule game over and cement their hold on power in perpetuity regardless of the will of the people.
Seem familiar? In my view similar events are happening today. Cram Obamacare through, hold 40 Senate seats, and it’s extremely difficult to repeal. Issue EPA regulations from the executive branch, and ignore Congress. Re-elect Obama, pick another two or three supreme court justices, and the Constitution means whatever the left wants it to mean.
The problem with this – or perhaps I should say the solution – is that eventually people tire of the rigged game, and lose their willingness to play.
So was Obamacare a new Kansas-Nebraska Act – which preceded the formation of the modern Republican party – or a new Dredd Scott decision – which preceded secession and civil war? Or neither?
I don’t claim to know. But I do think we are in the opening acts of a much larger story, and the drama over the debt limit is much less important than it appears in the immediacy of the here and now. The welfare state paradigm of American governance is collapsing, and that collapse will continue even if a debt ceiling increase gives it a slightly longer run. To quote that famous Chinese curse we live in interesting times. Alas.

I’ve long been a fan of Wretchard, at Belmont Club – and of Steven den Beste, too, when he was regularly posting, back in the High Middle Ages of blogging. (Which was in the early Oughties, more or less). In a just world, they would have mighty thrones among those who comment upon current events. Wierd that I am the scatter-brained, intuitive humanities major who appreciates the heck out of severely logical IT-engineer types, but there you go. I guess it’s because of the underlying logic about it all.

16 thoughts on “Regarding The Obamacare Decision”

  1. This decision may mobilize the tea parties again and affect the election. On the other hand, it may energize the moochers that are Obama’s base. It will take a while to see. Hugh Hewitt, on his radio show today (he teaches con law) said that Scalia’s opinion reads as though it were a majority opinion. At one point, he even refers to the other side as “the minority.” This suggests that Roberts switched his vote after Scalia’s opinion was written.

    Forbes thinks so, too.

  2. “Penalty” = “tax” is strange reasoning, hyperbole even, IMHO. A milestone of sorts, and not a good one.

  3. Lots of interesting things going on here. Is Roberts a turncoat, or did he sneak into the enemy’s fortress and prop the back gate open? I really think the decision today gives the GOP a huge boost, one way or the other, if they are smart enough to take advantage of it. As I said in Ginny’s thread, the difference between a huge expansion of Congress’ power via the Commerce Clause, and a huge expansion via the taxing authority, is a fine point that will be lost on a lot of people — all they will see is that Congress now has huge powers to interfere in nearly every aspect of one’s personal life. I think it’s going to get the attention of a lot of people who usually pay little attention to politics.

    Ginny made the point that, now that the individual mandate has been declared a tax, a bill to repeal it becomes a “budget” bill that, per the Senate’s rules, cannot be filibustered. However, the clueless Dem leadership will probably allow the filibuster anyway. That all but ensures that the GOP takes the Senate in November, and one of the first things they will do is invoke the nuclear option and change the Senate’s rules to eliminate or sharply restrict the filibuster. The Dems will reap what they have sown.

  4. Ginny didn’t (at least consciously) make that point because I wouldn’t know enough to say it. If it works, well I’m glad.

  5. So, to WAR!

    But first a correction: that Chinese curse was one imagined by an American SF writer.

    My feeling is that an element within the Tea Party has wanted war before. I had hoped that a libertarian outcome would prevent it. But now the Treasonous Roberts opinion makes it all the more imminent.

    “Keep your powder dry” can only kept the armed and twitchy happy so long before there is an outbreak in the People’s self defense. How long can We be peaceful and withstand the assaults on our liberties like simply the Right to Be Left Alone?

    Thus, when Larry Tribe held forth for his student on Charie Rose for saving the Court, the nation, etc ect – I emailed him to lambaste him for such ululating pablum and share my warning with him. He;s not just wrong, he’s dangerously WRONG.

    People will only put up with tyranny so long before they explode. That’s what your post means to me, and I’m glad that others see the dangers I see.

    I now believe that war preparations are indeed warranted. Hope for peace, but prepare for civil war.

  6. I have to agree with your assessments of Steven and Wretchard. “U.S.S. Clueless” was the first blog I that ever followed, or attempted to comment on, and “Belmont Club” is a still daily habit of mine. It’s heartening to realize that you are NOT alone, that others share your thoughts, and frustrations…

  7. Long before any shooting starts, I’m guessing a total cynicism and hostility about the government (yes, even more than now). I’m also guessing tax avoidance will become as big a sport as it is in Italy.

  8. I have read this forum infrequently in the past and always considered it informative and thoughtful. I’d like to comment on this issue as a political economist in the classical tradition and a soldier/warrior.

    Make no mistake, Robert’s contorted opinion has done great damage to over two centuries of legal opinion regarding taxes versus regulation. While the commerce clause was been widely abused for more than the last century, the door is now wide open for taxing authority to be widely used to compel actions by citizens (not just avoid taking actions). Any assertion that he did this as a way to open the back door for an election result ignores the longer run consequences of hastening the progressive (pun intended) control of individual choices by government mandate. I believe he simply outed himself as a liberal/progressive. As has been noted by others, both major parties are guilty of abusing the Constitution to achieve power over individual choices IAW their specific vision of what others ought to be doing. They now have another tool in their arsenal.

    Regarding a massive popular uprising from the right, I don’t see that happening any time in the foreseeable future. This issue certainly isn’t likely to be the proximate cause. People on the right will find ingenious ways to mitigate the most obnoxious effects. I’m thinking I might be a “Native American”. If I write a book (Nightmares of My Mother) claiming such lineage and photo shop some documents, I’m home free.

    I do think that a general explosion of violence is possible when austerity or a collapsing economy derails the entitlement train. This is foreseeable in the next decade. Places like Detroit, New Orleans, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, Houston, El Paso, etc. could descend into mob rule spreading to the surrounding areas. That is the more plausible threat that I believe requires preparation to survive. Possibly this could descend into civil war, but my bet is that overwhelming government force would prevail and permanent additional authoritarian measures would be accepted. Further down the road, a revolution to overthrow government tyranny might occur, but a diminished military as well as law enforcement would have to at least remain neutral for it to prevail. What external powers would do is unknowable, but they could certainly prevent through intervention any return to a constitutional republic based on liberty and limited government.

    As Dredd Scott ultimately empowered the formation and ascendency of the Republican Party, perhaps we’ll see an ascendency of another major political party to represent the limited government, individual liberty viewpoint. It is even possible that this could happen through a “quiet revolution” from within the Republican Party. Not likely, but possible. There is some evidence this is happening, but the progress may be temporary at best. If Robert’s decision to support this law has the unintended consequence of accelerating this outcome, I welcome the effect if not his ruling and the further empowering of governmental power it facilitates. This energizing of the electorate scenario to remake the Republican Party would be included in my book, but I’m open to other avenues.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment, I’ll go back to lurking now (I need to begin my book, sorry Mom).

  9. The Republican party did not represent limited government viewpoint. He had built his career representing railroad interests and they prospered under his administration with the land grants for the transcontinental railway. The land grant colleges were established in 1862 in the absence of the southern democrats who had opposed them. He also brought forth the national banking act a step toward the Federal Reserve. He imposed an unconstitutional income tax to finance the Civil War. Lincoln was a Hamiltonian nationalist who greatly centralized the government. Don’t look to the Republicans to stand up for individual liberty.

  10. Mrs. Davis: “Don’t look to the Republicans to stand up for individual liberty.” I don’t. That doesn’t mean that others do not think it can be taken over, locally, to that effect. We’ve seen this in places like Utah.

    Death 6 has rendered many astute observations. One calls for further comment, “I do think that a general explosion of violence is possible when austerity or a collapsing economy derails the entitlement train.”

    I think Michael Lewis has opened this subject for general audiences in his book “Boomerang” – the last chapter. He recounts the seminal work of Meredith Whitney in 2007 in exposing the unsustainable debts accumulated by states, cities, and county and other government entities in the US. She had to account for the reported state GDP, the failure of even State Treasury Secretaries to know what debt obligations thee units had accumulated, and square the numbers.

    She concluded, as increasing investors and markets have since, that it is simply unsustainable. The gap between income and debt obligations is enormous. What’s happened in Europe to sovereign debt bringing down governments, destroying peoples live, savings and futures, and inflicting 25 to 50% unemployment rates involves enormous unanticipated upheaval.

    And what’s happened there WILL happen here too. The interests of states that grow in jobs (ie, Texas) versus those that loose them (California, Illinois, New York) will pit them against each other just like German and Greece.

    We can each prepare for this future. Lewis mentions that people with money and mobility will follow the job opportunities, those who can’t, won’t. And this conflict will shape the political debate yet to come, if not already here now.

    This where Death 6 and my fear of rebellion coincide.vI hope this is a theme chicagoboyz writers will address this year and the years to come.

    Lewis closes his book by mentioning that people will adapt to their environment if it changes and causes enough pain to them; only then will self-control and self-responsibility reassert itself and become re-internalized.

    The entrenched and devout DENIAL by Democrats has been the psychotic warning signal that I’ve only seen “drsanity” (just google it-a now retired U Mich Med School Prof of Clinical Psychiatry, Pat Santy, MD), plumb consistently – exploring the political-cultural consequences for a decade like Columbus in the New World.

    That she’s gained neither a Reason magazine interview nor a book deal, I find almost as unbelievable as the emotional and epistemological menace she’s made her speciality diagnosing.

  11. ” He had built his career representing railroad interests and they prospered under his administration with the land grants for the transcontinental railway.”

    I disagree to the extent that the real railroad lawyer was Stanton who had defeated Lincoln in a couple of major cases. That is why Lincoln chose him for his administration. Lincoln was much more a general practice lawyer. He even had a couple of medical malpractice cases when they were rare.

  12. Anything that deflects attention from the sorry state of the economy helps Obama, including this. This is now being made into the main issue by the GOP. They have chosen to nominate the singularly worst Republican to run against Obamacare.

    This decision may well have handed the election to Obama in which case I think Obamacare will be permanent. Sorry if I’m too pessimistic. Maybe somebody can talk me out of it?

  13. Sgt Mom,

    The unlimited taxing power Chief Justice Roberts handed to the Congress means the de facto abolishment of private property.

    The political majority of the moment in Congress can steal by taxes anything at all from the despised minority, because they are the majority.

    If private property isn’t safe from the thieving political class on the make, neither is the American middle class. _That_ is the script for Bloody Revolution in America.

    The sad fact is that the SCOTUS got pregnant by the lust for unlimited Federal power with the Roe V Wade decision.

    Every decision since then has increasingly been only about “who won” without regard to past rule of law or precedent.

    Federal judges are now so morally & intellectually bankrupt even decisions by the same judges on the same subject differ from one day to the next.

    Now Chief Justice Roberts just delivered that Rosemary’s baby in terms of the SCOTUS future independence.

    This is how Rush Limbaugh describes what Chief Justice Roberts did:

    The chief justice was hell-bent to find a way to make this law applicable, so he just decided, you know what, as a tax increase, it works, because there’s no limit on the federal government’s ability to tax. And it’s right there in the preamble of the Constitution, right there, Article 1, Section 8, the general welfare clause, it’s been established Congress can tax whatever, whoever, whenever, how much they want. Even when they don’t ask for it, the Supreme Court is gonna find a way to make what they want to do legal because John Roberts said it’s not our job here to forbid this. It’s not our job to protect people from outcomes. It’s not our job to determine whether it is right or wrong or any of that. We just get to look at it.

    The productive private sector Middle class has no one it can trust not to steal from it.

    Unless they get succor via the political process, Then all power comes from the barrel of a gun and those willing to use them.

    And the middle class will have nothing to lose but its oppression.

  14. Mrs. Davis: And the Southern Democrats stood for the interests of slave-owning plantations and riverboat transportation (which opposed railroads). The transcontinental railroad at least helped the central government secure the Western United States (via settlers and economic development).

    All the more reason that the official position of the government should be “atheistic economics” (neither helping nor harming individual industries… well except slave-owning ones).

    Anyway, if anyone wants to see a satirical movie about a civil, there’s The Second Civil War (1997). It’s by HBO, but it’s pretty even-handed politically as I remember it (not really being about any particular issue). It even has James Earl Jones in it.

    It has been some years since I’ve seen it, though.

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