Jun 28, 2012

Is is Time for Scalia and the Conservatives to Eat Broccoli Now?

In an affirmation of federal power, the SCOTUS upheld the individual mandate and expansion of Medicaid today, but, seriously, this is not a long-term solution for our health insurance and health care delivery problems. The best approach in my opinion still is universal health care paid by the general taxes, with a public option, and measures to control the costs. That's the general principle, the details can be debated--not that they don't matter, they do, but as a society we have to form a consensus that the marketplace shouldn't be the sole arbitrator of who gets to live or die.

The political aspects of this SCOTUS decision are interesting. I think it's good news for the president as he gets his "Obama care" validated by the supreme court. The tea partiers who have argued that the federal policies strangle the states' freedom, lose another one, and the blow came from a conservative court too. Likewise for the conservative states who sued the fed government. It's becoming a settled issue that the fed has the authority to provide for health care, social security, consumer safety, scientific research, immigration policy, national highways, and electrification!

Romney and the conservatives will now campaign against this law and may get some support from their loyal base, though I don't think this will be a pivotal issue that will win extra votes. People who have a strong opinion on Obama care will not change their minds. Much of the public sitting on the fence today will accept this decision, and their ultimate view will be determined when and how this new law will be fully implemented in a few years.

The progressives would have been more motivated had this law been rejected by SCOTUS, though I'm not sure of this either. Many of them do not like the way to get most Americans insured is forcing them into private insurers while there are too many gimmicks on how to pay or how to get exceptions. I  know of some who wanted the mandate part to be thrown out, so, as governor Howard Dean argues, universal health care coverage should be provided by the state/fed via a primarily public pool of insurance. Again, if we don't curtail the rapidly escalating costs of coverage, drugs, and services, there won't be enough money eventually. Maybe that's what some conservatives want, to destroy any public safety net, and then only those who have the money can have benefits. Everything for a price....


SomeGirl said...

The extreme political polarization surrounding the ruling on the affordable care act really overshadows all the reasons this opinion is so important. Major rulings on the power of Congress do not happen everyday. This decision marks a serious benchmark in commerce clause and taxing and spending jurisprudence (and probably the 10th amendment as well). It would be nice to see a discussion of the implications this opinion has on the strength of the federal government, rather than just its impact on the current political climate.

Further, today was a great day for the SCOTUS. Chief Justice Roberts reminded Americans what the real purpose of our country's highest court is. He reminded us that voting along party lines and pushing political agendas has no place on First Street. While Chief Justice Roberts has traditionally voted with his conservative bench mates, on this issue he decided on the law and not the politics. He made abundantly clear that he does not support the affordable care act but, regardless of his personal political views, he found that Congress was within it's power to act. Mere months from what is shaping up to be a close presidential election, Chief Justice Roberts passed up an opportunity to us his power to further political interests. He chose to do his job, to interpret the constitution and to leave the policy decisions to the elected officials, where they belong.

" Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation's elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people form the consequences of their political choices." National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius 567 U.S. _____ (2012).

George said...

How the high court will rule on similar cases in the future with a different makeup (say, a majority of liberals) will not be restrained by this decision or stare decisis.

Of course the justices play politics too. We don't know the bargains they struck to get this ruling, basically upholding the health care reform law. I could see the libs saying, we'll take Roberts' vote now even if he opposes giving too much power to the fed gov on interstate commerce.

You know, all justices read the same briefs and the same constitution but they arrive at different conclusions. Their judicial philosophy, ideology, and political calculations all play a big role. Interpreting, one way or another, is their job. And, of course they make policy judgments! The all become judicial activists when they want.

You say that Roberts decided on the law and not politics. So, what did the others do? And, has Roberts decided on politics before?...

SomeGirl said...

I respectfully disagree with your dismissal of stare decisis. Even the most stubborn of justices have gotten on board with decisions they personally disagreed with under the gun of precedent.

I find it hard to believe that this type of decision would be outwardly overturned in the future. We aren't talking about something like Plessy v. Fergueson or Bowers v. Hardwick. This was a major ruling on T&S - an area of the law that has remained a very broad congressional power throughout history. There is a very consistent body of precedent here.

To say that their own bias and political ideas play no role would be naive and stupid. They are human and it is impossible to take those things completely out of the equation. But is their job, as much as possible, to be self aware and account for those things.

I do not meant to say that Chief Justice Roberts has always behaved has the perfect justice. Merely that on this issue he made the decision to protect the integrity of the court.

As for the other justices Kagan and Breyer ( I believe) voted to strike down the commerce clause argument. This further bolsters the position that it isn't always about party lines.

Your bleak impression of our judicial system saddens me, George.

George said...

In the 1980s SCOTUS upheld the Texas sodomy laws but changed its "mind" in the 1990s.
Yes, stare decisis is taken seriously but not written in stone.

Nor, do the justices follow party lines; they follow more their judicial philosophy, though they do take into consideration the political realities of the country. The FDR-SCOTUS relationship and the rulings are a good example of this.

I don't have a bleak impression of the US judicial system, but I'm trying to accurately understand what's going on and identify its patterns and problems.

I'm glad to see that you maintain some idealism and positive attitude, and I'm sure you'll bring your enthousiasm into whatever endeavor you go into.

It's nice to have that, especially when reality delivers crushing blows. I agree, it's good to have a beacon of integrity and goodness to follow during the darkest hours of utter frustration.

Be well.

SomeGirl said...

Law school hasn't totally crushed my spirits yet. Plus I had a wonderful undergraduate professor who helped teach me how to think positively and progressively. Happy friday!