Affordable Health Care Act Declared Constitutional
Best of Times, Worst of Times
By Rabbi Jonathan Kendall, Martin County's Delegate to the Charlotte DNC
June 29, 2012
The circus came to town yesterday. Yesterday was June 28, 2012. The greatest show on earth was staged in front of the Supreme Court in the Nation's Capital. Disparate groups vied for visibility as they awaited the decision on the Affordable Health Care Act's constitutionality. Present and accounted for were proponents and detractors, the former carrying the predictable signs and the latter dressed as colonial figures that are the trademark of the Tea Party, which views anything President Obama does as tantamount to treason, enough to make Benedict Arnold blush.
When the decision came down just after 10:00 AM, three cable news networks, not reading the voluminous decision beyond page two, announced that the personal mandate had been struck down. If they had read to page four, prudence and accuracy would have necessitated altering their penetrating and sage analyses. CNN, CNBC and the venerable FOX NEWS all reported incorrectly. In Fox's case, the reportage was conducted joyfully, breathlessly, shamelessly and with the knowing arrogance of "we told you so" deeply embedded in their "journalistic" faux pas. Alas, the fondest hopes and dreams of the Obama-haters were not realized. On closer inspection, it appeared that the Court did uphold the Affordable Care Act and, improbably, the Chief Justice, John Roberts, had sided with the liberal minority. He was immediately labeled a turncoat and defector. The parsing and dissecting of his motives began almost immediately. Although a "W" appointee, it appears that Justice Roberts cares more about the character and legacy of the Roberts court than he does about the politics of the moment (though one could hardly tell after the Citizens United decision that made Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers household names).
For his part, Mitt Romney said that the only way to get rid of Obamacare was to get rid of Obama; that HE, on his first day in office (after standing up to the Chinese to which Bain Capital had outsourced thousands of jobs) and making sure that our troops stayed in Afghanistan (presumably, forever), would work to guarantee that people would have access to affordable insurance, that pre-existing conditions would not preclude insurance, that people could not be summarily dropped by their insurers if they became ill and that children would be allowed to remain on their parent's coverage until at least the age of 26 ---WAIT A MINUTE --- those ARE all provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Not only that, they were provisions of Romney-Care that he instituted for Massachusetts, an idea HE borrowed from a 1933 plan put forth by the Republicans, pieces of which were lifted from the Bull Moose platform of 1912.
Even Justice Roberts' argument that the legislative branch could not force people into commerce by mandating their purchase of insurance (you know, just as states do when it comes to auto insurance and banks do when it comes to homeowners with mortgages), but could through its taxing powers levy such a penalty, seemed a bit of a stretch. Truth be told, what I enjoyed watching was the "spin." Health care in America has always been a Gordian knot. We practice the best medicine in the world within our borders. If you are a medically endangered South American, Central American, or Caribbean Islander with means, you find your way to Miami. If you're an Arab, you go to the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Sloan Kettering or the Cleveland Clinic (though many Arabs quietly and clandestinely enter Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem). Still, 30 million Americans do not have health insurance. The truly poor will always receive care as emergency rooms throughout the country serve as primary care physicians. The for-profit health insurance companies and the so-called not-for-profit hospitals simply factor in those expenses into the bills of those who do have insurance. Prices for medical services continue their march toward the astronomical. The number of financially devastated families who have been brought to the brink of penury by medical costs is legion.
Selfishly - and without apology - I confess to watching the Republicans with almost the same glee that Fox News brought to their erroneous reportage. With no evident or discernible plan of their own and no concrete alternatives, the Republicans - apoplectic all - swore vengeance (finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt was a petulant and puerile form of payback), reversal and promised to retry the entire debate over health care before the election (something Mitt would ultimately do well to avoid inasmuch as most of what was upheld was his gift to Massachusetts and, thank you very much, it's working just fine). One shaken newbie member of the house averred at a Republican caucus meeting following the announcement that this ruling was a worse day for America than 9/11! The twitter-universe was on fire, with many tweeting that they were fed up with America and were going to move to Canada (which has had a single-payer as-close-to-socialized-medicine-as-you-can-get national health care program since the mid-1950's). I'm not sure what kind of nativist, isolationist ignorance this displays, but I know it when I see it.
This is far from "over." The Republicans, who fully expected the health care act to be overturned (what with the conservative majority on the court, including Justice Scalia - who has become so political that he ought to resign - and Justice Thomas - whose wife is a Tea Party financier and activist - who ought to recuse himself on virtually every case), this decision came as a nasty shock. It also gave them something else to run on besides the Obama failure to completely and thoroughly clean up the catastrophic mess "W" left behind.
In the end, Roberts did what was right for the court and proper for the citizens of the country (not to mention his own legacy). Now, if we could only get the Republicans to focus more on what is good for the people instead of distorting the President's record whilst pandering to their wing-nut base (many of whom are recipients of social security and Medicare, but want the government "out of their lives") perhaps we'd get somewhere within the margins of substance and reality. I know, I know - in the office of a competent therapist (not all that easy to find) - one would label this "magical thinking." One can always hope.