The word "crumb" crops up quite a bit in the commentary on the Supreme Court opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, mostly along the lines of "Chief Justice Roberts threw conservatives a crumb" in resisting the Commerce Clause authority argument and rejecting the scope of the Medicaid provision of the law. (Some liberals fear the "crumbs" are really gunpowder, but that's another story.)
The word "crumb" was used in a wholly different, and utterly charming (considering the alternative) context in this NYT's letter to the editor about the decision from a tax lawyer:
To the Editor:
As the author of a leading dictionary of tax definitions, I was astonished to see the word “tax” used to describe what is clearly a civil penalty. Taxes are there to raise revenues. As the renowned tax law professor and practitioner Martin D. Ginsburg (husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) once remarked to me, “Every time the Supreme Court touches the tax law, they crumb it up.” So true.
Unfortunately, Congress has also done its part to scramble the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code.
RICHARD A. WESTIN
Lexington, Ky., June 29, 2012
The writer is a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Speaking of Justice Ginsburg, her fans should be particularly gratified by this New Yorker appreciation lauding her contribution to the ultimate decision on the law's constitutionality:
“Staying power” is something that Ginsburg has. As Jeffrey Toobin says in this week’s Political Scene podcast, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seventy-nine. She is about five feet tall, eighty pounds, she has had every disease known to humanity. She is as tough as nails.” She made her way at a time when you could have a legal education from Harvard and Columbia and still be turned down for a job because you were a woman. She is not as loud or colorfully charismatic as Scalia—who is?—but neither does she seem to have learned to give up. (Those wondering about the liberal future of the Court might note that, on a point related to Medicaid expansion, Ginsburg was joined by only one Justice: Sonia Sotomayor.) We don’t know what happened inside the Court, or why Roberts voted the way he did. But by writing a scathing opinion, Ginsburg may at least have done him the favor of showing him what he might have looked like if he had signed on with Scalia: a political opportunist, and almost a fool.