Cheshire Cat: Oh, by the way, if you’d really like
to know, he went that way.
The White Rabbit.
He did what?
Went that way.
The White Rabbit.
But didn’t you just say ...
Can you stand on your head?
Happy Independence Day
week; but oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, that we’re
not in Kansas anymore, Toto? In fact, we’re not anywhere in what has
been the United States of America.
When I first became a
Massachusetts political activist, I met Jim Powers of the
Legislative Research Bureau, who said, “Welcome. You are about to
fall down the rabbit hole,” a reference of course to “Alice in
Wonderland” that turned out to be the defining story of my ongoing
But that was just
Massachusetts. Last week, with the U.S. Supreme Court decision on
Obamacare, Alice-the-entire-country followed the White Rabbit, Chief
Justice John Roberts, down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
Eat the cookie,
citizens, and grow small. Look, there’s the Red Queen, Nancy Pelosi,
who as House Speaker when the Obamacare bill was debated, famously
told our elected representatives in Congress “we have to pass the
bill so you can find out what is in it.”
Queen of Hearts:
Now then, are you ready for your sentence?
there has to be a verdict first.
Queen of Hearts:
Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.
that just isn’t the way.
Yes, it was the way,
Alice. And still is, since Obamacare is so huge and complicated that
no one can predict how much will go wrong as it’s implemented. This
is one reason it’s a drag on our economy; businesses can’t predict
how it will affect them if they hire more employees.
So to some Americans,
it seemed a good idea to make it go away and start over with more
moderate health insurance reform; some of them filed a lawsuit
arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
Facing many complicated
arguments, Chief Justice Roberts chose to dive for the rabbit hole,
so he could rule from a place that didn’t require he make sense. He
began to write that the mandate is unconstitutional because the
federal government can’t tell citizens they must buy insurance, then
swerved to say that it’s constitutional because while the government
can’t tell citizens they must buy insurance, it can punish them for
not buying insurance with a penalty that he decided to call a tax.
Most of us still
standing above ground were stunned by the idea of a tax on NOT doing
something. Some, reluctant to say that the Chief Justice seemed to
be standing on his head, tried to find a way to justify the
‘‘Twas brillig/and the slithy toves/did gyre and gimble in
the wabe/all mimsy were the borogoves/.”
about Roberts wanting to save the reputation of the Supreme Court.
If this was his
motivation, it seems to have backfired. The
Wall Street Journal
wrote that “his ruling ... reads if it were written by someone
affronted by the government’s core constitutional claims but who
wanted to uphold the law anyway to avoid political blowback and thus
found a pretext for doing so in the taxing power.”
Jonah Goldberg wrote about Robert’s
decision-making methodology, “Why not just cut open a goat and be
done with it?”
administration, supposedly celebrating its victory, sent the
president’s chief of staff, Jack Lew, to the Sunday morning talking
head shows to discuss the decision. He told Chris Wallace on Fox and
George Stephanopoulos on ABC that the mandate isn’t a tax, but a
penalty. Both responded, “But the court just said it’s a tax!” to
which Lew just kept repeating “penalty, penalty,” as if he were
sipping tea at the Mad Hatter’s party.
President Cheshire Cat,
previously grinning from the trees, slowly disappeared, as the news
shows featured old clips of him saying the mandate wasn’t a tax
because he would never tax the middle class. By the way, White
Knight Mitt Romney had to agree, as he walked backward from his own
Massachusetts mandate: His adviser Eric Fernstrohm, on MSNBC, also
said it’s a penalty, not a tax.
Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell popped up from his teacup for some incoherent
discussion about repeal plans that culminated in his refusal to
answer a key question from both hosts: If Republicans offer an
alternative, how will you deal with the contradiction between
covering pre-existing conditions and not having a mandate to buy
Well, if we want to
celebrate a lot more Independence Days, someone better do something.
To update the story into another, more recent revolution: Grace
Slick warns in “White Rabbit” (paraphrased), “When the men on the
chessboard get up and tell you where to go ... When logic and
proportion have fallen sloppy dead ... if you go chasing rabbits,
you know you’re going to fall ...” (because) the pills that
(government) gives you, don’t do anything at all ... Go ask Alice,
when she’s just small.”
More "White Rabbit"