has widened extremely to the right
One of the more remarkable aspects of today's opinions on the Affordable Care Act is the decisions (remarkably joined by Justices Breyer and Kagan) that states qua states are constitutionally entitled to federal funding for providing health care for their residents without condition. In their dissent (PDF), Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito wrote that:
The ACA does not legally compel the States to participate in the expanded Medicaid program, but the Act authorizes a severe sanction for any State that refuses to go along: termination of all the State’s Medicaid funding. For the average State, the annual federal Medicaid subsidy is equal to more than one-fifth of the State’s expenditures.7 A State forced out of the program would not only lose this huge sum but would almost certainly find it necessary to increase its own health-care expenditures substantially, requiring either a drastic reduction in funding for other programs or a large increase in state taxes. And these new taxes would come on top of the federal taxes already paid by the State’s citizens to fund the Medicaid program in other States. [Emphasis supplied.]Wait, what? States might have to spend THEIR money to take care of THEIR residents? Isn't that what these justices have been clamoring for forever? Isn't that why they object to a strong federal government? If states do not want to take federal money for Medicaid, on the terms the federal government requires, why should they not suffer the consequences of that decision? The right-wing theory of states' rights would seem to demand that.
In an astounding bit of illogic, they instead argue that federal conditions on grants to states threatens our federalism:
This formidable power, if not checked in any way, would present a grave threat to the system of federalism created by our Constitution. If Congress’ “Spending Clause power to pursue objectives outside of Article I’s enumerated legislative fields,” is “limited only by Congress’ notion of the general welfare, the reality, given the vast financial resources of the Federal Government, is that the Spending Clause gives ‘power to the Congress to tear down the barriers, to invade the states’ jurisdiction, and to become a parliament of the whole people, subject to no restrictions save such as are self-imposed,’” Dole, supra, at 217 [...] "[T]he Spending Clause power, if wielded without concern for the federal balance, has the potential to obliterate distinctions between national and local spheres of interest and power by permitting the Federal Government to set policy in the most sensitive areas of traditional state concern, areas which otherwise would lie outside its reach.” Davis, supra, at 654–655 (KENNEDY, J., dissenting).Here's a thought—if states do not want to be dictated to by the federal government, then they can turn down the money. Isn't that how our federalism is supposed to work? Apparently not to the Roberts 5—who now create a constitutional STATE right to federal funds. The illogic boggles the mind.
But it is of a piece from a Court more concerned with the rights or corporations and states than of the well being of people. In the opinion of the Court, Justice Roberts held that "the federal conditions"—take all the money we are offering or none of it—was coercive and threatened "Our Federalism."
Understand the argument, once the federal government creates a program that gives states money, the states now have a constitutional right to that money in perpetuity.
States' rights on steroids. It is a remarkable decision. And not in a good way.