Without overturning a government practice used for most of our nation's history, the Supreme Court had little choice but to rule "Obamacare" is legal. We should have seen it coming.
Here's why: The administration's lawyers made two arguments. First, they said the Constitution's "Commerce Clause" allowed sweeping controls over health care, including a requirement that all Americans purchase government-approved insurance.
No, the court ruled. "The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance," the court majority's written opinion concluded.
You read correctly, but move on to what the court said the government can do.
The majority ruled the government has the power to levy a tax against people who don't buy approved health insurance. That was the administration's second, backup argument. In effect, government attorneys said - and the court majority agreed - that Congress has absolute authority to levy taxes for any reason.
So, while there may be a lot of things the government can't legally force us to do, Congress is always free to establish taxes that have the effect of forcing us to behave as desired.
Washington has been doing that for somewhere around two centuries, getting away with it every time.
For example, tariffs on imported goods were in place before the Civil War. They were established to give U.S. manufacturers an edge over foreign companies shipping goods into this country. Tariffs still are used occasionally for the same purpose.
The government couldn't order people to "buy American" - but it could use a tariff that prompted most to do just that.
More recently, Congress decided we ought to drive fuel-efficient cars. But it couldn't enact a law requiring us to do so. The answer was the gas-guzzler tax that provided a financial incentive to avoid certain cars. The tax, like the fines against people who refuse to buy health insurance, has nothing to do with raising revenue. It's about social engineering.
Staying on the highway, look at another type of tax aimed at social engineering - the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes you see in and around some cities. Vehicles with one or two passengers are allowed to use the lanes, which usually are less crowded and thus, faster. Folks who don't have riders are stuck in the slow lanes, in essence having their time taxed because they didn't cooperate in saving gasoline by carpooling.
That's why we should have seen this one coming.
But the court majority made another point, in effect emphasizing voters have power the court lacks.
We, the people, were chastised a bit by the court majority, which wrote, "We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation's elected leaders."
In other words, voters made the mistake of electing those - Obama and liberals in Congress - who have once again used a tax for social engineering purposes.
It's not their job to force elitist, socialist politicians to do the right thing, justices pointed out.
Remember that in November.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com