Now that Chief Justice John Roberts has joined with the Court’s activist wing on two landmark cases, conservatives are quite naturally wondering what has happened to him.
Seven years ago, during his confirmation hearings, John Roberts memorably said that if he was confirmed he would always remember “that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.” His laudable point was that the job of the Supreme Court not to write laws, but simply to monitor how legislative bodies write laws to make sure they comply with the Constitution.
In casting the deciding vote overturning Arizona’s perfectly constitutional immigration law, Roberts seized the bat, strutted up to the plate, and hit one out of the park. Justice Scalia said as much in his dissent.
In Thursday’s Obamacare decision, Justice Roberts once again strode up to the plate in his umpire uniform and hit the ball over the fence for liberals. The left has always valued judicial activism as a way to impose ideas that the voters don’t like, and liberals will no doubt be applauding Roberts as he trots around the bases.
His rationalization of Obamacare is that fines imposed by the government to punish behavior the federal government doesn’t like is a “tax.” By Robert’s logic, a speeding ticket is a tax too.
Thanks to Justice Roberts any financial penalty imposed by government can be called a “tax,” and thus a legitimate federal action. If the government wants to penalize one particular religious denomination, for example, it would be allowed to “tax” that denomination into bankruptcy without violating the Constitution, according to Roberts novel idea of taxation. And there are probably politicians and bureaucrats in government today who are already thinking of ways to use this new power against those they dislike.