One of the crime scenes

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Big Insurance
Wins Big!
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

On the last day of the current session of the Supreme Court of the United States, the robed legal contortionists of the Court issued their long awaited ruling on what has become known as Obamacare. President Obama, in spite of the disappointment he has been to progressives everywhere, appeared to have his entire presidential legacy on the line, depending on how the institution that SELECTED George Bush the Lesser to be Preznit, decided on the attack on his landmark Affordable Care Act by twenty six states where Republican Governors and Legislatures rule the roost.

America the beautiful, supposedly the richest country on earth has yet to figure out how to have a health system that serves its people. The poor have no access to reasonable preventative care that every other civilized and industrialized country in Europe and Canada consider a basic responsibility of government that shouldn't be rationed out based on the ability to pay. The middle class, or what little is left of it is even more ill served as an accident or serious illness will likely lead to bankruptcy at the least or death at worst. Even those who are considered "insured," once in need of a doctor's assistance may have to pay thousands out of pocket (deductible), assuming the herd of lawyers working for their insurer are unable to find an excuse to terminate their coverage due to "pre-existing" conditions that theY never even knew existed. This is after years of paying $400 - $1,000 per month for a family making a median income. The wife of Mittens Romney's dressage horse has better health care than the average American and poor Mitt can even claim a $77,000 dollar tax deduction for the animal's care and feeding.

Even though all we will hear in the next days and week about the split decision by the increasingly discredited and conservative dominated activist court about who lost and who won, the truth is Americans who aren't in the one percent lost and Big Insurance, that eats up 40% of every health care dollar to pay their $10,000,000 salaried CEO's won.

Congress critters and Senators in America have platinum plated health care, paid for by the government taxpayers, yet the plutocracy that has spent billions to buy a government that works for them has managed to convince many Americans that for them to divert tax dollars away from bombing brown people anywhere in the world to support their own health care is socialism, and that is a BAD, BAD, word!

Though in the simplest horse race sense of the issue (the only way the American media portrays issues) this decision is seen to be a victory for Obama, and Romney really doesn't care, because he has promised to repeal the entire bill before his first morning coffed (oops, Mittens ain't supposed to drink coffee), it is much more complicated and sinister than that. In early analysis, Slate has this to say about the decision.
There were two battles being fought in the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice John Roberts—and Justice Anthony Kennedy—delivered victory to the right in the one that mattered.

Yes, Roberts voted to uphold the individual mandate, joining the court's liberal wing to give President Obama a 5-4 victory on his signature piece of legislation. Right-wing partisans are crying treason; left-wing partisans saw their predictions of a bitter, party-line defeat undone.

But the health care law was, ultimately, a pretext. This was a test case for the long-standing—but previously fringe—campaign to rewrite Congress' regulatory powers under the Commerce Clause.

This is why the challenge to the ACA, and its progress through the courts, came as a surprise to Democrats and to mainstream constitutional scholars: Three years ago, there was no serious doubt that Congress had the power to impose the individual mandate.

A Bloomberg story last week nicely captured the stakes: "Obama Health Law Seen Valid, Scholars Expect Rejection":

The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years.

Only eight of them predicted the court would do so.

The scholars expected to see the court gut existing Commerce Clause precedent and overturn the individual mandate in a partisan decision: Five Republican-appointed justices voting to rewrite doctrine and reject Obamacare; four Democratic-appointed justices dissenting.

Roberts was smarter than that. By ruling that the individual mandate was permissible as a tax, he joined the Democratic appointees to uphold the law—while joining the Republican wing to gut the Commerce Clause (and push back against the necessary-and-proper clause as well). Here's the Chief Justice's opinion (italics in original):

Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.”

The business about "new and potentially vast" authority is a fig leaf. This is a substantial rollback of Congress' regulatory powers, and the chief justice knows it. It is what Roberts has been pursuing ever since he signed up with the Federalist Society. In 2005, Sen. Barack Obama spoke in opposition to Roberts' nomination, saying he did not trust his political philosophy on tough questions such as "whether the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce." Today, Roberts did what Obama predicted he would do.

Roberts' genius was in pushing this health care decision through without attaching it to the coattails of an ugly, narrow partisan victory. Obama wins on policy, this time. And Roberts rewrites Congress' power to regulate, opening the door for countless future challenges. In the long term, supporters of curtailing the federal government should be glad to have made that trade.
Also lost in the din of who won and who lost is the fact that the court severely weakened the provisions dealing with the extension of medicaid, basically telling the states, states like Texas, that they can refuse to extend medicaid's eligibility without losing medicaid funds, thus leaving citizens of Republican run states without the coverage which was included in the now altered law.

This morning when I heard briefly that the court had struck down the "Individual Mandate" but otherwise had affirmed the idea of "Obamacare," I was pleased because I thought that without healthy young people having to be in the plan, the insurance companies would cry foul, and this would all lead to a renewed hue and cry for the only real solution, a single payer system, like we have in Canada and is in effect in most of Western Europe. But as I study the decision, and read opinions about what it means, I'm starting to think that just like everything that the not so Supreme Court has decided since Reagan and the Bushes managed to stack the court with ideologues, only the one percenters and the Corporate Interests who own the government of the United States have chalked up yet another victory.

Maybe we, in the 99%, can take comfort in the fact that the corporate greed bags, who store all their money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, and only spend a bit here and there on slave labor in Mexico and China can't steal very much more from us, BECAUSE GODDAMN IT, WE'RE DAMN NEAR OUT OF MONEY, THE GREEDBAGS DAMN NEAR HAVE IT ALL, ALREADY. I know it is difficult for most Canadians to even comprehend the total irrationality of America's decades old battle against any kind of civilized health care, and hard to even take it seriously. That is because we don't have friends and relatives who either died, or at the least lost their homes and wound up on the street and then maybe dead soon after, because they were unfortunate enough to get hurt in an accident or develop a serious disease. I have many friends and relatives in the failing nation to the south, and they don't DARE GET ILL, and preventative medicine? What the hell is that?


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