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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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In this photo taken, Monday, June 25, 2012, Carol Paris of Leonardtown, Md. demonstrates outside the Supreme Court in Washington. On Thursday the Supreme Court will deliver their ruling on President Barack Obama's health care package. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
SCOTUS calls a tax a tax, and so Obamacare wins ...

The individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is a tax. (You don't buy health insurance, you pay a tax. To the IRS.)

But people hate taxes, so Democrats in Congress called it a mandate, and justified it under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

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But, Chief Justice John Roberts saw through all that, said a tax was a tax, that taxes are constitutional (e.g. FICA), and, on that grounds, voted with the liberals to uphold.

- Supreme Court upholds key part of Obama health law - AP/Salt Lake Tribune

... A conservative court, and a conservative justice, upheld a law passed and treasured by liberals. This is not the way the court has worked in recent years, for either side. "The Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act," according to the majority opinion, written by Roberts. No one asked it to. ...

- John Roberts, Moderate - Matthew Cooper/The National Journal
... some folks have long had an inkling that the chief justice was no ideologue. ...

- Roberts hits the reset button - Andrew Rosenthal/The New York Times
... Obamacare—a label the president should now embrace—will provide insurance for tens of millions of working people and it will eventually help rationalize and bring down the costs of health care for everyone. ...

... here is his key line: "The individ ual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable." This is fully in the tradition of judicial modesty and restraint: Courts are supposed to read ambiguous language in statutes to uphold them, if they can, without distorting the words beyond recognition. Because otherwise, they go too far to block the work of the directly elected branches—the definition of activism. That’s the gift Roberts gave President Obama and Congress. To read "penalty" as "tax" isn’t to distort. It is generous, but properly so. ...

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