Shortly after yesterday’s post, a different circuit court — a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond — ruled on a similar case about the legality of IRS subsidies for health-care plans sold on Federal exchanges. (The language of the Affordable Care Act is absolutely unambiguous about this: only plans sold on state exchanges are eligible, and the DC court’s decision acknowledged this, albeit with some reluctance.) The 4th Circuit panel ruled the other way, however, in a tortuous decision based on the supposed “intent” of the law, and on what it considered to be the broad and unwelcome consequences of ruling for the plaintiff.
In the Analects of Confucius, we read the following:
“If the Prince of Wei were to ask you to take over the government, what would you put first on your agenda?”
“The one thing needed,” replied the Master, “is the definition of terms. If terms are ill-defined, statements disagree with facts; when statements disagree with facts, business is mismanaged; when business is mismanaged, order and harmony do not flourish; when order and harmony do not flourish, then justice becomes arbitrary; and when justice becomes arbitrary, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.”
Given that order and harmony have not flourished among the appeals courts, arbitrariness is therefore the order of the day — and so the government’s “rejection” of the DC court’s decision is legitimized for now. We can expect the Supreme Court to have the final say in the matter.