Today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was a bombshell. In brief, Chief Justice Roberts supplied the critical fifth vote to hold that Congress may use its taxing power to require individuals to purchase a government-approved health insurance policy.
The decision itself is complicated, with multiple opinions that will need to be studied carefully over the coming days and months. In a nutshell, however, it may fairly be said the Supreme Court has just authorized the most significant expansion of federal power since the New Deal. Unfortunately, it has done so in a way that will make it very difficult for average people to intelligently discuss and debate the merits of the decision. That’s because the decision rested not on an interpretation of Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause (as augmented, perhaps by the Necessary and Proper Clause), but rather under its taxing power — which is among the most specialized and obscure subjects in all of constitutional law.