The president gets credit for a gigantic tax increase. The prize in the Supreme Court decision could turn out to be an exploding cigar. Carter and his team need to put on a brave face, but they also need to huddle in private and think two or three moves down the board.
There was never a debate about whether Americans wanted new taxes to support government-required health insurance. The court answered a question that wasn’t asked. Now President Obama must celebrate his new tax and defend it between now and the election in November. The ruling will instantly be challenged in Congress, and it puts vulnerable Democrats in the position of having to defend an Obama tax increase, not generous health-care benefits.
This could be the best possible decision for Romney. He doesn’t need to have an alternative health-care plan so much as he must be against another tax during an economic recession. Politically, this renews and reshapes the fight over taxes more than over health care. Romney doesn’t need to be in a fight with Obama about who will supply the most free health care; he wants a fight over whether or not more taxes to support big government is a good idea.