Point of View Columns

The Stopped Clock Theory Rides Again!

The affirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is as important for what it is not as for what it is. It is certainly a momentous decision as it grudgingly moves the United States into the 21st century when it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens. National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius absolutely upheld one of the cornerstone accomplishments of the Obama Administration and this decision will reverberate through this country. But it is also important to understand what the decision is not.

First of all, it is not a courageous episode in the career of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Roberts is the very real architect behind the Citizens United decision which has so seriously damaged democracy in this country. He may be a lot of things, but don’t get ready to put his story in the updated edition of “Profiles in Courage”.

Conservatives and the right wing of the right wing may be gathering feathers and boiling tar for Justice Roberts, but all that he did was what he said he was going to do. He interpreted the Constitution of the United States as it was written and did not try to engage in contortions to get it to support his own political point of view.

There is no logical or constitutional support for ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. That the right wing cabal of AlitoScaliaThomas, joined this time by Justice Kennedy, sought to overturn this historic legislation is a testament to their blind partisanship and once more reveals the poverty of their jurisprudence.

Justice Roberts did lead the support of the Affordable Care Act and he should be applauded for doing his job. But, by ruling that the Act is supported by the right of the government to tax and not by the commerce clause of the constitution, he has thrown into question over a century of American judicial decisions who have determined that the power of the federal government to address national needs can be based upon that very same commerce clause.

Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare and many other federal programs have been ruled constitutional by reason of the commerce clause. We now have to wonder if battles that have been fought and won so long ago will return to fields of combat because of the poison pill that Justice Roberts inserted into his decision.

The recent Supreme Court decision also did not settle the issue of health care in the United States for all time. While it is true that many initiatives articulated in the Affordable Care Act will continue to move forward – insuring coverage for persons with pre-existing illnesses and allowing parents to continue coverage for their children until the age of 26 are items that come immediately to mind – there should be no doubt that the right wing of the right wing will not go away quietly on this one.

Consider that the Supreme Court decision permits states to opt out of this national program. And, by opting out, they guarantee that millions of Americans, mostly working poor, will either be uninsured or underinsured when it comes to health care. Why the Teapublicans feel that it is so important to institutionalize misery for Americans in the name of patriotism is one of the great mysteries of the 21st century.

Indeed, the battle lines have been drawn for November 6th, and it is clear that electing Mitt Romney will signal the beginning of a titanic battle with no less than the health and welfare of the American people at stake. And, make no mistake about it; the reelection of Barack Obama will not end this battle, as the Teapublicans have stated that their mission is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act no matter how many millions of American lives are saved.

As Election Day grows closer with every sunrise, it would be useful to consider why it is that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is virtually a blood oath for the right wing of the right wing. If the concern is that there are aspect of the Act that should be improved or corrected, there is a legislative process that will permit such reform.

But Speaker of the House John Boehner has promised to pull up the Affordable Care Act “by its roots” and it would seem that the real fault of the Act is that it has originated with the Obama Administration. The most contentious element, the individual mandate, was originally proposed by the highly conservative Heritage Foundation. As the Republican governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney endorsed the individual mandate as an important definition of individual responsibility.

But, because the name “Obama” is associated with the Affordable Care Act, the Teapublicans are willing to sacrifice the health and welfare of the American people.

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