Professor Pundits: “Healthcare Ruling: Campaign Friend or Foe?”

Despite Mitt Romney’s surge in fundraising immediately after the Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling, both candidates seem to be keeping their distance from the topic. But as our professor pundits Matt Dickinson and Bert Johnson point out, that does not mean the ruling won’t be important in this fall’s elections, though maybe not for the reasons you think. Join in the conversation with your comments below.

If you have a question about presidential campaigns, please email us at We’ll do our best to answer your questions in our next video or by email. And, follow the pundits on Twitter: @bnjohns and @mattdickinson44. Past episodes of the Pundits.

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  1. So guys, is it a tax or a penalty? Seems to me that Gov. Christie got it right; it’s both.

    A little digging into the legislative history shows us that the word “tax” was in it all over the place, until exorcised from most. Why? Because the Democrats could never have mustered the votes from their own party for a tax this large without calling it something else.

    But now, they are (as the bard once writ “Hoist upon their own petrad”.). All 60 Democratic US Senators voted for the bill, and those who have the misfortune to be up this election will have to face “Tax and Spend” allegations until they are blue in the face.

    And the

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    fate of Obamacare (also dubbed “Obamatax”) lies in the balance. If Mitt Romney moves into 1600 pennsylvania Avenue in January 2013 and has at least 50 Senators, it is all he’ll need to repeal the onerous, upopular law and start over. The distinction of being a tax has enabled the reconcilliation process, one that allows no amendments and no filibusters, thus just 50 + 1 (which can be supplied by the Vice President, sitting as The President of the Senate).

    So, this election may just be the most important of your lives. Read everything, watch everything (including Fox News, Kiddies) and make your own decision.

    After all, who do you think is going to pay off the massive debt? Certainly not Obama. It all falls on your strong young shoulders. So, disregard the rhetoric and read the hard line stuff on both sides, then vote for what and who you think makes the best case. But, if you are 18, do vote. It is the most important privilege you have in this country.

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  2. Sheldon – Good points, all, particularly your comment: that the young should vote. Keep in mind that most 18-21 year olds are disproportionately Obama backers, so you are implicitly making the case for supporting the current President! (Which may be what you want to do….) However, historically this age group is also the least likely to turn out and the early signs suggest they are less engaged in this election than they were four years ago. That partly explains why Obama has been focusing on college campuses in many of his recent campaign stops – he’s trying to recreate the connection with the youth voters that was a large part of his historic campaign in 2008.

  3. Matt:

    While I know Middlebury’s reputation as a liberal arts institution, I also know that some of the smartest young people in America are priviliged to attend. The more smart people are well informed, the more likely they are to not vote knee jerk for Obama.

    I have a grandson who will be voting for the first time and he will start Middlebury in August (early because he is a football player). I try to discuss these issues with him and have a faith that his native intelligence will carry the day. You might go back to an earlier post wherein I cited Wayne Allyn Root’s analysis; those kids who voted for Obama last time are not

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    likely to do so again, primarily because they face the job market from Hell. Many are not yet employed. I’d like to think that 18 year olds smart enough to attend Middlebury are smart enough to vote for the candidate that has the best chance of restoring the economy to a place where jobs will be waiting when they fnish their college education.

    As I point out, it is their generation, which I call “The Cupcake Generation” that will pay these massive debts. It is in their best interst to understand the issues and the arguments on both sides before casting their valuable votes.

    We entrust our youth to your care; all I ask is that they get both sides and study the issues, then vote for who and what makes the most sense. If that occurs, I have an abiding sense that we will win their votes.

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  4. Sheldon,
    I can assure you that the one thing Bert and I pride ourselves on is giving students in our classes all sides of the issues. We’re looking forward to having your grandson in our classes!

    thanks for the comments,


  5. Although often attributed to Churchill, it was actually Francois Guizot who first said “Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head”.

    No matter how liberal we all start out, by and large, most of us naturally become more coservative as we age and prosper.

    If college is not the place to learn to think for one’s self, then where?

    I am delighted that you two will have a hand in shaping my grandson’s thinking. I’d tell you his name, but then, that would take the fun out of the adventure. While I have been blessed with many grandchildren, I try to stay fairly current

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    with what they are doing and thinking.

    The season starts September 22 and I will be there watching a game; hopefully, he will be playing. But, if not, I will come anyway. I’ve not yet been to Middlebury. I had one grandson graduate with honors from Wesleyan, and this boy is next in line, so I have high hopes for him. And Middlebury. I doubt that I will be disappointed in either.

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  6. Political Puzzle – Although I am not up to date on the various political polls, I would guess that the average American is fully aware of the steadily growing disparity between the wealthy and the low income classes, and understands which political party will increase the gap and which will reduce it.

    If this is accurate, my question is: why would low and middle income citizens vote for candidates that will make their economic situation worse?

  7. In response to Rick. The most important long term issue is which party and which potential president will provide the best opportunity for “all” Americans to reach their full potential, financial or otherwise. If everyone has a “fair” chance of becoming a multi-millionaire or being able to reach their full potential at whatever they pursue then that should be our objective. There will always be somebody richer and somebody poorer, but if equal opportunity exists then we have only ourselves to blame. I have noted in life that most people accede to their horizon; it’s just that some people have higher horizons than others. One might keep in mind that historically in America last year’s

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    millionaires are not always the same as next year’s millionaires. Why would we want to change that reality. America has provided us with the greatest opportunity of any country in the world. Vote with your head and not for platitudes.

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  8. Rick–

    Certainly inequality has increased over time in the United States, and social mobility (that is, the ability to move from lower to upper income levels) has declined, as everyone from liberal commentators, to Rick Santorum to Paul Ryan has lamented (see Polls show, however, that the public is ambivalent about focusing public policy on reducing inequality, per se. In December, Gallup found that less than a majority (46%) say it is extremely or very important to “reduce the income and wealth gap between the rich and poor,” while 82% said it was extremely or very important “to grow and expand the economy” ( This appears to be evidence that most people believe that a rising

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    tide will lift all boats.

    I also want to address the idea that lower and working-class voters support “candidates that will make their economic situation worse.” I’m not absolutely certain what you mean by that, but it seems to be related to a frequently-voiced hypothesis along the lines of Thomas Frank’s argument in his book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” that lower-income voters are increasingly favoring Republicans. This assertion is almost entirely false. Outside of the South, where white conservatives have become more Republican as the one-party Democratic system has eroded, the relationship between income and the party one supports is just as strong as it ever was. Indeed, there’s some evidence that it is stronger, with lower-income people *more* likely to vote for Democratic candidates now than they were in the 1970s. For more on this, see Larry Bartels’s work: and McCarty, Poole & Rosenthal’s “Polarized America”:


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  9. “Once the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the Republic.” – Benjamin Franklin

    Our country has become increasingly divided between those who pay taxes, and those who pay no taxes at all. The latter are almost at 50%. Few remember that the “Tea” Party, “Tea” stands for Taxed Enough Already.

    Ben Franklin (and Tom Jefferson, who is also credited with a similar quote) knew what they were talking about. If people have no skin in the game, they will vote for the candidate who promises them the most goodies. This is antithetical to the American dream and ethic.

    America has always been about an equal playing field, not in the end, but

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    at the beginning; everyone should have an equal right to pursue their dreams. Those smart enough, willing to work hard enough, and who are lucky enough, prosper. Others, not so much.

    The Communist mantra simplified is “From each according to his ability, to each, according to his need.” We are not Communists. Not yet. But we’ve been headed that way for three and a half years.

    As each “entitlement” becomes vested, it is harder and harder to remove it from those who feel they are “entitled”.

    That’s exactly why I think this election is so important; perhaps the most important of our lifetimes. I believe it will set the tone for the future, or non-future of America. Why? Because we are on an unsustainable binge of entitlements. We are borrowing a huge chunk of every dollar we are spending, and that cannot continue. The middle class, and the blue collar working class are beginning to realize this basic truth. That’s what happened in Wisconsin, hardly a Republican stronghold in the past. That’s what’s happening in America.

    So, as I said in an earlier post; study the issues and the candidates as never before. Study and vote as if your future life depends on it. It does.

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  10. Matt Dickinson and Bert Johnson rock!

    Brendan Ryan

    The Brendan Ryan Company
    Houston, Texas

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We hope to create a lively discussion on and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

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