I think it's deliberate. I don't think they're good folks who've slipped on the path. I think the Republican party along with its fringes on the right are in a battle against a nation that likes to think of itself as decent, caring, discerning and moving "on up" as well as moving forward. The Affordable Care Act has been a piece of politics we've mostly thought of as defining Obama's presidency. But what it really has done for many of us is to give us a very nasty picture of where America's radical right would like to take us.
NYU law professor Ronald Dworkin ends his, well, sigh of relief at Justice Roberts' peculiar decision in the NYRB with this (added emphasis is my own sigh of relief).
For centuries the most powerful and influential argument for social justice has been essentially an insurance-based argument. Justice within a political community requires that the most catastrophic risks of economic and social life be pooled. Everyone should be required to acquit his moral responsibilities to fellow citizens, as well as to guard against his own misfortune, by paying into a fund from which those who are in the end unlucky may draw. This conception of social insurance has been the rationale of the great social democracies of Europe and Canada, and taxation has been the traditional—indeed the only effective—means of pooling those risks. Insurance has been the rationale, in this country, of all our great welfare programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal disaster relief, among many others.
The Affordable Care Act, out of assumed political necessity, is different—but only on the surface. It uses private rather than public insurance, and it shuns the label of tax. But it is in essence just another, long-overdue, program of risk-pooling. It is therefore irrelevant that young, healthy people are less likely immediately to need the benefits the program provides. Yes, the act will save many of them from catastrophe later in their lives. But the present justification for asking them to participate is not self-interest but fairness.
It is time that our constitutional courts formally recognize what constitutional interpretation has created over two centuries. Of course constitutional law is limited by the document’s text. But we must interpret the text by finding principles that justify it in political morality, and we must test statutes against the text not by abstract semantics but by asking whether the statutes respect those principles. The Chief Justice’s reasoning contains an unwitting insight. The national power to tax is not just a mechanism for financing armies and courts. It is an indispensible means of creating one nation, indivisible, with fairness for all.
The Affordable Care Act’s mandate is not just another example of economic regulation of an interstate industry like cars or steel. It does not impose a tax in the ordinary political meaning. No one thought when the act was passed that Obama had broken his promise not to raise middle-class taxes: that claim is a sudden invention of opportunistic Republicans first denied and then embraced by Mitt Romney. But the act is nevertheless best understood as in the long tradition of mandatory insurance for the sake of justice. ...Ronald Dworkin, NYRB