Last Updated:November 28 @ 07:44 am

Charen: Notes From the Unpowered

By Mona Charen

This column is being written in the midst of a power outage that has reduced many parts of the mid-Atlantic to primitive conditions. I have no right to complain. We installed a small generator after the last big power failure ("Snowmageddon") and at least have been able to sleep in air-conditioned comfort. We sincerely pity the million-plus people in our area and surrounding states who are coping with 95-plus temperatures and no power at all.

So while we are definitely among the lucky ones, the "derecho" outage has managed to short-circuit our 21st century lives anyway. Only the bedrooms are cool. The phones, Internet and televisions are dark. Even cellphones didn't function for 24 hours. Gas stations are closed. Supermarkets are dark and selling only nonperishable items. If you want meat, vegetables, eggs or milk, you'll need to drive another half hour.

The Wall Street Journal wasn't delivered, and reading the Washington Post by itself is like choking down medicine, especially in an election year. The dog is very sick, and we cannot contact the vet because the phones are dead. (Update: Dog is in veterinary emergency hospital, which thankfully does have power.)

Why does the nation's capital go through this convulsion so very often? People who live in other great cities report that they have seen decades go by without significant power outages. I've heard that they have trees, too. What is it about Washington? We gave Baghdad freedom and got their power grid in exchange? It's been four days, and they're saying it may be seven before power is restored. At the very least, we should be asking how much of an investment it would be to bury all the power lines. I would certainly prefer to spend precious tax dollars on that rather than on Obamacare.

Speaking of Obamacare, there's a theme among some commentators that Chief Justice John Roberts achieved a brilliant, John Marshall-esque long-term victory for conservatives. Don't fret, they soothe. Roberts is playing chess while we're all playing checkers. Just wait till he votes next term to overturn affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act.

Not so fast. If forced to choose between a correct vote on affirmative action and on Obamacare, I would have chosen the latter (and believed I could rely on Roberts for both). There will be many more opportunities to overturn affirmative action. But Obamacare was arguably much more important to the success of self-government. Affirmative action is morally wrong. But it won't bankrupt us, and it doesn't expand the reach of the federal government.

Whatever words were written about the Commerce Clause, the result speaks louder. Speculation about future Roberts' votes is just that. For now, we have reason to worry that, at worst, he succumbed to intimidation by the left and changed his vote to keep the court from being vilified, and at best, that he engaged in shoddy scholarship.

Still, the decision does force the Obama administration to acknowledge what it has steadfastly denied -- that Obamacare raises taxes on the middle class. Also, two liberal justices did agree that there are limits to federal power over the states vis a vis Medicaid. That's notable. So often it's conservative justices who disappoint their side. But in this case, which hasn't gotten much attention, two liberals agreed that the feds cannot bully the states.

The Medicaid feature of the decision may also force the truth about the law to emerge more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. Without the capacity to force states to expand their Medicaid programs, the federal government will be left with the responsibility to provide subsidized health insurance policies to millions more people.

Those with incomes up to - effectively -- 138 percent above the poverty line were to have been covered by Medicaid. Those with incomes - roughly -- between 100 and 400 percent above poverty were to use the exchanges. When the Congressional Budget Office first scored the bill, it estimated the subsidies for the exchanges based upon the Medicaid expansion. Without it, the subsidies for those purchasing in the exchange market will have to rise considerably. As Charles Blahous of Economics 21 explains, " . . . With the . . . Medicaid expansion, the law's health exchange subsidies might be fiscally unworkable. The Supreme Court may have just set in motion of chain of events that could lead to the law's being found as busting the budget, even under the highly favorable scoring methods used last time around."

"Unworkable" was always a good shorthand for the law. Now the court so praised for ratifying Obamacare has simultaneously made that verdict unavoidable.



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  1. realitybasedcommunityComment by realitybasedcommunity
    July 3, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

    Mona Charen has been lying for years and I’m sorry to see she thinks she can sell her snake oil to people she considers stupid. The only justice who considers this a tax is John Roberts. The other eight discussed the commerce clause. Even her heroes, Sex Fiend Thomas and Thug Scalia, didn’t go into the tax issue. So, Mona, quit lying. But I do hope your dog will be ok. I love animals, even when their humans are unworthy of them.

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    • passthewordComment by passtheword
      July 3, 2012 @ 3:59 pm is missing you and your altered reality. It seems name calling is all you have to really offer which reveals two things: the lack of an argument and a general lack of intelligence.

      The fact that Roberts declared this a tax will be the law’s detriment making it easier to defund and overturn. It also keeps the matter in the political realm until the election and aids Romney as 70% of independents oppose it as well as 60% of the general populace.

      This doesn’t fit your altered reality and it will really bite come Nov… Keep drinking the kool aid and going FORWARD. You may find that Hope and Change someday, but not with Obama.

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    • BillzillaComment by Billzilla
      July 3, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

      Since your “comment” is anything but reality based; perhaps you should seek employment as a stand up comedian, or even a circus clown. At least your “reality” might bring a few chuckles there.

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    • dalnbComment by dalnb
      July 4, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

      Well said – I applaud your honesty and fortitude to write your true feelings and beliefs in a forum dominated by those who feel (as Hannity and Limbaugh say) “if you don’t believe what we are telling you you are wrong”; like we have no right to our own opinion!

      It is amazing how many people seem to think they know so much but rather than display an intelligent ability to discuss an issue with reason they just fall in behind they other followers and repeat what they have heard.

      Keep up the good work Mona! ! !

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  2. cxComment by genesal
    July 3, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

    Get out of town troll.

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  3. JDZComment by JDZ
    July 3, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

    There is a twist in the logic behind Robert’s flip on the mandate and his position is that he has thrown it back to the voters to deal with in November, because if Romney is elected, all the Senate needs is 51 votes to repeal the Bill (because the mandate is a tax) using the same reconciliation process the Democrats used to get it through the Senate to get it passed in the first place. So, the future of Obamacare is now out of the hands of the SCOTUS and in the hands of the American voters, and Roberts and the Court are off of the hook.

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    • dalnbComment by dalnb
      July 4, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

      It is no longer a bill it is a law.

      It is amazing – the Republicans have spent millions and millions of dollars trying to convince the American publican that the Affordable Health Care Act is bad, they have taken it to the courts, and they have lost in every case. Still – they keep spending money, wasting time, and ignoring the things they should be doing to get America back on its feet!

      It is time to get real – start earning the wages Tax Payers are paying these guys – Fix America and stop wasting time and money!

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  4. CharieComment by Charie
    July 4, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

    Obamacare is a bad law and I’ve been cursing it ever since its inception. My healthcare premiums have doubled, and my co-pays have doubled and tripled in this FREE healthcare. Plus for two years while energy and food prices “skyrocketed” (Obama’s word) there was no COLA for Social Security recipients.

    I can see the day coming when we will be forced to accept government health care which will be practically no care for those over 65 if we can’t flip the presidency and the Senate.

    Those who think Roberts did such a clever thing may live to rue your words and those of you who just come on conservative websites to toss your little bombs, we’ll just see how you’ll like living in a totalitarian society. You’re not intelligent enough to see it but I warned you.

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    • cxComment by genesal
      July 5, 2012 @ 9:13 am

      Rush Limbaugh says, and I totally agree that:

      The bottom line is that most of you are getting a little annoyed and fed up at this Republican argument over whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a penalty, or wow, there’s some silver linings in this. We are gonna have to get focused on the disaster that this Supreme Court ruling is and we’re gonna have to admit it, and the sooner the better because this is ball game. This changes this country forever and for the worse. There is nothing positive or good in Obamacare. There’s nothing in it. I don’t care if you want to keep your kid on your policy ’til 26, preexisting condition, those two things are not worth the accompanying transformation and destruction of what has been known as the United States of America. “Well, then what you would you do, Mr. Limbaugh, if you don’t want people focusing on whether it’s a penalty or a tax?”

      What I’ve been doing the last two days, but it’s not about me. Expose the law. But you’re saying we did that. Yeah, we did do it. And we have to keep doing it because we’ve got one chance left in November. The point has to be what this country is going to become, not whether this is a tax or a penalty so that Republican consultants can guide candidates to winning elections. That’s not what this is about. This is about real substance. A disastrous Obamacare decision, and apparently it hasn’t sunk in yet in the Republican establishment how outrageously bad this is. There are no silver linings in it. There’s no great investment in freedom or individual democracy, limiting of the Commerce Clause. That is a sideshow and it misses and distracts from what we ought to be focused on.

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