Thursday, June 28, 2012

Winning By Losing

Occasionally in the past, I've heard it said that, at times, it is possible to win by losing.

I heard that — or its equivalent — said a lot in the lead–up to today's Supreme Court ruling on the legal challenge to the so–called Obamacare legislation.

Initially, I was inclined to think it was pre–emptive spinning — to mitigate defeat, not boast of victory.

Because, you see, both sides seemed to be convinced — to some extent — that the High Court was going to rule against them. And, I suppose, in these times of incredible uncertainty, that was the prudent thing to do: Prepare for the worst.

Therefore, this was the logic — on both sides.
If the Supreme Court rules against us, it will mobilize our people in the fall, and we will overwhelm the opposition with the backlash.

Now, on the surface, I supposed, that is a reasonably effective case for making chicken salad out of chicken sh*t.

But it seemed to me that it perpetuated the mindset that believes in complacency politics — that success makes people complacent.

That has not been my experience.

In my experience, whether it is business or politics or whatever, success only whets one's appetite for more. I never expected the side that was perceived to be the winner today to sit back and relax.

Americans have always been competitive. Historically, success seldom makes people complacent. If anything, having acquired power, they put that power to work in an attempt to keep it.

Well, most do. Some don't, I admit. But those people don't tend to last too long.

Anyway, now that the Supreme Court has ruled the legislation to be constitutional — and in the most improbable way imaginable, by upholding the mandate as being within congressional taxation authority — I have been re–thinking my opinion on that.

And I'm beginning to think that, yes, there could be a considerable backlash on this at the polls in November.

In the first place, the introduction of that word tax is something the Democrats in Congress — and Barack Obama himself — sought to avoid when they were ramming through the health care reform act.

Legal defenders of the legislation only threw it into the mix in their Supreme Court arguments as a last–minute thing — yet that turned out to be the argument that the Supreme Court bought.

The High Court didn't go along with the commerce argument. It upheld the constitutionality of the legislation with that last–minute taxation argument — which, ironically, was never part of the original deal.

And it made things a bit sticky for the Obama campaign. Obama has repeatedly assured Americans that, during his presidency, there would be no tax increase on anyone making under $200,000/year.

Now, with the help of the Supreme Court, he has pulled off the greatest bait and switch in American taxation history.

And, if there are any folks who need a quick reminder of how the American people feel about anything that is labeled a tax, let me refer them to the election returns from 20 years ago — when President George H.W. Bush was defeated in large part for going back on his 1988 campaign pledge to resist any tax increases.

And make no mistake about it. This will amount to a massive tax increase — mostly on the middle class. Countless people will look at their annual incomes and do the math — and they will conclude that it will be cheaper for them to pay the tax than purchase the insurance.

That doesn't mean they will like it. It just means they will do it.

There's no doubt in my mind that the Supreme Court handed Obama a victory with today's ruling. It would have been indescribably embarrassing for the signature legislation under a president who was once a constitutional law professor to be declared unconstitutional.

Obama was spared that embarrassment — and, because of that, he has to be regarded as the winner of today's round. His signature legislation — virtually the only accomplishment he has to show for his 3½ years as president — survived.

Without it, he would have had no case at all for re–election.

But the Republicans have been given a huge banner to follow into battle this fall — and, with it, I think Romney may well win the war.

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