If the Supreme Court rules against President Obama on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, there's a sense in which he'll deserve it. After all, there was an easy way for him to make the act impervious to this fate, and it wouldn't have entailed a single change in how the program works.
This fix came up in Wednesday's Supreme Court argument when Justice Sotomayor showed that she is indeed a "wise Latina woman" by suggesting the following: Charge every American a health care tax and then hand out exemptions to those who buy insurance. In other words: Just rename the financial "penalty" imposed on those who don't buy insurance. If you call it a tax instead of a penalty, then the "mandate" to own insurance won't be a mandate, and the constitutionality question won't arise.
I remember hearing this basic idea shortly after the health care bill was passed, when people started complaining about the intrusiveness of a mandate. What I didn't suspect at the time--and didn't start suspecting until today, when I read Doyle McManus's column in the Los Angeles Times--is that the administration might have considered and rejected the idea. Still less did I suspect that the reason for the rejection was fear of blowback for "raising taxes." But that's the subtext of McManus's piece, and it's plausible.