Did John Roberts make Mitt Romney our 45th president at approximately 10:15 in the morning on June 28, 2012? Possibly, but not quite the way you may think. He gave Romney the cause and crusade he was lacking, gave him the tax issue, gave him a link to the Tea Party fervor and pushed all the small, pesky issues that plagued him off the political map.
This is now a great big theme election, organized around principles on which he may have an advantage. And, by keeping health care alive as a threat at least through the presidential election, Roberts has done as much as one person can to make sure the economy, straight through November, will continue to be pretty bad.
This is because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, along with its other adorable features, is one of the great job-killing bills of all time. Since the day it was passed, it has sat like a stone on the chest of country, preventing much movement in any direction and keeping it pinned to the ground.
In the earlier months of 2010, the recovery seemed to be coming on nicely, adding jobs at a steady clip in the six figures -- 229,000 in March alone. Then, late in March, Obama got his health care bill, and the recovery on which so much had depended screeched to a shuddering halt. In the months after, the economy added an average of 6,500 jobs monthly, less than one-tenth of its pre-health care average. What was the cause? The uncertainty about the cost of every new hire, the knowledge that under the law the employer would have to provide an expensive and extensive coverage plan to every new hire and the knowledge that the mandates would apply to companies that employed fifty or more people was a terrific incentive to keep small businesses small.
In fact, after the bill passed, businesses began shedding people, dropping employees for automation whenever possible, hitting young people, poor people, and those seeking entry-level employment and skills hardest. Since then, employers have been holding off, waiting for resolution on the future of health care -- specifically for the Supreme Court's ruling on its constitutionality. Roberts could have ended their uncertainties; instead, he extended this irresolution into and through the November election. This means the economy will most likely languish, just when Obama needs to see it recover. For him, this can't be good news.
Let us now pause and ponder what might have happened had Roberts joined with his conservative brethren and voted to strike health care dead. The blight that descended when the bill passed would have reversed itself: People would hire and invest, and business would grow. Little green shoots would pop up in the landscape. Unemployment might still be too high, but the trends would be heading in a hopeful direction, as they were when Reagan and Roosevelt were re-elected. Obama would claim his ideas were at last working; Republicans would scream it was only because his biggest idea had been tossed in the dumpster, but no one would pay them the slightest attention. The job numbers would rise; Obama's would rise along with them, and, with health care now out of the way as an issue, Romney would find he has nothing to say.
And thus, Romney has to run on the economy and on health care, together
-- making it clear that one is the reason the other is stalling. It has to go, or the country will never begin to recover. And he will make sure that it does.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."