Liberals just can't catch a break

We take for granted that the federal government can forbid landlords to reject a tenant based on his race or religion; prohibit development on fragile wetlands; finance the Medicare program for the elderly; require public schools to give girls an equal opportunity to play sports; collect revenue to pay for the National Institutes of Health and the national parks; encourage energy conservation by taxing gas guzzlers; prohibit discriminatory voter ID laws; and vindicate the right of state government employees to take unpaid leave to care for sick relatives.

The conservative legal movement has already attacked many of these provisions, and the Roberts court has been steadily supplying it with ammunition to do so. Conservative judicial rhetoric — for example, Justice Antonin Scalia’s denunciation last week of the Obama administration’s decision not to deport young, law-abiding illegal immigrants who came to this country as children — may be designed to change the political climate as well. …

What, then, to make of the court’s landmark decision to uphold the individual mandate? Chief Justice Roberts construed the mandate not as a requirement that individuals purchase health insurance but as a choice: buy insurance or pay a tax. But the conservatives surely know that a Congress that can tax but not do much else — spend money, regulate the economy or enforce civil rights — will be hamstrung. Taxes are unpopular and nearly every Republican member of Congress has promised to oppose any additional taxes on individuals or businesses.

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