The situation has gone to hell down in Florida! While the rest of us were busy discovering where Tunisia was on a map and learning about Egyptian politics for the first time since the pharaohs, the courts in Florida were busy initiating the very early stages of a high-level legal fuckaround involving the Obama administration’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: specifically, the part of the law that requires all Americans to purchase (hopefully cheaper-than-before) health insurance by 2014. A Florida judge named Robert Vinson has just ruled the health care bill unconstitutional on the basis of this provision. The Justice Department is sending the case to the 11th Court of Appeals, but either way they rule someone will petition the 11th Court’s ruling. From there this bugger’s got nowhere to go but right on up to the highly conservative US Supreme Court, which is a Big Deal for all of us and a Bad Deal for the Democrats and the Obama administration, which does not have a numerical majority of close friends on the SCOTUS. Yep, now only a matter of a nice pointless pre-SCOTUS show trial, a few months, and lots of wasted money and angry lawyers. Ho ho. God Bless America.
Remember that this is not the beginning of the conservative resistance to the government’s new insurance mandate. Last year after the bill was passed by Congress, a full half of all states in the union, starting with Arizona (which hasn’t been looking so stable itself over the past couple months), filed lawsuits against the federal government for what those states saw as the mandate’s usurpation of their constitutional power as states. But what’s different this time around is that, whereas those states were/are claiming that the specific mandatory-healthcare provision of the act is unconstitutional, Judge Vinson said on Monday that, “Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void."
Going the extra step in attempting to nullify the whole act—particularly while admitting his whole beef is all about one particular provision, that same one everyone’s been bitching about—is really quite rich. All in all, it forms a nice starter for our mundane and useless new Congress to grumble over instead of issues of consequence, which they always avoid, this time around led by an spray-tanned sixty-something chain smoker named John Boehner who has been reported to go to bars in Ohio on the weekends, slam a few margaritas, and then brag to anyone who will listen about how hammered he already is. In addition, this whole health care debate—which has really become Orwellian in how it NEVER, EVER ENDS—makes a nice “appetizer,” I think, for our upcoming shitrain presidential election. Sure to feature the exact same cast of last year’s: Obama, Romney, Palin, and Huckabee—except replace Hillary with Newt Gingrich. Jesus, where are my Xanax?
An extreme fear of unitary government and a deep, abiding faith in federalism has always made this nation unique from the governments who have served as our historical and political peers. I can understand logical, rational, and maybe even calm opposition to a legal provision that, despite being voted for by Democrats and against by Republicans, will probably amount to little more than a huge windfall of net profit for the biggest insurance companies. But this Florida judge has taken the whole situation—both legally and politically—down into the mud by not only attempting to disqualify the requirement to buy health care, but, as a result of that one provision alone, seeking to deem the entire act unconstitutional.
The thing is that the Republicans and arch-conservatives in this country—from the party’s national and congressional leaders to the most ignorant Tea Partiers out on the street—have been calling for this exact action to be taken since March 2010, when the bill was signed into law in the first place. Indeed, it is hard not to note how damned similar the judge’s demand corresponds with the wishes of the most vitriolic, obnoxious, erroneous and superstitious political group of note currently active in the United States. You know who I’m talking about: these Michelle Bachmann- and Sarah Palin-led fools in this country who actually believe Glenn Beck’s on-air hock about how Woodrow Wilson was actually the genitor of the social justice movement in this country, or Bachmann’s just plain factually wrong “discussion” of how the 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite by the USSR (the world’s first and the beginning of the Space Race) caused the economic debt that led to the Soviet Union’s downfall (which, incidentally, occurred in 1991, more than 20 years after the end of the Space Race). In short, 99 percent of the people in this country calling for the same thing this judge in Florida wants are not only absolutely crazy but don’t actually understand the facts of any particular situation they might be focusing their sickly little brains on. And when you’re debating an issue with someone who thinks the issue is the opposite of how it really is, how can you debate them?
I’ll be the first to admit the Obama health care plan has a lot less in it for the citizens and a lot more in it for the health care corporations than I’d like, but it’s certainly nothing worse than U.S. health care pre-Obama—how could it be worse than already being the worst health care in the industrialized world? Every other industrialized western nation gives health care to all its citizens. The mandate may not be what single-payer supporters like me are looking for, but it’s the closest the U.S. is going to get to a common-sense 21st century healthcare system until we have some major corporate reform in this country. A judge defying the voted will of Congress is a major symbolic act, and has been in the past reserved for major issues of conscience. I cannot imagine how this was such an issue for Judge Vinson, but he is a disgrace to an already-disgraced U.S. judicial system. We have wrangled enough over this goddamn healthcare bill. Just let us implement it already.
In the end, this will come to the SCOTUS’s bench at some point in the second half of Obama’s current term, and I imagine they will rule the health care law constitutional. I’m sure it’ll be yet another 5-4 decision for our 9-person court, as deeply polarized as the rest of American politics. We will see the familiar cast of Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia against Sotomayor, Kagan, Breyer, and Ginsburg, with Anthony Kennedy making the major decision. When we say that the Court likes the status quo and to play it safe, after all, we’re really saying that Anthony Kennedy likes it that way; the other eight on the court have their minds made up on all of the cases they hear a good 85 percent of the time before they even set foot on the bench to hear the thing—probably because they take fewer and fewer cases every year, avoiding ones that would make the country look bad, or that don’t fit into the political narrative the corporate interests every political and legal official, elected or appointed, is truly beholden to. It’s the same reason the presidential candidates in this country always tend to agree on most of the major issues. Obama and McCain wouldn’t even discuss single-payer health insurance during the last election—despite it being the model used by virtually all of Europe, a place that, if you check a website I really like called ifitweremyhome.com, has higher life expectancies, lower infant mortality rates, and happier and healthier people than where we live, the Last Remaining Empire in the World. At what a price that title has come.
Until this nonsense gets sorted out all I can recommend is to hunker down, keep a source of news close at hand, and find your own heinous habits to pass the time. I have plenty of my own; you can all count on me to do my part. On a more serious, factual note, as one of the 50 million Americans without health insurance, I can only hope that the health care bill’s planned reductions in the cost of care will make purchasing health care by 2014 economically feasible for me. But I don’t trust anyone who works in a place called Washington, and I know they certainly don’t work for me. There is not enough money in my interests, OUR interests, the interests of the citizenry, for High-Rollers like Humana and TriCare: they will have their way with the money in this country and We, the People, will not. A wise man once told me personally that “There is no such thing as paranoia: your worst fears, in fact, can and will come true at any moment.” When it comes to our health care—indeed, when it comes to any issue where the interests of the people and the interests of the people Supreme Court justices play golf with come into conflict—in the words of W. H. Auden, “we must love one another and die.”*
*(From the poem “September 1, 1939.” Originally “we must love one another or die,” but later in his life Auden changed the one word, preferring the meaning of “love one another and die” better, personally seeing dying as an inevitability rather than a choice as ‘or’ implies.)
About the author: Ian MacIsaac is a staff writer for the Capital City Free Press. He is a history major at Auburn University Montgomery in Montgomery, Alabama, where he serves as co-editor of the school newspaper, the AUMnibus.
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