Not because it’s unconstitutional, but because it’s not socialist enough. According to Reid Cherlin, who was the White House spokesman on healthcare, the easiest way to defend Obamacare would be to have passed single payer healthcare and then simply tell the Supreme Court, and everyone else, to just get over it.
It so happens that I’m packing up my apartment and moving out of Washington today after eight years of residence, most of which were spent in politics and government. One of the items I just bubble-wrapped is a framed copy of The L.A. Times front page from March 22, 2010, in which I can be seen, blurrily, clapping in the background as Barack Obama watches the House pass the Affordable Care Act. In between stowing keepsakes like this, I’ve been taking procrastination breaks to monitor news from today’s oral arguments. The consensus seems to be that we should crap on Solicitor General Don Verrilli for struggling to defend the individual mandate.
Don is someone I worked with and respected, so I will leave dissection of his efforts to those who are farther removed and better schooled in Supreme Court procedure. But I will say this: having spent a year of my life getting paid to defend the ACA as the White House spokesman on health care, I feel for the guy. Health care reform is very much worth defending, but going about that defense is where things get, well, difficult.
It would have been easy for Verrilli—or any of us—to explain single-payer health care. “Look,” we could have said, “the government is paying for everyone to have coverage.” End of story. But single-payer is not what our brilliant, world-leading political system gave us. What it gave us is essentially a halfsy—an extraordinarily confusing patchwork in which some novel legislative mechanisms are used to induce individuals, businesses, insurance companies, and states into doing things that add up to concrete good.
I detect a little sarcasm in Cherlin’s piece. He’s essentially saying that the only way around the Constitution is to go all out socialized medicine. It’s easy enough to say that the federal government is paying for everyone to have healthcare coverage, but where does the money come from? It has to come from somewhere, someone, or some group of citizens will pay for another group to have socialized healthcare. Just deciding from on high that the feds will pick up the tab doesn’t work.
Now we all know what’s happening here; Verrilli is the fall guy. He’s the chap that will universally be blamed when Obamacare essentially goes down in flames. But, in his defense, he was given an impossible task. Defend the indefensible. Prove that something that is so blatantly unconstitutional is Constitutional. Impossible to do, no matter who you are.
If you’re a full blown Socialist like Elle McPherson or Reid Cherlin, having the geniuses who founded our country and saw these types of fights coming, write a document that makes instituting socialist policies almost impossible, makes for a very long day.