By glomming on to the Republican-led court battle to block the historic health-care overhaul President Obama signed into law Tuesday, Attorney General Tom Corbett has lined up against the best interests of most Pennsylvanians.
In joining a lawsuit that clearly looks like a political ploy and a waste of state tax dollars, Corbett also may have put a few dings in his own standing as a front-runner candidate for governor.
By injecting politics into his day job, Corbett gives credibility to critics who complain his handling of the Bonusgate probe of state workers has been more about vote-getting than cleaning up Harrisburg.
With this bid for his party’s right wing, the GOP hopeful could have a tougher job convincing crossover voters he’ll need in November that he represents mainstream views in the state. Corbett claims the health-care overhaul “threatens every citizen’s individual liberties.”
As for the legal challenge, many experts doubt the courts will agree that the Constitution bars Congress from mandating health-care coverage for all citizens. That would upend decades of deference to congressional power to set taxes and regulate the nation’s economy, issues that underpin the overhaul.
The health-care law imposes regulations that seek to reform one-sixth of the U.S. economy, and it enforces the insurance mandate through the routine method of levying a tax — in this case, on those who refuse coverage they could afford.
A dozen attorneys general lined up behind the lead of Florida’s Bill McCollum, so there was no need for Corbett to join. But now Pennsylvania will be on the hook for a share of the sizable legal costs it can ill afford.
In Corbett’s own bailiwick, it’s odd to see a tough-on-crime guy willing to squander precious law enforcement resources on the misguided legal bid. Just this week, there was an understandable outcry from Philadelphia officials over a 40 percent reduction in funds for the city’s Gun Violence Task Force — an anti-trafficking effort Corbett champions.
Corbett’s other quarrel with the overhaul is its supposed $1.2 billion cost to the state over a decade to expand health coverage. But that ignores several hundred million dollars in annual savings due to expanded federal cost-sharing for insuring children and working-poor adults, closing the “doughnut hole” in the Medicare drug benefit, and savings on state purchases of drugs for the poor.
There’s also the less tangible aspect that, over time, more Pennsylvanians likely will come to accept and value the huge effort being made under Obamacare to bolster the nation’s social safety net.
Even Republicans in Congress who fought and unilaterally opposed the overhaul don’t dispute the very real anxiety felt by Americans over being able to afford health insurance, or hang on to coverage they have now.
In that sense, Obama touched on the fundamental appeal of the overhaul Tuesday, saying, “We have just now enshrined … the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.” So when Corbett says the law should be scuttled to protect citizens “from an overreaching federal government,” he sounds like a guy who’s tone-deaf to such basic human concerns.