America has its origins in a rebellion against arbitrary and pernicious taxation and the Framers wanted to make it extremely difficult to impose or raise direct taxes. These can easily morph into plenary police powers, the regulation of private behavior and conduct that the Constitution vests in the states. For this reason, while the taxing power in addition to raising revenue can achieve regulatory results, those regulatory results must be constitutional themselves.
That boundary held for 225 years until Thursday's ruling, as the Court had repeatedly struck down Congress's efforts to arrogate to itself police powers under either the Commerce Clause or the taxing power. The Chief Justice ruled instead that the mandate was an unconstitutional exercise of federal police powers under the Commerce Clause, only to transform the taxing power into a license for the federal government to impose taxes whose defining feature is commanding people as members of society. His discovery erases the limiting principle—apportionment—that constrains the taxing power for everything besides income and excises. . . . [T]he punishments in the [current] tax code for inactivity come in the form of not being able to claim benefits that Congress in its graces bestows. Such as: If you don't borrow to buy a home, you don't get a mortgage interest deduction. Congress has never passed a tax on a lack of gasoline or a tax on a failure to buy gasoline, any more than Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause by telling people to buy gasoline or else pay a penalty.
His ruling, with its multiple contradictions and inconsistencies, reads if it were written by someone affronted by the government's core constitutional claims but who wanted to uphold the law anyway to avoid political blowback and thus found a pretext for doing so in the taxing power. If this understanding is correct, then Chief Justice Roberts behaved like a politician, which is more corrosive to the rule of law and the Court's legitimacy than any abuse it would have taken from a ruling that President Obama disliked. The irony is that the Chief Justice's cheering section is praising his political skills, not his reasoning. Judges are not supposed to invent political compromises.