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28 June 2012

Obamacare ruled constitutional; Twitter doesn’t know what everyone is yelling about

A complicated ruling pushed the social network into chaos.

By Alex Hern

The first two tweets on my Twitter feed more or less sums up the social network’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision on healthcare:

With the benefit of a whole ten minutes to take stock, it appears zerohedge, although beaten by a tenth of a second, were more accurate (a strange world we live in). Bluntly, it is not possible to read an entire court ruling in ten seconds. The desire to be first led many tweeters to take the first mention of the individual mandate – the requirement that Americans buy healthcare if they can afford it – as gospel.

It wasn’t just on twitter, however. CNN messed up bigtime:

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And Fox News were just as wrong on their website:

So how did the confusion come about? The issue at stake was thought to be whether the mandate is allowed under the commerce clause of the US constitution. The federal government is allowed to regulate interstate commerce, and Obama’s lawyers argued that mandating the purchase of healthcare fell under that. The supreme court, however, disagree, ruling that the mandate is not allowable under the clause.

This appears to have been where CNN stopped reading. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to the next bit. Since the only penalty for not buying insurance is a fine, a majority of the court held that the mandate is in effect a tax on not having healthcare – and thus allowable under the federal government’s power to levy taxes. Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog sums it up:

The Court holds that the mandate violates the Commerce Clause, but that doesn’t matter b/c there are five votes for the mandate to be constitutional under the taxing power.

Needless to say, twitter wasn’t happy about twitter:

Update

Now that the ruling has been released, we can see how CNN’s error happened. They read up to halfway through page three, where it says “The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.”” If they’d read to page four, they would have seen “the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause”.

In short:

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