This morning, I am reading the hot-off-the-press Supreme Court opinion in case #11-393, the Obamacare challenge.

Actually, I am reading only the syllabus, as the opinion weighs in at nearly 200 pages. I may be interested in the Court’s opinion, but I’m not that interested.

There’s an interesting bit of doublethink going on. The individual mandate is simultaneously considered:

  • A tax, so that “the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause.”
  • Not a tax, so that “the Anti-Injunction Act does not bar this suit.”

Perhaps if I read the entire opinion, this would seem less self-contradictory.

I’m a bit worried by the precedent set by this opinion.

Remember in the 1970s, when Congress reduced the speed limit on interstate highways? Lacking the Constitutional authority to do that directly, they chose to coerce the states by threatening to withhold federal highway funds. The Supreme Court upheld that law, and now the state legislatures find themselves regularly coerced into passing even more Congress-mandated legislation, on pain of losing federal highway funds.

Most of these laws have little or nothing to do with the interstates. But Congress has the power, and – surprise! – cannot resist using it.

With this opinion, Congress has been given a new power: to compel individual behavior, on pain of paying a tax / not-tax. Three guesses on what they’ll do with it.