Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court decided that Americans have no right to due process. Indeed, the Court not only upheld a fraud perpetrated on the public — it became a willing participant.
The assessment charged for failure to comply with ObamaCare’s “individual mandate,” which requires Americans to purchase health insurance, was presented to the country by the administration and the Democratic Congress as a penalty assessed for lawlessness — i.e., for refusing to honor this new legal requirement. It was strenuously denied by proponents that they were raising taxes.
The Obama administration, in particular, was adamant that the assessment was a penalty, not a tax: the president himself indignantly objected to a suggestion to the contrary in an ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos. Obama officials also vigorously maintained that there had been no violation of the president’s oft-repeated campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. Moreover, as stingingly noted in the joint dissenting opinion of Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, the Democratic majority in Congress rejected an earlier version of the bill that became ObamaCare precisely because it imposed a tax — lawmakers intentionally substituted a mandate with a penalty for failure to comply so they could continue to contend that no one’s taxes were being raised.
Chief Justice Roberts claims that Congress simply used the wrong label. That is legerdemain. This is not a case in which Congress was confused, or inadvertently used the wrong term under circumstances where the error wasn’t called to its attention. The tax-or-penalty question was a hotly contested issue. As the dissent points out, it is one thing for a court to construe as a tax an exaction that “bore an agnostic label that does not entail the significant constitutional consequences of a penalty — such as ‘license’…. But we have never — never – treated as a tax an exaction which faces up to the critical difference between a tax and a penalty, and explicitly denominates the exaction a ‘penalty.’”
Let’s say that, back when I was a prosecutor, I tried and convicted a man on a charge of conspiring to sell narcotics. I can prove he was conspiring, but it was really to sell stolen property. I convict him but, on appeal, the court holds, “The prosecutor’s evidence that it was drugs the defendant conspired to sell is wholly lacking.” At that point, the conviction has to be dismissed, and if I want to try him a second time, this time for conspiring to sell stolen property, I’ve got to indict him and start the whole process over again.
Let’s suppose, however, that the appeals court instead said, “Eh, drugs, stolen property, what’s the big whup? You just wrote the wrong commodity into the indictment. So let’s not bother with a whole new trial at which you’d have to prove the correct charge to a jury. Let’s just rewrite the indictment and pretend that it says ‘stolen property’ instead of ‘narcotics.’ Then we can uphold the conviction and call it a day.”
That would never be permitted to happen — not even to a crook of whose guilt we were certain. It would be an outrageous violation of due process, a conviction obtained by false pretenses, that would not be allowed to stand.
Yet this is essentially what Chief Justice Roberts & Co. did. They said the American people are not entitled to an honest legislative process, one in which they can safely assume that when Congress intentionally uses words that have very different meanings and consequences — like tax and penalty — and when Congress adamantly insists that the foundation of legislation is one and not the other, the Court will honor, rather than rewrite, the legislative process. Meaning: if Congress was wrong, the resulting law will be struck down, and Congress will be told that, if it wants to pass the law, it has to do it honestly.
Just as an appeals court may not legitimately rewrite an indictment and revise what happened at a trial, neither may it legitimately rewrite a statute and fabricate an imaginary congressional record. But today, the Supreme Court rewrote a law — which it has no constitutional authority to do — and treated it as if it were forthrightly, legitimately enacted. Further, it shielded the political branches from accountability for raising taxes, knowing full well that, had Obama and the Democrats leveled with the public that ObamaCare entailed a huge tax hike, it would never have had the votes to pass.