New York Times columnist David Brooks isn’t a conservative. He doesn’t have to be if he doesn’t want to, except that the Times heralds him as part of its effort to balance its liberal editorial page. Brooks is more accurately described as a namby-pamby sort of thinker.
Consider his ecstatic column Friday on the Supreme Court’s health-care ruling. He hailed Chief Justice Roberts for deciding “not to use judicial power to overrule the democratic process.” But Brooks should know that judicial power is part of our democratic process, instituted to check runaway legislative power of the kind represented by the Affordable Care Act.
True, judicial power can be problematical, as when it goes beyond the review of laws and seeks to actually create them. That’s what the Roberts Court did in upholding the “individual mandate” by calling it a tax.
Brooks agrees that’s what happened—and doesn’t care. Says he: “Granted, [Roberts] had to imagine a law slightly different than the one that was passed in order to get the result he wanted….” So Brooks accepts this judicial activism in arguing that Roberts’s duck-and-cover maneuver restrained judicial activism. Huh?
He writes: “Congress is going to have to be very careful when it tries to use the tax code…to delve into areas that have, until now, been beyond its domain.” Wrong again. The Roberts ruling opens the way for all manner of fancy tax provisions designed to induce particular congressionally-desired behavior on the part particular segments of the American people. Next time Brooks complains about the complexity of the tax code, write a letter to the Times.
Brooks suggests the Roberts ruling now paves the way for the kind of health-care overhaul process the country really needs. You can’t get more namby-pamby than this. With the Obama law in effect, it will in fact be more difficult to get the kind of overhaul Brooks says he favors (the GOP defined-contribution concept). Nothing could have better fostered a serious start-from-scratch effort than the Court’s rejection of ObamaCare. But that, says Brooks in all his wisdom, would not have been sufficiently “Burkean.”