In vowing this morning to do what the Supreme Court didn’t—repeal Obamacare—Mitt Romney trotted out all his arguments against the newly constitutionally sanctioned health-care law. Among them were these two points: First, that Obamacare would cause 20 million Americans to lose their health insurance, and second, that it would be a job-killer to boot.
Problem is, these two arguments directly contradict each other.
The 20 million Americans who presumably would lose their health insurance would do so because their employers would decide to cease offering it, letting their employees fend for themselves on the health-insurance exchanges. Why would these employers opt to do that? The only conceivable reason is that it would be cheaper for them to do that. And if it were cheaper for them to do that, they’d then have more money to hire more employees, creating rather than killing jobs.
You can argue, with serial implausibility, that Obamacare will cause millions to lose their health insurance or that it’s a job-killer. You can’t argue both.
With today’s ruling, the fate of President Barack Obama’s health-care reform will be up to the voters in November’s election. For voters who hate Obama and all he stands for, that’s one more reason to go to the polls—but those voters are probably going to the polls in any event. If Romney decides to ride this issue, it’s not clear he’ll gain anymore votes than he already has locked up. He may motivate some Republicans who don’t particularly care for him but will vote out of their hatred of Obama to care for him somewhat more. (Polling shows that a higher percentage of pro-Obama voters support the president because they like him more than pro-Romney voters like Romney.) But I doubt that raising his positives among voters who are already determined to vote for him anyway matters.
Republicans will doubtless exploit the Court’s upholding the mandate under the Congress’s power to tax rather than under the Constitution’s commerce clause. There’s that T-word again! It’s unlikely that more than a couple percent of the American people, those with incomes adequate enough to decline to buy insurance, will ever be subject to that tax, but you can count on Republicans to depict it as a mass confiscation worthy of Lenin. Obama and the Democrats need to be able to counter this with real numbers—in Massachusetts, the one state that has already adopted a similar law, just 1 percent of taxpayers are subject to the penalty—even as they focus on the benefits most Americans will derive from the law, which was the tack the president took in his statement this morning.