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Nestled within the justices' opinions are some disquieting hints that the Supreme Court's hostility toward government control over corporate power hasn't changed.
Supporters of the healthcare reform act upheld by the Supreme Court last week should stop celebrating and take a deep breath. Nestled within the multiple opinions issued by the justices are some disquieting hints that the high court's hostility toward government control over corporate power hasn't changed. To put it bluntly: The court's four conservative horsemen are still in the saddle.
The original Four Horsemen were a conservative bloc that worked to overturn a string of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal initiatives in the 1930s. They held firm against expansive interpretations of the Constitution's commerce clause that would give government the tools to address modern crises, such as the Great Depression.
The clause, which awards Congress exclusive power over interstate commerce, was at the heart of the arguments in court over the healthcare reform act, particularly the act's mandate that individuals and families purchase insurance coverage or pay a tax-based penalty instead. Among the issues was whether people who did not carry health insurance were participating in interstate commerce in a way that brought them within the clause's authority. The reform law's opponents argued that "inaction" — the failure to buy insurance — was by definition not commerce. Supporters responded that everyone in America participates in the interstate commercial market for healthcare, because sooner or later everyone will need treatment; those who don't have insurance are simply making a choice about how, when or whether to pay for it that can be properly regulated by congressional action.