COLUMN: Forecast 2012: Happy with the Supreme decision?
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is revisiting his predictions for the top five values issues of 2012.
Buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Are you happy with the Supreme Court’s decision?
History was made on Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the heart of the healthcare reform law — the so-called individual mandate — is constitutional. Americans who don’t have healthcare insurance will have to buy it, or pay a “penalty.”
The ruling was such a shock that an over-eager CNN editor is a media laughingstock for pre-emptively publishing the headline: “Mandate struck down.” After all, everyone was expecting that. The Boston Herald is among many papers reporting on CNN’s mistake, writing: “Somebody call a doctor, the folks at CNN must be having a heart attack after they goofed and declared Obamacare was dead.”
This was, indeed, a history-making decision. It establishes that healthcare will remain one of the top values-related issues of 2012 — as I predicted in January. My other January forecasts of top values issues were: the economy, the wealth gap, the political matchup of Obama and Romney and the culture wars.
I put “penalty” in quotation marks above because the constitutionality of the law hinged on the court’s interpretation of what that word meant. The high court ruled that the “penalty” was, in fact, a tax — and Congress has broad powers when it comes to taxes. Hence, the individual mandate is constitutional. The court actually struck down an earlier rationale for the law that argued it fell under Congress’s power to regulate commerce.
If you read the court’s full text, there is a long passage that sounds like the court is going to conclude that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. After talking about all the flaws in other legal rationales and rejecting those arguments, the court finally reaches the conclusion that the mandate is constitutional, after all.
On the eve of the high court’s decision, Americans were divided on what the court should do, according to a poll by the Public Opinion Research Institute. More than four in 10 (43 percent) said they didn’t want the Supreme Court to strike down the healthcare law. About a third (35 percent) wanted to see it struck down, while 21 percent were undecided. A majority of white evangelical Protestants (52 percent) favored striking down the law.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a major victory for Obama and will help garner more votes in November. But, the ruling could also work in Romney’s favor if it energizes his base. He’s been clear, prior to the decision, in telling voters that he will work to undo the healthcare law if he is elected.
What's your gut reaction to the high court's decision?
Do you think it will help Obama?
Will it energize Romney's base?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.