Bet you didn’t see that decision coming, did you?
I know I didn’t.
Over the last couple of weeks a number of readers have written asking me why I haven’t been speculating on the (then) pending Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act.
I haven’t speculated on the pending decision because guessing which way the Supreme Court will jump, especially given the makeup of this particular bench, is a sucker’s bet.
And Today’s decision on Obamacare is a pretty good example of that.
Look at the last two weeks, it’s as if the Supreme Court is suffering from some kind of identity disorder:
First a win for traditionally conservative interests, i.e. Wall Street, SuperPACS, the wealthy with bag loads of money to throw against whatever political cause they feel like, in other words pretty much everybody other than the individual American that this country is supposed to be about. Now to be completely honest, the decision I’m talking about is a win for Unions as well, but by definition Unions look out for what’s best for their own interests as organizations, not the interests of the individual. The decision we’re talking about here is the court’s rejection of corporate spending limits for political campaign contributions. Despite two years of having to live with the obvious threat to nearly every aspect of individual the liberty the United States was founded to protect and nurture, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to reconsider its 2010 Citizens United ruling. The vote was split along party lines with the four liberals dissenting from the decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority declared that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." Unlimited money doesn’t give rise to corruption? Unlimited and anonymous money doesn’t give rise to the appearance of corruption? Seriously? The overt and obvious signs of corruption in our political system resulting from unfettered corporate money are all around us right now, in every direction you care to look, in every level of the process from local to state to federal elections. Whether there is real corruption or not, the vast majority of Americans certainly believe that there is – come here to Alaska and ask us if we think Juneau has been corrupted by oil money. Look at Grover Norquist’s direct control over more than half of the elected legislature. What gives him more right, more power, more influence than any other citizen? Money, pure and simple. Ditto the Koch brothers. Ditto Rupert Murdock and Donald Trump and every other mover and shaker. If you think your vote is equal to theirs, you’re an idiot. But five members of the court appear to be utterly oblivious to this fact and equally blind to the negative impact it is having on the citizenry’s confidence in their government, not to mention its direct contribution to the growing bitter partisan divide in this country. A better argument for justices getting out of their ivory tower every once in a while there never was. But, for now, corporations and PACS and unions will remain people, rich supremely powerful people whose rights and votes and influence far, far, far outweigh that of any other ten thousand individual citizens combined. The Court’s refusal to reconsider the Citizens United decision effectively fractions America into castes, everybody has one vote but all votes are not equal and not all votes count. The results of this inequality are readily apparent in the current election cycle and it’s only going to get worse. In fact, it’s getting worse even as we speak. An obvious sign is that like the nightly body counts during the Vietnam War, the media now obsessively broadcasts daily updates on political fundraising totals, pitting the size of one side’s cash pot against the other in a measure of political value and popularity. America has been teetering on the verge of a de facto plutocracy almost from the beginning, but Citizens United made it official in name as well as deed and removed any limits on it. Corporations and big money interests, both domestic and foreign funded, don’t even have to pretend anymore. People are wound up about the Affordable Care Act, but the Citizens United decision is going to have a far more detrimental and far longer lasting impact on their basic freedoms than any provision in Obamacare and has already reshaped our nation in a manner that bodes unwell for the average citizen. A thousand years hence, when history looks back on the ruins of the great experiment, Citizen’s United will be where scholars draw the line and say “here, right here, was when the republic began to die.”
But then, in a sort of win for the liberals, the Supreme Court struck down automatic life sentences without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders. Again in a five to four decision (Kagan, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor vs Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito), the court ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to impose mandatory life in prison sentences for juveniles convicted of first degree murder. They didn’t say judges couldn’t impose such a sentence, only that they didn’t have to. “We hold that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishment,"' said Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the opinion for the majority.
On the same day the court acknowledged that even juvenile murderers have some basic civil rights, they announced that people of color don’t – at least in Arizona. Sort of. Maybe. Or maybe not. The court struck down three key parts of the Arizona immigration law: 1) the provision making it a crime for an illegal to work or even seek work in Arizona, 2) the provision which authorized state and local police to arrest people without a warrant if the officer felt the person in question might be an illegal, and 3) the provision which would have required
Jews immigrants to register with the government and wear a Star of David on their clothing. The liberal media trumpeted the decision as “Victory for Obama, SCOTUS strikes down key provisions of Arizona Immigration law!” However, conservative outlets phrased it as “Loss for Obama, SCOTUS upholds key provision of Arizona Immigration Law!” because the Court left intact the part of the law that requires police officers to verify the citizenship status of anyone they stop for “legitimate” reasons if they suspect that person might be an illegal. Supporters claim this won’t lead to racial profiling and they’re right, it won’t – because Arizona law enforcement is already profiling people they deem suspicious, you can’t be led to something if you’re already there. Doh.
And then in a decision that flabbergasted military veterans such as yours truly, SCOTUS handed a victory to lying shitbags everywhere by striking down the Stolen Valor Act. Anybody may now legally claim to be a SEAL, an Airborne Ranger, a Medal of Honor recipient, or any other flavor of veteran they like to whatever fraudulent end they desire even if they’ve never served a day in the military, let alone seen combat. I expect that every politician in congress will now suddenly remember that they are a highly decorated war hero instead of the craven recipient of five draft deferments, but I digress. I, like many other veterans, cannot begin to describe how utterly disgusted I am by this blatant ass rape of the First Amendment but I’m not surprised. After all it’s perfectly legal for Fox News to make up whatever nonsense they like and claim that it’s “Fair and Balanced” so it wasn’t any great shock when SCOTUS decided that identity theft is ok, so long as it’s a only a military member’s honor and integrity you’re stealing, you know the only goddamned things that really matter to us. But hey, on the bright side so far as I know, it’s still illegal to pretend to be a judge.
If you’ve been keeping track that’s one and a half for conservatives, one and half for liberals, and one for lying shitbags of either persuasion.
So, yeah, as I said, attempting to guess which way this bizarrely schizophrenic court would rule on the Affordable Care Act wasn’t something I was willing to engage in.
Now that the decision has been handed down, I’ll say quite frankly that I thought that the best the President could hope for would be that at least a few of the more popular provisions of the act would be upheld. Worst case for Obama, of course, would have been for the entire thing to have been struck down. Frankly I was prepared for the later.
And I think today’s ruling vindicates my caution.
Because I don’t think anybody saw this decision coming.
Nearly every prediction by nearly every pompously overinflated self-important pundit, prognosticator, politician, and prominent personality was incorrect. Of course, they’re all busy right now explaining how they didn’t really say what they clearly said and that they totally knew that the law would be upheld (of course, of course) but it’s still unconstitutional and socialist and spawned from Hitler’s ass sweat.
Both FoxNews and CNN were so eager to be the first trumpeting Obama’s supposed failure that they blundered full speed straight into a Dewey Defeats Truman moment like the Titanic plowing full steam into the iceberg. Within seconds of the announcement CNN’s on-screen news ticker blared, “BREAKING NEWS: INDIVIDUAL MANDATE STRUCK DOWN! Supreme Court finds measure unconstitutional.” At the same time Fox News’ ticker was gleefully broadcasting, “SUPREME COURT FINDS HEALTHCARE INIDIVIDUAL MANDATE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.” CNN later apologized and issued a mea culpa. Fox News took a different tack, Fox’s executive vice president issued a statement explaining how they weren’t actually wrong, just reporting the “news” as it broke, so it was really their viewers’ fault for not understanding the nature of the situation, and besides other networks sucked even more, so there – or words to that effect.
Predictably Sarah Palin clenched up her sinewy red, white, and blue butt cheeks and squeezed out a star spangled tweet, “He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.” Because, as I’m sure you know, freedom and liberty can only survive when a significant fraction of the population are uninsured – I think Ben Franklin or John Wayne said that. Or maybe it was Grover Norquist. Question, if freedom dies when a president lies, how is it that freedom managed to survive Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton amongst others of recent note? Hello? Is this thing on? But I digress.
Following Palin’s lead, conservatives took to Twitter to express their outrage, making the SCOTUS ruling the top trending topic within minutes of its issue. In accordance with their stated principle of “America, love it or leave it,” many of them declared their intention to leave for a land where socialist healthcare won’t be forced down their throats. Canada.
Yes, you may go ahead and make the facepalm. I’ll wait.
The usual pundits have designated Chief Justice Roberts as a traitor and enemy of America. Glenn Beck called Roberts a coward (ironically, Beck usually sings Roberts’ praises. No greater wrath than sweaty man-love scorned, I guess). Beck is offering t-shirts for sale on his website with Roberts’ face printed over the word “Coward” – because apparently that’s what you call a guy who stands up to his entire party and ideology. Frankly, I’m not sure that Beck understands what the word actually means, but then I’m not sure Beck understands what a lot of words mean.
When Karl Rove wrote his memoir, Courage and Consequence, he devoted an entire chapter to how he, the only non-lawyer in the room, had the keen intellect and the penetrating insight into human nature to select John Roberts from other, more liberal, candidates and promote him to President George W. Bush for nomination to the bench. Be sure to send Karl and George a thank you note, won’t you?
Louisiana’s Governor, Bobby “Jeff Davis” Jindal, declared rebellion, “We’re not going to start implementing Obamacare. We’re committed to working to elect Governor Romney to repeal Obamacare. Here in Louisiana we have not applied for the grants, we have not accepted many of these dollars, we’re not implementing the exchanges.” Because, really, screw the poor and uninsured – in both categories of which, poor and uninsured, Louisiana leads most of the nation. My own state governor, Sean “Little Sarah” Parnell, here in Alaska – a state with a huge percentage of uninsured – is considering a similar course. So are the other red states. Funny, isn’t it? How quickly those folks who claim to be the only true Americans, who declare their belief in the sacred institution of America, who claim to love the American system best of all, immediately turn their back on it and start talking about rebellion and secession and shooting their neighbors when they don’t get their way?
Within minutes of the announcement, Mitt Romney was on the air, his voice dull and defeated, bitter at the unfairness of it all, sounding for all the world like Tricky Dick declaring that we wouldn’t have Richard Nixon to kick around any more. Mitt proclaimed himself America’s only hope. Elect me, he promised, and my first priority will be to repeal Obamacare – not fix the economy or create jobs or all the other stuff he’s been talking about, no his first priority will be to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else, presumably Romneycare. Oh, the irony, but I digress again. House and Senate Republicans echoed Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, “…the priority right now is to elect a new president and a new senate so this law can be repealed.” Really? That’s the priority? When the bridges fall down, when the poor go hungry, while Colorado burns and the housing market flounders and the jobless prowl the streets of America like emaciated zombies, and hundreds of thousands of shattered veterans wonder if they can really come home again, repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with something that looks pretty much exactly the same after a lengthy and protracted partisan battle is the priority? Really?
As they say on Mythbusters, well there’s your problem.
I was in traffic when the Court’s decision was announced, and you could certainly tell who was who. Liberals were all smiling and waving happily at each other, conservatives were beating their steering wheels and screaming in rage at the radio.
And that’s the real problem, right there.
Conservatives haven’t got a damned thing to rage about. Period. This law, like it or not, was written by the Legislature and passed by a majority of the House and Senate – and conservatives could have gotten involved in the process at any point, instead they acted like spoiled rotten petulant brats and refused. If conservative politicians don’t like the Affordable Care Act, they should have rolled up their sleeves and done their fucking jobs – that’s what they get paid for. If conservative citizens don’t like the Affordable Care Act, they should have demanded that their representatives get involved in the process instead screaming about Nazis and Kenyans and other such idiotic make believe bogymen. The Act was signed into law by the Executive. It was challenged at all levels of the Judicial Branch – all the way up to the Supreme Court. This is how the system works. You don’t get to cherry pick the parts of America that you like and discard the rest. For better or worse, this is now the law of the land. Now it is certainly the right of Conservatives to work towards repeal, but here’s the thing so pay attention: the vast majority of Americans – something approaching more than eighty percent – want most of the things in the Affordable Care Act. They want affordable healthcare. They want to be insured. They want their kids to be able to stay on their coverage until they can stand on their own. They want insurance companies brought to heel and prevented from dropping coverage for arbitrary reasons or condemning them to suffer and die for pre-existing conditions. They just don’t want Obama’s name on it. They’d rather watch their children die of untreated cancer than reform healthcare if Obama gets credit for it. These are the same perverse idiots who decry freeloaders and the lazy shiftless poor getting access to “free” healthcare on the public dime and who constantly talk about forcing the poor and uninsured to take responsibility for themselves, but then start screaming about Nazis when the government passes a law that will make those same people buy their own health insurance. What they really want is for the government to tell everybody else what to do, but not them.
Liberals haven’t got a damned thing to gloat about. Period. Sure President Obama has a right to feel vindicated and democrats have a right to be happy for him, but this law is a huge infected sucking chest wound. It’s a piece of shit. It’s a kluge. It’s a mess. Conservatives are right about that. As it stands it’s not going to make healthcare affordable. It’s going to make a lot of insurance companies unbelievably wealthy – and if you own stock in the insurance industry then you’ve already seen the surge in your portfolio, drinks my friend, are on you – but people who are barely hanging on have every right to be concerned about having to buy insurance or face a penalty on their tax return. It doesn’t matter whether you call it a tax or a fine or whatever, a lot of folks simply cannot afford even twenty bucks more in expenditures a month. Now supposedly there’s going to be financial help for these people, but they don’t know that. The economy is in the shitter, it’s an election year, Europe is teetering on the brink of collapse – people are scared and they’re frightened about the future. Now they have to worry about how they’re going to pay for insurance. Sure it supposed to be affordable, sure the government is supposed to help and where have we heard that before and why should anybody believe it now? The Administration needs to do a hell of a lot better job addressing these concerns and they need to do it right now.
Here’s the rest of it: The Supreme Court, including Justice Roberts, didn’t say the Affordable Healthcare Act was a good law. They didn’t say it was a bad law. Only that it was, mostly, constitutional.
What it is, is a starting point.
The question of its legality has been resolved.
Those opposed to this law protest that the government has taken away their right to choose. Bullshit.
You have choices.
People who don’t have or can’t get medical coverage are the ones who don’t have choices. And those of us who have to pay for their visit to the emergency room every time their kid has a sore throat don’t have choices.
This law gives people choices.
I didn’t say they were great choices, but you didn’t have any good choices to begin with. Sometimes that’s just how life is. But what you need to bear in mind here is this: you, as an American, your shittiest choices are still a hell of a lot better than about what seventy percent of the rest of the world is faced with every single day – maybe you ought to go see for yourself sometime. Be prepared though, unless you’re a complete dick it’ll change how you see things, it sure did for me. Regardless, you have choices. Good or bad, that’s the way it is, stop whining and deal with it.
And we, as a nation? We have two choices.
We can agree that healthcare is a basic human right for all Americans. We can agree that in a country as advanced and as rich and as exceptional as ours, that it is immoral and unethical and goddamned unAmerican to allow forty million of our fellow citizens to go without.
Those are the choices.
If you believe the later option is the correct one, then stop your goddamned raging and bitching and complaining, vote for Ron Paul and let them die. And you can live with the consequences, all of them.
If you’re split between the two choice and you think there ought to be some kind of overhaul but you just can’t stand the thought of liberals getting credit for it, quit bitching and get out there and vote for Mitt Romney, then you can spend the next four years refighting this same exact battle over the same exact ground until you get the same exact thing except you’ll be calling it Romneycare, The Do-Over. All it will cost you is another couple of hundred billion and four more years.
Or if you believe the first option is the correct one without qualification, then stop your goddamned gloating, vote for Barack Obama, and demand that the Affordable Care Act be overhauled until we get it right.
It is long past time to stop the talk of secession and rebellion and treason and cowardice and hatred and all the rest of it. It’s time for our government, all of it, to start living up to its responsibilities. It’s time for citizens, all of us, to stop acting like a brainless mob and start living up to our role in the republic.
The one thing this country cannot afford, monetarily, politically, morally, is yet another vicious divide.
The truth of the matter that there are no winners and no losers in the Supreme Court’s ruling.
It’s simply a starting point, nothing more.
What comes next, good or bad, is up to us.