RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Reich writes: "On Monday the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that privately-owned corporations don't have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the corporate owners' religious beliefs."

Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)
Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)


Freedom, Power, and the Conservative Mind

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

03 July 14

 

n Monday the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that privately-owned corporations don’t have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the corporate owners’ religious beliefs.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, the plaintiffs in the case, were always free to practice their religion. The Court bestowed religious freedom on their corporation as well – a leap of logic as absurd as giving corporations freedom of speech. Corporations aren’t people.

The deeper problem is the Court’s obliviousness to the growing imbalance of economic power between corporations and real people. By giving companies the right not offer employees contraceptive services otherwise mandated by law, the Court ignored the rights of employees to receive those services.

(Justice Alito’s suggestion that those services could be provided directly by the federal government is as politically likely as is a single-payer federal health-insurance plan – which presumably would be necessary to supply such contraceptives or any other Obamacare service corporations refuse to offer on religious grounds.)

The same imbalance of power rendered the Court’s decision in “Citizens United,” granting corporations freedom of speech, so perverse. In reality, corporate free speech drowns out the free speech of ordinary people who can’t flood the halls of Congress with campaign contributions.

Freedom is the one value conservatives place above all others, yet time and again their ideal of freedom ignores the growing imbalance of power in our society that’s eroding the freedoms of most people.

This isn’t new. In the early 1930s, the Court trumped New Deal legislation with “freedom of contract” – the presumed right of people to make whatever deals they want unencumbered by federal regulations. Eventually (perhaps influenced by FDR’s threat to expand the Court and pack it with his own appointees) the Court relented.

But the conservative mind has never incorporated economic power into its understanding of freedom. Conservatives still champion “free enterprise” and equate the so-called “free market” with liberty. To them, government “intrusions” on the market threaten freedom.

Yet the “free market” doesn’t exist in nature. There, only the fittest and strongest survive. The “free market” is the product of laws and rules continuously emanating from legislatures, executive departments, and courts. Government doesn’t “intrude” on the free market. It defines and organizes (and often reorganizes) it.

Here’s where the reality of power comes in. It’s one thing if these laws and rules are shaped democratically, reflecting the values and preferences of most people.

But anyone with half a brain can see the growing concentration of income and wealth at the top of America has concentrated political power there as well — generating laws and rules that tilt the playing field ever further in the direction of corporations and the wealthy.

Antitrust laws designed to constrain monopolies have been eviscerated. Competition among Internet service providers, for example, is rapidly disappearing – resulting in higher prices than in any other rich country. Companies are being allowed to prolong patents and trademarks, keeping drug prices higher here than in Canada or Europe.

Tax laws favor capital over labor, giving capital gains a lower rate than ordinary income. The rich get humongous mortgage interest deductions while renters get no deduction at all.

The value of real property (the major asset of the middle class) is taxed annually, but not the value of stocks and bonds (where the rich park most of their wealth).

Bankruptcy laws allow companies to smoothly reorganize, but not college graduates burdened by student loans.

The minimum wage is steadily losing value, while CEO pay is in the stratosphere. Under U.S. law, shareholders have only an “advisory” role in determining what CEOs rake in.

Public goods paid for with tax revenues (public schools, affordable public universities, parks, roads, bridges) are deteriorating, while private goods paid for individually (private schools and colleges, health clubs, security guards, gated community amenities) are burgeoning.

I could go on, but you get the point. The so-called “free market” is not expanding options and opportunities for most people. It’s extending them for the few who are wealthy enough to influence how the market is organized.

Most of us remain “free” in limited sense of not being coerced into purchasing, say, the medications or Internet services that are unnecessarily expensive, or contraceptives they can no longer get under their employer’s insurance plan. We can just go without.

We’re likewise free not to be burdened with years of student debt payments; no one is required to attend college. And we’re free not to rent a place in a neighborhood with lousy schools and pot-holed roads; if we can’t afford better, we’re free to work harder so we can.

But this is a very parched view of freedom.

Conservatives who claim to be on the side of freedom while ignoring the growing imbalance of economic and political power in America are not in fact on the side of freedom. They are on the side of those with the power.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

We are going to return to our original fully-moderated format in the comments section.

The abusive complaints in the comment sections are just too far out of control at this point and have become a significant burden on our staff. As a result, our moderators will review all comments prior to publication. Comments will no longer go live immediately. Please be patient and check back.

To improve your chances of seeing your comment published, avoid confrontational or antagonistic methods of communication. Really that is the problem we are confronting.

We encourage all views. We discourage ad hominem disparagement.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+43 # tali 2014-07-03 11:26
Do Citizen United and Hobby Lobby break the corporate veil? It seems to me that now that the corporation uses the beliefs and abilities of the owners, that veil is now blurred and may no longer exist. Wouldn't that be an interesting result from such outrageous SCOTUS decisions?
 
 
+36 # Barbara K 2014-07-03 13:50
We all have the ultimate power of the Purse. We must boycott every business who goes this route. It is nothing but a way to destroy the ACA. I already am boycotting Hobby Lobby, I can get arts and craft supplies elsewhere. I will then add to the list every company that comes along and wishes to trump my rights. Their rights end where ours begin. I hope that many will follow suit and boycott them as well. Yes, we really do have the power of the purse and we can use it.

..
 
 
-21 # skylinefirepest 2014-07-03 17:45
What you're not taking into account is that Hobby Lobby does not pay for "abortion inducing" contraceptives. So you guys are getting all bent out of shape over not realizing what was really at stake.
 
 
+19 # Rick Levy 2014-07-03 19:30
So the conservative Christian employer gets to be the one to define "abortion inducing"? To those people that would probably include menstruation.
 
 
+7 # jcdav 2014-07-04 06:41
Please enlighten me ...you tossed out a "time out" but neglected to say why we should calm down...so in your HO please state what you think "was really at stake"
Thank you.
 
 
+46 # ericlipps 2014-07-03 11:29
Of course conservatives are "on the side of those with the power." That's practically the definition of conservatism--e xcept that they mean to stack the deck so that only the "right" people, which is to say the right's people, ever actually have power.
 
 
+35 # cellison20 2014-07-03 11:58
One is reminded of the great statement of Anatole France: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges."
 
 
0 # Hey There 2014-07-03 12:41
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBoP3bIMjCI

to view highlight link, right click, then click on go to.
 
 
+34 # CragJensen 2014-07-03 12:24
I don't know if I've ever been employed somewhere where I had more rights than the owner. In fact - the only right I had were the rights the Law and the owner granted me as-well-as the right to get paid. But when the owner of a business has the freedom to take away his/her employees freedoms - freedoms that effect the employee in his/her private life then there arises a great paradox and a seemingly unsolvable problem. In this case - the owner has decided that birth control and abortion are evil. Yet his/her employee - Jane Doe - who is of a different religious persuasion than the owner and who already has more children than she can afford - believes that contraception is not immoral what-so-ever and knows that having another child would diminish the quality of life for her and her whole family. And let's take it a step further - her doctor has told her that if she has another child - she would be putting her life in great jeopardy. And so now the hands of her doctor are tied - he can't prescribe birth control pills. because he would be in violation of the Law. So now the doctor's right to do his/her job is compromised because the owner of Jane's company has certain religious beliefs and hence certain objections to Jane getting the medical care she and her doctor feel she needs. I think this comes down to the Golden Rule - He Who Holds the Gold Rules!
 
 
+33 # Inspired Citizen 2014-07-03 12:24
Reich wrote, "The same imbalance of power rendered the Court’s decision in “Citizens United,” granting corporations freedom of speech, so perverse."

Corporations had the right to speech since 1976, Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc.

That freedom in Citizens United was extended into the political speech and set off a corporate coup that is turning the Republic into a corporate state.

This is going to take a mass movement akin to a non-violent revolution to overturn.
 
 
0 # Hey There 2014-07-03 12:50
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJNrdnfwrLI

To view-highlight link, right click, then left click on go to link
 
 
+1 # Barbara K 2014-07-03 14:00
Cute and oh, so true!

..
 
 
+12 # Allanfearn 2014-07-03 12:34
Stick to and deify a Constitution written by and for slave-owning planters and this is what you get. So does the rest of the world if TTIP passes with ISDS written in. And we can't lobby you about it. What you now have is a new avatar of George IV who doesn't ever stand for election.
 
 
+16 # PaineRad 2014-07-03 12:36
"Yet the “free market” doesn’t exist in nature. There, only the fittest and strongest survive."

But that is not accurate, either. In nature many species survive largely through co-operation. They provide mutual defense as well as warnings of danger.
 
 
+32 # Buddha 2014-07-03 12:41
The issue here is more that so many working class Americans have swallowed the conservative snake oil of Supply Side economics. Time and again, they keep supporting policies that demonstrably hurt themselves economically and enrich the capital class, and they keep electing leaders who push those policies. Some even know that this are doing this, but still elect the GOP who have successfully framed themselves as the exclusive "patriots" and "God's party" and such. On the other hand, the Democratic Party hasn't really presented much of an alternative, most of the mainstream Democratic Party seems to be behind Supply Side approaches as well, Obama certainly is, Hillary as well, heck, even Bubba himself was crowing in an article here on RSN a week or so ago about how he's worked to "incentivize private investors" to come to disadvantaged areas, a Supply-Side blowjob approach if there ever was one, just what WalMart needs, more tax breaks to come into a disadvantaged area and close down all the small businesses already there...
 
 
+18 # reiverpacific 2014-07-03 12:50
Another example -as if any were needed in the face of the many "Civilized" countries around the World, that UNIVERSAL, SINGLE-PAYER, GOVERNMENT ADMINISTERED AND DELIVERED HEALTHCARE is the only solution to abuses from the theologically-c ontrolled SCOTUS which would never be tolerated in other secular nations with UH -in fact, the despised (by the US) theocratic Iran has a better, more universally accessible healthcare system than this country, untrammeled by the ruling Mullahs; source, UNICEF.
Even hugely complex, heavily populated and geographically distributed primarily Muslim except for Bali Indonesia has finally come up with an AC-like plan that fills in the cracks between those who are not poor enough to receive the Social Security plan for the poor and the private insurance enjoyed by the wealthy, called BPJS (Badan Penyelenggara Jaminan Sosial); source; Al Jazeera. When I worked and lived there US Company-insured in fascist dictator Suharto's time, there was nothing at all for the poor or even many of the growing but repressed middle classes, and "Jamus" (Kampung or village medicine men) existed everywhere and we went to one who was an MD but practiced traditional healing also and was excellent, with trips to Australia and Singapore for checkups.
Makes y'all feel good about the state of this seemingly backward-headed nation under both the corrupt Congress and it's SCOTUS support system on the 4th July.
Better watch these fireworks; you might end up in the ER!
 
 
+17 # curmudgeon 2014-07-03 12:54
It is looking more and more like the 3rd Reich won WWII and is now morphing into a 4th Reich.

Compare the values and forces behind the National Socialist Party with the values and forces of the .1% of the United States.
 
 
+25 # jsonix 2014-07-03 12:57
When's the last time you saw a corporation in church? And does this mean that now corporations can have intent? This will open the floodgates of lawsuits to deprive workers of benefits so as to enhance the bottom lines of these corporations. It has already started with another company claiming that this ruling allows it to deny payment for ANY birth control at all. How long until a Christian Scientist owner denies ALL healthcare for their employees, claiming that "Prayer" is the solution? These activist, corrupt judges are soiling the fabric of our Democracy.
 
 
-34 # moafu@yahoo.com 2014-07-03 13:31
Corporations ARE people. The U.S. government approaches corporations as "bodies" living bodies that will pay taxes.

Not humans? Mr. Reich, you know better, and you KNOW what the IRS says about that.
 
 
+4 # bingers 2014-07-06 06:41
Quoting moafu@yahoo.com:
Corporations ARE people. The U.S. government approaches corporations as "bodies" living bodies that will pay taxes.

Not humans? Mr. Reich, you know better, and you KNOW what the IRS says about that.


Corporations ARE people? I'll believe that when Texas executes one. Until then I will claim that anyone, including the Supreme Court justices who makes that claim is a sub-human asshat.
 
 
+16 # bbaldwin2001 2014-07-03 13:33
I hate what Hobby Lobby did as well as the Supreme Court's Decision. It is outrageous !! But, there is one thing ACA can do and that is mandate that birth control be sold over the counter at all stores where birth control pills, etc are sold. The pills are relatively cheap - so put them on the open shelves for age appropriate women to buy.

Again this does not negate what the court did, just a way at pushing these old men back in their place.
 
 
-12 # moafu@yahoo.com 2014-07-03 13:34
Government intrusions into the market, bedroom, professions, education, etc, DO threaten freedom. When the "law" takes from one to give to the other, it is intrusion - theft really. Responsibility of law is to protect the freedom of individuals.

"the responsibility of every patriot is to protect his country from the government"
Thomas Paine
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2014-07-03 15:51
Quoting moafu@yahoo.com:
Government intrusions into the market, bedroom, professions, education, etc, DO threaten freedom. When the "law" takes from one to give to the other, it is intrusion - theft really. Responsibility of law is to protect the freedom of individuals.

"the responsibility of every patriot is to protect his country from the government"
Thomas Paine

Yawwnnn.
"He who believes in nothing will accept anything". Malcolm X
 
 
+14 # jcdav 2014-07-04 06:50
Government intrusions like subsidies to oil, energy, corn etc my,my how our freedom is compromised, by whom? Well just have a look the wealthy and their "people" - the corporations...
 
 
+2 # bingers 2014-07-06 06:44
Quoting moafu@yahoo.com:
Government intrusions into the market, bedroom, professions, education, etc, DO threaten freedom. When the "law" takes from one to give to the other, it is intrusion - theft really. Responsibility of law is to protect the freedom of individuals.

"the responsibility of every patriot is to protect his country from the government"
Thomas Paine


So, since SCOTUS took away the rights of thousands to give then to Mr. Green, you disapprove of the decision? Conservatives fight religiously against individual rights in favor of corporate rights.
 
 
+12 # franpryor 2014-07-03 13:41
If the business owners are Christian Scientists, are they exempt from providing healthcare?
 
 
+11 # janie1893 2014-07-03 14:24
The next step will be the Court ruling that computers are people.
 
 
+22 # giraffee2012 2014-07-03 14:29
What happened to "separation of church and state"? Did those Supremes forget that a religious whatever does not trump "a law"?

NO - they chose to go with the $$ (again and again and again - selling out our constitutional and all rights to the $$)
 
 
+19 # ganymede 2014-07-03 15:53
Robert Reich's language and intensity makes him sound like a modern Thomas Paine. I don't think our country and the world can any longer tolerate our behavior. We've gone off the tracks and the fallout is getting worse and more damaging.

A corrective is needed and the only one I can think of is short term, i.e., the rightwing fools have to be driven out of power, and then we can pressure the supine and ineffective Democrats to start behaving like normal human beings. That means reforming our entire system. As I said, it's short term because, otherwise we will descend into total chaos and violent revolution. In reality, we should be on the forefront of bringing positive change to our planet instead of destroying it.
 
 
-11 # arquebus 2014-07-03 18:37
Reich write another good article. However, he erred....the rich don't get "humongous mortgage interest deductions". A taxpayer can only deduct mortgage interest on the first million dollars of a loan...."humonb ous" mortgages are pretty much non-deductible.
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2014-07-04 08:38
Quoting arquebus:
Reich write another good article. However, he erred....the rich don't get "humongous mortgage interest deductions". A taxpayer can only deduct mortgage interest on the first million dollars of a loan...."humonbous" mortgages are pretty much non-deductible.


'Cept that I would imagine that the Rich don't need mortgages like we of lesser means (think of the outrageous amount of interest attached to a mortgage in the high 100K's or millions) and that they pay cash on the barrelhead for at least their primary mortgages and don't invest in anything including making "charity contributions" without some tool for avoiding taxes or getting a tax deduction.
 
 
+21 # RMDC 2014-07-03 20:12
Reich makes a very good point. What conservatives mean by "freedom" is the survival of the fittest, the right to do whatever one wishes in order to get what one wants. If one has the power to smash others, then he should have the freedom to do it.

Reich and other civilized people see "freedom" as communal agreement of respect and cooperation among people.

These are very stark differnces between the ways conservatives and liberals think. It is hard for me not to think that conservatives are primitives and essentially without any moral sense.
 
 
+7 # kitster 2014-07-04 14:35
what you say on every count is true, herr Robert. why do the simple folk, the truly screwed by the system, still worship at the alter of ted cruz et al? why can't the truth pierce the veil of lies and stupidity? the sun is going down on the amerikan empire and the amerikan boobgeoisie still genuflect at the alter of Ronald regean...who initiated much of our decline. i'm a checkout. i've been able to live the good life. but what kind of amerika will my grand sons inherit? at this point, I'm very depressed.
 
 
+7 # reiverpacific 2014-07-04 15:27
Quoting kitster:
what you say on every count is true, herr Robert. why do the simple folk, the truly screwed by the system, still worship at the alter of ted cruz et al? why can't the truth pierce the veil of lies and stupidity? the sun is going down on the amerikan empire and the amerikan boobgeoisie still genuflect at the alter of Ronald regean...who initiated much of our decline. i'm a checkout. i've been able to live the good life. but what kind of amerika will my grand sons inherit? at this point, I'm very depressed.

Start with the Owner-media and it's hypnotic, somnambulist-in ducing "Panem et Circences" effect on a docile population, who are perfectly content to buy as instructed in the omnipresent commercials -the real "message", on their credit-card financed domicile-domina ting flick'rin' screens, filled with practically content-free, violent or vapid programming, including infotainment passing as News or Public Affairs, so that they are ready to howl "Amer-i-ca! Ditto, ditto; we're #1" like the cyphers at the Nuremberg rallies, then look the other way when their "Homeland" invades and usurps yet another sovereign nation on a trumped-up, patriotically-r ationalized tale of threat, or demonizes "the other" somewhere, including at home- to keep their Corporate/Milit ary/Prison behemoth rolling and the bunting waving in the ever more heavily-pollute d breeze.
Teach y'r kids and grand'uns to QUESTION EVERYTHING, read get active -and that they're not alone!
 
 
+1 # tclose 2014-07-07 09:55
A remarkably eloquent and hard hitting article by Prof. Reich. Hopefully more people will be persuaded by his words of wisdom. All this craziness has to come to an end sometime - hopefully before what used to be the good ol' USA goes down the tube.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN