Saturday, June 30, 2012

About that ruling

I think the US Supreme Court ruled correctly on the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), but for the wrong reason. According to Gallup, half of Americans agree with the ruling, half don’t. Those numbers will change.

I never had any doubt that “Obamacare” was constitutional. Never. Nor did I have any doubt it was good law—well, as good as was possible, maybe. I would have preferred to see the US join other industrialised nations—including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom—in adopting single payer universal healthcare, but the healthcare, insurance and pharmaceutical corporations (and their money) make sure that can’t happen.

What I thought was wrong about the ruling was the assertion that the Commerce Clause in the constitution didn’t permit Congress to require the purchase of health insurance: It clearly does. John Roberts was wrong about that, but right that Congress clearly has the right to impose a tax.

Writing on The Daily Beast, Chris Geidner wonders if Roberts was deliberately harkening back to Marbury v. Madison, the landmark Supreme Court case that established judicial review in the first place. He points out that in Marbury, then-Chief Justice John Marshall avoided the intense political fight between President Thomas Jefferson’s administration and William Marbury by striking down the law that Marbury’s suit was based on. And the Supreme Court has been reviewing laws ever since.

Whatever Roberts was up to, America’s apoplectic rightwing has turned on its former hero. The right has been going, as one site put it, “completely freaking nuts”. One of my personal favorites is the leading wingnut who claimed Roberts ruled as he did because he was affected by medication—basically, the drugs made him do it. Oh, those wacky wingnuts!

The fury on the American right isn’t surprising, really: They won’t tolerate ANY dissent or disagreement—you’re with them or against them. But in the vehemence of their attack, they often come across as batshit crazy. A prominent New Zealand Randian “libertarian” did, too, declaring “RIP America – and it serves you right,” before endorsing revolution (to read his mad and ignorant rant for yourself, copy and paste this link: bit.ly/LHYoH9). Normal New Zealanders unreservedly apologise to Americans for this nutjob.

Still, there were more or less sane rightwing reactions, too; they were still sometimes laughably wrong, but sane nevertheless. Writing on the pro-big business Forbes.com, Larry Van Horn declared, “Constitutionality Does Not Mean Obamacare Is a Good Policy”. For me, the dumbest thing about this particular rant came at the end when he declared that government spending on healthcare would skyrocket and so would taxes. That’s ideological nonsense, not fact, but predictable for a site that values the accumulation of massive personal wealth above the public good.

Similarly, I received a press release from an outfit called “Job Creators Alliance”. I’d never heard of them before, but Huffington Post routinely publishes their releases as columns (because they’re free, of course). In the PR, a JCA member, Tom Stemberg (the founder of Staples), boomed, “The Supreme Court of the United States has dealt a critical blow to free enterprise.” I immediately thought to myself, “Oh, FFS!”—and this was only the first sentence of his statement!

Stemberg wasn’t done, declaring that the law is “a disaster” and it “will result in thousands of lost jobs, increased health care costs and an increased inability for small businesses to provide coverage to employees.” That's all provably false, but too stupid to dignify with a fact-based response. Stemberg’s rabid rant isn’t a surprise, though: He also declared that JCA supports “free market solutions to our nation’s healthcare problems” or, in other words, huge profits for big corporations and millions of mainstream people uninsured and unable to afford healthcare—the usual Republican pro-corporation, anti-people policies.

The reactions of the right matter because they’re now focusing on the only way they can protect corporate profits at the expense of people’s lives: Repealing the Affordable Care Act. In 2010, Republicans chanted “repeal and replace” and it helped them win control of the US House of Representatives. They tried the repeal part as a stunt they knew would lose, but—SURPRISE!—they did absolutely nothing about the replace part, and they wouldn’t if they do get control of all of Congress as well as the White House in November. They will campaign on this issue and, as we’ve already seen, they’ll be deceptive and misleading about the existing law. Many of them will outright lie about it.

I just wish that Republicans would put that sort of energy into doing good, like in overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling—oh, that’s right, that ruling benefits them and their corporate masters who demand that “Obamacare” be repealed and not replaced. I just hope American voters aren’t sucked in by the Republican lies and deception. We’ll see.

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