yesterday the supreme court decision on obama-care came down.
it didn’t go the way many had hoped or feared it would. based on the questioning, it really seemed like they were poised to strike it down. in fact, in the decision that mostly upheld it, some telling words in the dissenting opinion shows their hand. justices scalia and thomas use language that implies that the law would be struck down. it seems one of the conservative judges totally changed his mind quite late in the game.
because of the nature of the conservative vs liberal dynamic of everything political in our country and the court in specific, it really came down to the decision of justice roberts, who is normally conservative.
justice roberts saw it as a simple tax issue. the government, through obamacare, was imposing a tax on people, plain and simple. if you don’t have health insurance on your own already, you pay more tax. on that basis alone he said that it can stand.
he also, in a nice underhanded way, further gutted the commerce clause of the constitution, thus severely perverting congress’ power to keep business in check. this has been a slow and gradual process since the late 80s, reflected in many supreme court decisions starting with many written by william rehnquist. this is the part of this story that not enough people are talking about and fewer still understand, because they are all so busy being horrified or overjoyed that the decision on the ‘mandate’ seemed to go (or not go) their way.
that the bill was sold to us with pleas of ‘oh no, this is not a tax’ really don’t matter, although many on the right are trying to make that part of it the issue now.
what’s funny about the law and the right’s obsession with it is that it’s set to be the biggest profit the major health insurance companies will ever see. it’s totally for big business. and while they see the idea of the government forcing you to buy it as a big government idea, they see no problem with the government forcing you to buy car insurance if you want to drive. they mostly also see no problem with random mexicans being stopped and searched/interrogated in arizona, either.
they argue that you don’t have to drive, so therefore you don’t have to buy automobile insurance.
well, what is the automobile insurance requirement about? it’s mostly about protecting other people on the road, not you. i’m driving along one day and you come by and clobber me. what’s to be done? auto accidents are common and without insurance they would wreak financial havoc.
meanwhile, the auto insurance industry is like most of our economy. it is controlled tightly by a few companies and the seeming variety of them is just the illusion of freedom of choice. as i’ve said my whole life it seems – burgers or pizza is not freedom.
so, the auto industry is just a few companies who have a stranglehold on that part of the economy. they make money hand over fist. this is good for business and the economy. and all the while it’s good for society that drivers have to have insurance and it’s existence keeps many people from health and financial ruin due to the mistakes, misfortune or carelessness of others.
how is health care any different? whether we have obamacare or not, we all pay for each others health. it really seems much the same as the car insurance dynamic. health insurance should be there not just to ensure the individual can get his needs met, but just as much to protect everyone else from the heavy burden of other people’s misfortunes, which in the end, we all pay for anyway – whether it’s through government programs or the higher cost of health care that spreads around the financial exposure and unpaid bills.
the funny thing about the right/left dynamic in this country is that the left has a hard on for catering to anyone who makes less than $30,000 a year and anyone who disagrees with them must therefore be heartless and cruel. the right thinks that anyone who makes more money ought to keep more of their money because then they will hire more of the poor people who the more wealthy people also happen to think should think should pay more in taxes or at least get less help in the form of entitlements and welfare. oh, and they are for ‘small’ government, except when it comes to moral issues and things like immigration, military and police monitoring to keep us ‘safe’. then they are as big goverment as it gets.
the release of the health care decision also once again demonstrated everything that’s wrong with our media. it was literally a circus outside on the courthouse steps. when the decision was handed down, paid legal experts skimmed it as fast as they could. two of the big networks that almost always get things wrong, cnn and fox, initially incorrectly reported the decision because of the opening language of justice roberts’ opinion. they saw a few sentences and ran with it. they had it all backwards.
the media in the united states is more interested in being first than in being correct. they are more interested in ratings than truth. they are more interested in entertaining than informing. this isn’t new.
now i cut to about… an hour later. the true decision is known. i made a point to listen to kfi radio out of los angeles because i tend to get long form information on certain of the segments regarding breaking news. i heard two interviews. one was a left wing type, the other a right wing hawk.
the ring wing guy was amazingly transparent. he said, without having read the entire decision, that it was wrong. that roberts’ had lost a lot of his conservative credibility and that a grievous error had occurred. i guess when he does read the entire decision, he will do so merely to inform his argument against it. i mean, justice roberts was swayed and argued for something that he is philosophically opposed to, there was probably a good reason for it. but not for this guy.
the left wing guy was cautious, but obviously pleased. he hedged on the idea that it could be repealed if romney was elected, but tried to convey that it was a good thing for all of us, if it ever gets to take effect.
i don’t know that obamacare is such a great thing, but the arguments the left and right guys provided i found neither comforting, plausible or persuasive.
one thing i’d like to mention: once i was sitting my truck in denver, of all places. at this time i was listening to a lot of vintage radio broadcasts. i was listening to jean shepherd’s rado show from WOR in new york. the year was 1960. a commercial came on. it was george meany, who at the time was the president of the afl/cio. this is back when unions had much more sway. it was a long form commercial, where mr meany read a statement. he said something along the lines of ‘we need to elect a president who will balance the budget…..who will respect the rights of working people….and who can reform our faltering health care system’. this was 52 years ago. they still talk about the same issues.
the point is – health care has been acknowledged as quite often a failure in this country long before most of us were born. that some people seem to want to contend that it’s perfect and needs nothing, is baffling. that others fight any measure to approach a reform or a change is downright odd.
health care is screwed up. care costs too much and quality health care eludes many. somewhere along the line we got into this employer-based insurance system which has only made things worse and magnified many of the problems within the system. preventative care is almost totally neglected if you are not well insured. debt related to health care is chiefly responsible for 60 percent of all bankruptcies – more than real estate even. it is a mess.
so why the resistance to reform or do anything about it? because a lot of corporations make a lot of money off the broken system as it is. that’s the only truth in this. if health care was a bank, it would have been reformed or bailed out long ago. but so many interests make so much money off of it, expect real change to come only incrementally and after much, much societal noise and protest.
the idea about obamacare that bothers some is that the government is requiring you to buy something. many argue this is against the ideals of what our country was founded upon, that it is unconstitutional.
the first congress was composed of 20 of the framers of the constitution. they required that ship owners of freight carrying ships had to buy medical insurance for their sailors. this was 1790. this was signed into law by george washington.
in 1792, 17 of the framers of the constitution are still in the congress. 13 vote that all able bodied males must procure firearms. why would this be? to protect themselves against harm. how is this ‘mandate’ different from the health care ‘mandate’?
then in 1798 – congress does it again. they rule that if you are a sailor on an american merchant ship, you had to buy hospital insurance. this one was signed into law by president john adams.
so the argument that the mandate is unconstitutional, or would never have been agreed to by our founding fathers, is largely smoke screen and bluster. first off – this was a long time ago and the world has changed a bit. and secondly, if you are going to hold everything up to a founding fathers framework, you have to know a bit more about your history and not just act on ideological assumptions.
is obamacare a good idea? does the health care system need reforming? these are the types of questions to ask. rather than discussing these questions, most people are just arguing about their political point of view.
i’ve always maintained that medicare works well. let’s take out the part the says ’65 and older’ and just have medicare for everyone, with everybody paying $100-$150 a month. in other countries, with ‘socialized’ medicine, people pay much higher taxes than we do here. they tend to end up with societies that provide much more services than ours and they somehow have a smaller percentage of people on welfare and public assistance programs. but they pay for their health care through taxes.
this is what obamacare approaches, although the insurance company is still in between you and your care, which to me seems downright awful – and they will be taking their profits out.
with a ‘medicare-for-everyone’ plan, it’s a simple payroll deduction for the employed. people who are indigent and cannot pay, we subsidize. this is essentially what we already do with the poor who cannot pay.
why would this plan never come into being? because, though people could opt out and keep their own insurance, most would not. most health insurance companies would go out of business. business and government would never let that happen.
i think as written, obamacare is essentially a bonanza, if not a bailout, for health insurance companies. and i would expect as a result that the average health care bill will actually go up.
congress may try to get rid of obamacare, but the numbers they’d need to get that going are tough. people tend to go right down party lines so the math isn’t hard to do.
the presidential campaign is on and romney has made noise about repealing it, if he is elected. although, the plan is a great deal like the plan he himself instituted in massachusetts when he was the governor there. google the details of it. it’s a nice model.
but i think this noise he’s making about repealing it is just posturing to shore up his base. if elected, romney would never follow through on repealing obamacare. and, if re-elected, a second obama administration would hardly comport itself any differently than romney’s would in all other things. in short, we have no real choice to make. it’s already been made for us.
too many of our choices are made for us. the art in politics is getting us to accept the illusion that they aren’t and to get us to believe in the ideal that we do have a say.
if you are on the right, and you think that this boon for the insurance industry, this health insurance mandate is anti-american and evil, you’ve bought into a rhetoric that ensures you will never move from where you are standing right now.
and if you are on the left, and you think this is the beginning of something good and just and true, you have sadly fallen victim to the highest art in politics – getting you to argue passionately for something that is not in your best interest.