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Intro: "The 'Obamacare' debate will test whether the US Supreme Court's five Republican justices are political hacks. After all, a right-wing think tank devised the individual mandate, which was embraced by GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, but it's now anathema because it was passed by a Democratic president."

The justices of the US Supreme Court, 10/08/11. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
The justices of the US Supreme Court, 10/08/11. (photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Are the GOP Justices Political Hacks?

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

26 March 12


oes anyone doubt that if a Republican president had enacted the Affordable Care Act - with its individual mandate devised by the right-wing Heritage Foundation and with Mitt Romney denouncing "free riders" not paying their share of health care costs - the U.S. Supreme Court's Republican majority would be lining up to declare it constitutional?

Indeed, if the Heritage Foundation, which did dream up the individual mandate, were submitting supportive friend-of-the-court briefs - instead of denouncing its own idea - and if Romney were still deriding those "free riders" who palm off the costs for their emergency health care on others, the odds would be that the Court would vote overwhelmingly for the constitutionality of the health reform law.

After all, the Commerce Clause - upon which the Affordable Care Act is based - represents a virtually unlimited authority for Congress to enact laws to regulate interstate commerce, a power which can require individuals and companies to either do something or not do something.

For instance, in a Nov. 8, 2011, legal opinion affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, conservative U.S. Appeals Court senior judge Laurence Silberman recognized this legal reality (even though he might not politically like "Obamacare").

Silberman, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan but a serious constitutional scholar, explained how the law - including its most controversial feature, the individual mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance coverage - fits with the Commerce Clause.

"We look first to the text of the Constitution," Silberman wrote in his opinion. "Article I, § 8, cl. 3, states: 'The Congress shall have Power ... To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.' (Emphasis added by Silberman).

"At the time the Constitution was fashioned, to 'regulate' meant, as it does now, '[t]o adjust by rule or method,' as well as '[t]o direct.' To 'direct,' in turn, included '[t]o prescribe certain measure[s]; to mark out a certain course,' and '[t]o order; to command.'

"In other words, to 'regulate' can mean to require action, and nothing in the definition appears to limit that power only to those already active in relation to an interstate market. Nor was the term 'commerce' limited to only existing commerce. There is therefore no textual support for appellants' argument" that mandating the purchase of health insurance is unconstitutional.

Silberman's last point bears repeating: There is "no textual support" in the Constitution for people challenging the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

So, for "strict constructionists" - as the Republican justices claim to be - it would seem to be a simple case. The Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce; health insurance has a substantial impact on interstate commerce; ergo, a legally enacted congressional statute regulating the sale and purchase of health insurance fits within the Constitution.

However, almost no one expects the bloc of five partisan Republicans to abide by their purported principles of judicial restraint and strict construction when the Affordable Care Act is debated before them this week. The reason for that skepticism is the recent history of these justices making a mockery of their judicial philosophies when they collide with GOP partisan needs.

Hitting Obama

And, even though the individual mandate was initially a conservative Republican idea - an alternative to Democratic plans that would have required employer-supplied insurance or a single-payer system run by the government - the GOP and the conservative movement have now turned against their own concept en masse. Not a single Republican voted for "Obamacare."

Therefore, at least some of the five Republicans - John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy - are expected to find some legal argument that they can use as judicial cover to strike a blow at the Democratic president, Barack Obama.

To do that - in essence to overturn the legal reasoning of Appeals Court Judge Silberman - the GOP justices will have to intuit some unstated right in the Constitution on behalf of Americans who simply don't want to buy health insurance.

Such creative legal reasoning is exactly what the right-wing justices typically condemn. After all, the phrase "strict construction" is supposed to mean following the precise language of the Constitution and not "legislating from the bench." But it is already clear that some of the Republican justices, such as Clarence Thomas whose wife is publicly campaigning against the law, will find whatever excuse is necessary to vote no.

For anyone who thinks that such a suspicion is overly cynical, you should think back on the unprincipled behavior of Justice Scalia, who was a prime mover in the U.S. Supreme Court shutting down a Florida state recount of the presidential vote in 2000 with the explicit intent of protecting George W. Bush's "legitimacy" once the Court decided to hand him the White House.

In Bush v. Gore, Republican partisans on the Court, then including Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (who was considering retirement to care for her ailing husband), assembled a 5-4 majority on the key issue of rejecting the Florida recount standards and preventing them from being fixed.

It didn't seem to matter that the Court's intervention violated many of the supposed principles that the justices claimed to embrace, such as judicial restraint, respect for state privileges and refusal to divine meanings in constitutional provisions not explicitly stated by the Framers.

The five GOP partisans applied the 14th Amendment's requirement of "equal protection" under the law, essentially turning this important post-Civil War principle on its head. After all, the recount was an effort to recover legitimate ballots cast on antiquated voting machines mostly by poor and minority citizens while voters from richer and whiter precincts had their ballots counted in a higher proportion on state-of-the-art equipment.

But the GOP Five didn't mind perverting the 14th Amendment because they were looking toward a political higher cause: an excuse to "elect" Bush and thus give him the power to appoint future federal judges. What really mattered was continued Republican control of the Supreme Court, so the Constitution was treated as a malleable weapon for partisan purposes.

Scalia's Turnabout

Though O'Connor may have had the most pressing concern about Bush's appointment power - so she could leave her seat to another Republican - the hypocrisy was perhaps most striking for Justice Scalia, an advocate for an "originalist" interpretation of the Constitution, i.e. that the courts must follow the original intent of the Founders or those who approved constitutional amendments.

Thus, Scalia has argued that the 14th Amendment could only apply to black males because in 1868, when the amendment was passed, it was intended to grant full citizenship to black males who were recently freed from slavery.

However, the amendment's language is much broader. It states: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

During the 20th Century, courts increasingly interpreted the clear wording to guarantee fairness for women, gays and other people facing legal discrimination. However, Scalia has ridiculed such rulings as violating the "original intent."

"In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don't think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation," Scalia said in an interview with the legal magazine California Lawyer. "So does that mean that we've gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both? Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that."

However, if the "original intent" of the amendment's drafters was so determinative - that the 14th Amendment supposedly was only meant to apply to black men at the end of slavery - it might be safe to assume that the drafters weren't thinking about protecting a white plutocrat like George W. Bush from possibly losing an election in Florida in 2000.

Yet, the 14th Amendment was precisely what Scalia and four other partisan Republicans on the Supreme Court cited to justify shutting down the Florida recount and handing the White House to Bush, despite the fact that he lost the national popular vote and apparently would have come out on the short end of the Florida recount if all legally cast ballots were counted.

In other words, Scalia and other right-wing justices operate with a situational ethic when it comes to "originalism" and "strict construction." If their partisan and ideological interests require the abandoning of those precepts, the principles are unceremoniously dumped overboard.

No Politics?

Of course, after the Court's Bush v. Gore ruling - and Al Gore's gracious-but-pained concession speech the next day - Justice Thomas insisted that politics played "zero" role in the court's decisions. Later, asked whether Thomas's assessment was accurate, then-Chief Justice Rehnquist answered, "Absolutely."

In later comments about the Court's role in the case, Rehnquist seemed unfazed by the inconsistency of the Court's logic. His overriding rationale seemed to be that he viewed Bush's election as good for the country - whether most voters thought so or not.

In a speech on Jan. 7, 2001, Rehnquist said sometimes the U.S. Supreme Court needed to intervene in politics to extricate the nation from a crisis. His remarks were made in the context of the Hayes-Tilden race in 1876, when another popular vote loser, Rutherford B. Hayes, was awarded the presidency after justices participated in a special election commission.

"The political processes of the country had worked, admittedly in a rather unusual way, to avoid a serious crisis," Rehnquist said. Scholars interpreted Rehnquist's remarks as shedding light on his thinking during the Bush v. Gore case as well. [For more details, see's "So Bush Did Steal the White House" or the book, Neck Deep.]

A thankful Bush then used his authority over appointment of federal judges to further stack the Judiciary with right-wing ideologues, including later replacing Chief Justice Rehnquist with John Roberts and Sandra Day O'Connor with Samuel Alito.

So, with the presidential appointment power at stake again in 2012, the current Republican bloc of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy can be expected to be tempted once more with not just legislating from the bench but trying to tilt the political balance to the GOP.

For instance, their 2010 ruling on the Citizens United case - allowing billionaires to pour unlimited money into negative campaign commercials - was viewed as an advantage to Republicans and was condemned by Obama. Now, the same justices have a chance to deliver a body blow to the President who spent enormous political capital pushing through the Affordable Care Act.

Since many Americans still view the Supreme Court as the impartial arbiter of what's legal, they are likely to react to a judgment striking down "Obamacare" as reinforcement of the belief that Obama had wasted a year of the country's time getting the law passed.

Extracting a New Right

The expectation on the Right is that the five GOP justices will extract from the Tenth Amendment some previously unidentified "right" of a citizen not to have to submit to the broad congressional power embedded in the Commerce Clause.

On its face, the Tenth Amendment would seem to be irrelevant to the issue since it simply reserves for the states and individuals "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution." Because the Constitution does grant Congress power to regulate interstate commerce, the five Republicans would have to first conclude that the Commerce Clause does not cover regulation of the health insurance market despite its obvious significance to interstate commerce.

As Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. noted in the U.S. government's court brief, uninsured Americans consumed about $116 billion in health-care services in 2008, meaning that those costs were either paid by health providers or passed on in higher premiums to other consumers, adding up to about $1,000 per family.

Given this undeniable impact on national commerce by uninsured Americans, the only serious legal issue remaining would seem to relate to the novelty of the solution, i.e. the individual mandate. Judge Silberman's ruling also addressed that point, concluding again that the law appeared to fall within constitutional precedents.

"Today, the only recognized limitations are that (1) Congress may not regulate non-economic behavior based solely on an attenuated link to interstate commerce, and (2) Congress may not regulate intrastate economic behavior if its aggregate impact on interstate commerce is negligible," Silberman wrote.

Neither limitation applied to the health-care law, Silberman noted, because medical insurance was clearly an economic activity and surely had sizable interstate implications.

As for the claim that people had a constitutional right not to participate in the purchase of health insurance, Silberman was not persuaded. For instance, he cited a Supreme Court precedent that a farmer who wished to raise wheat for his own consumption could still face federal restrictions because his production (and that of other likeminded farmers) could affect the overall supply of wheat and thus undermine federal policy regarding the wheat market.

Congressional Powers

Silberman also recognized Congress's power to address difficult national problems, like the tens of millions of Americans who lack health insurance but whose eventual use of medical services would inevitably shift billions of dollars in costs onto Americans who must pay higher insurance rates as a result, what courts have described as "substantial effects."

"The shift to the 'substantial effects' doctrine in the early twentieth century recognized the reality that national economic problems are often the result of millions of individuals engaging in behavior that, in isolation, is seemingly unrelated to interstate commerce," Silberman wrote.

"Its very premise is that the magnitude of any one individual's actions is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is whether the national problem Congress has identified is one that substantially affects interstate commerce. …

"It is irrelevant that an indeterminate number of healthy, uninsured persons will never consume health care, and will therefore never affect the interstate market. Broad regulation is an inherent feature of Congress's constitutional authority in this area; to regulate complex, nationwide economic problems is to necessarily deal in generalities.

"Congress reasonably determined that as a class, the uninsured create market failures; thus, the lack of harm attributable to any particular uninsured individual, like their lack of overt participation in a market, is of no consequence."

Silberman wrote that "Congress, which would, in our minds, clearly have the power to impose insurance purchase conditions on persons who appeared at a hospital for medical services - as rather useless as that would be - is merely imposing the mandate in reasonable anticipation of virtually inevitable future transactions in interstate commerce."

He noted that since those challenging the health-care law "cannot find real support for their proposed rule in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent, they emphasize both the novelty of the [individual] mandate and the lack of a limiting principle," i.e. some example of when the government could not require citizens to purchase a specific product.

Silberman acknowledged that "the Supreme Court occasionally has treated a particular legislative device's lack of historical pedigree as evidence that the device may exceed Congress's constitutional bounds," but added that "we are obliged - and this might well be our most important consideration - to presume that acts of Congress are constitutional" absent "a clear showing to the contrary."

Silberman also addressed the core political objection to the health-reform law, its supposed intrusion on individual liberty. He wrote: "That a direct requirement for most Americans to purchase any product or service seems an intrusive exercise of legislative power surely explains why Congress has not used this authority before - but that seems to us a political judgment rather than a recognition of constitutional limitations."

He added: "It certainly is an encroachment on individual liberty, but it is no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race, that gravely ill individuals cannot use a substance their doctors described as the only effective palliative for excruciating pain, or that a farmer cannot grow enough wheat to support his own family.

"The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute, and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems, no matter how local - or seemingly passive - their individual origins."

So, even a very conservative legal scholar examining the Constitution and precedents could not find a convincing argument to overturn "Obamacare" - and that is because the Founders intentionally and broadly empowered Congress to address national economic problems through the Commerce Clause.

Among the principal advocates of the Commerce Clause were James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, and George Washington, who presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. [See's "Madison: Father of the Commerce Clause."]

Partisan Agenda

But it appears that constitutional principles will have less to do with how the Republican partisans on the Supreme Court rule than the perceived need to advance an ideological and political agenda.

These opponents of the health-care law surely will muster some impressive "lawyering" with lots of high-brow references to various articles and clauses - just as they did in the Bush v. Gore ruling. But that will mostly be window-dressing to impress those who still believe in the integrity of this Supreme Court.

Of course, it is still possible that one or more of the Republican partisans will overlook their political loyalty to the GOP and their ideological commitment to the anti-government Right - and agree with Judge Silberman that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

Such a justice might even think back on how the individual mandate began as a right-wing idea and thus refuse to behave as a political hack who simply switches constitutional principles based on whose name is associated with a law.

For instance, here is a Q and A by the magazine, This Week:

"Who first proposed making health insurance compulsory?"

"The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In the late 1980s, when Democrats were pushing to require employers to provide health insurance, the foundation started thinking about ways to achieve universal coverage without placing a heavy burden on business. Its experts soon encountered the 'free rider' problem: In a system where insurers are barred from refusing applicants with pre-existing conditions, many people - especially the young and healthy - would only buy a policy when illness struck.

"But if only sick people bought coverage, insurers would pay out more in doctors' bills than they received in premiums, and quickly go bust. To overcome this death spiral, the Heritage Foundation suggested that every American be required to buy health insurance, a requirement known as the individual mandate.

"Which politicians took up that idea?"

"Many Republicans did in the early 1990s, after President [Bill] Clinton introduced a plan that would have forced companies to cover employees. 'I am for people, individuals - exactly like automobile insurance - having health insurance and being required to have health insurance,' said Newt Gingrich, then House minority whip, in 1993.

"When the Clinton plan collapsed in 1994, talk of the individual mandate died with it. But a decade later, Mitt Romney, then the governor of Massachusetts, resurrected the concept for his state health-care plan, which requires residents to buy health insurance or pay up to $1,212 in annual penalties.

"'It's a Republican way of reforming the market,' Romney said when the law debuted, in 2006. '[To have] people show up [at a hospital] when they get sick, and expect someone else to pay, that's a Democratic approach.'"

During Campaign 2008, Obama opposed the idea of an individual mandate while Hillary Clinton supported it. After taking office, Obama changed his mind because he judged that adopting the Republican approach was the only way to win passage of a health-care bill. He also favored a "public option" as an alternative to private insurance.

However, with every Republican now voting against health reform, Obama had to jettison the "public option" to secure the 60 votes needed in the Senate to stop a GOP filibuster. When the bill was signed into law two years ago, Republican state officials immediately began filing legal challenges and the Right rallied Tea Partiers and other Americans against the law's supposed intrusion on their "liberties."

It quickly became an article of faith on the Right that the law was "unconstitutional." However, the law will likely only be judged so if the five Republican justices do what a similar bloc of GOP justices did in December 2000 - put their political interests ahead of the law.

For more on related topics, see Robert Parry's "Lost History," "Secrecy & Privilege" and "Neck Deep," now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, "Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush," was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, "Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq" and "Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'" are also available there. your social media marketing partner


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-85 # MidwestTom 2012-03-26 21:49
If the rich have the money to play golf, do the Poor have the right to play golf? Or if the rich can afford transportation in nice catrs, do the poor have the right to new cars also? What makes something a right?
+23 # Andrew Hansen 2012-03-26 23:16
Impressive logic and fitting of the moniker assigned in the title of the article.

Rights derive from agreed upon moral principles. Those principles transcend economic status, race, or gender.

Indeed, the tiresome argument you have cited exposes its own fallacy. Exploitation of others to amass wealth abridges the rights others' rights.
+13 # Ralph Averill 2012-03-27 05:24
What makes something a right? Whatever people decide is a right. Many of us believe that in a civilized society, there is no poverty, and everyone has equal access to medical care. Many of us believe that wealth is not measured by money alone. Many of us believe that we are endowed by our creator with the intellectual means to achieve what we believe we can be, as individuals, and as the collective human race; a society. We understand that we move toward our goal in steps, that human history is a series of steps, sometimes forward, sometimes backward. We endeavor to progress toward what we believe is everyone's rights. We call ourselves progressives.
You may disagree. (See "step backward" above.)We believe that is your right.
+37 # szq5777 2012-03-27 06:16
Midwest Tom
Your logic is faulty. You are comparing apples and grapes. You can still live if you don't play golf or drive a BMW. But if you have a heart attack and can't get the emergency care you need simply because you are a poor person you will die! What you are saying is that a poor persons life is worthless! HEALTHCARE IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE JUST FOR THE RICH!
+24 # kyzipster 2012-03-27 06:30
Anybody with a functioning moral compass can see the difference in an instant.

Where would you draw the line? Health insurance companies will not insure the elderly because it's obviously not profitable, that is why Medicare exists. I see little difference with Obamacare. Campaigning on taking Medicare away is political suicide.
+10 # Buddha 2012-03-27 16:36
"Anybody with a functioning moral compass can see the difference in an instant"

Meaning that most Conservatives are going to miss that difference...
+2 # Texas Aggie 2012-03-27 23:25
Too true.
+4 # SouthBrun 2012-03-27 06:32
As usual, your comment is like you trying to play gold using Ping Pong Balls.
+17 # RLF 2012-03-27 06:45
Do the rich have a right to more representation with our government and our courts...The court thinks is speech so more money gets more right to speak. When the courts of the land and the laws of the land become so corrupt as to not be respectable...w atch out...we become Greece.
+20 # Billy Bob 2012-03-27 07:32
When it's a necessity to live. The poor can live without golf. They can't live without health care.
+5 # bugbuster 2012-03-27 10:12
Common sense. You either have it or you don't.
+8 # bugbuster 2012-03-27 10:22
Isn't the issue before the court the individual mandate, not the whole ACA?

Maybe there's a silver lining here. ACA without the mandate would destroy the private health insurance industry.

Meanwhile, even a few ruggedly individualistic Republican voters might still need a little help paying for those heart bypasses and organ transplants, right? So watch their great leaders come up with a brilliant new idea: universal single payer health care.

If anyone still doubts the skills of GOP spinmeisters, stay tuned. I'll be betting even money on it.
+2 # Texas Aggie 2012-03-27 23:28
You're not the first person to suggest that the alternative to Obamacare is single payer. These people who lack any sense of community need to think about what they are asking for.

But the way Obamacare is structured, if the mandate goes, the whole thing goes, so yes, the whole ACA is before the court.
+5 # 4yourinformation 2012-03-27 11:04
If slave owners assumed the right to wealth created by slaves, do the slaves have the right to take back the wealth?
+4 # hiranya_src 2012-03-27 13:29
Your logic is what is known as "Affirming a disjunct," a fallacy really. Owning a car and playing golf are not rights, they are choices contingent upon available resources. On the other hand, the rich nor the poor really have any choice of "not getting sick" or "not expiring."
+2 # Texas Aggie 2012-03-27 23:24
If the Rich have the money to buy clean drinking water, do the Poor have a right to clean drinking water, too? If the Rich have the money to filter the air in their houses or live where the air is clean, should the Poor have the right to breathe uncontaminated air, too? If the Rich can afford wholesome food, should the Poor also have the right to food that isn't full of pathogens and carcinogens? If the Rich can afford safe houses, should the Poor not have to live in shoddy houses with unsafe electrical wiring?
+59 # Robert B 2012-03-26 22:45
The issue is promoting the general welfare, a bedrock American principle that Republicans have made it clear they despise. Unlike the examples mentioned by MidwestTom (golf and nice cars), millions of people having no health care, no way to get it and no way to pay for it would result in a lot of dead bodies in the street. How is that "promoting the general welfare"? And is stepping over them with a shrug "compassionate conservatism"?

This Scrooge-like idea that no one deserves to have anything they can't pay for leads to a sick society. Sick literally, because the nation would be awash in people with diseases who can't get treatment. And sick figuratively, because you can't have a society like that and still call yourself a First World country. That's quite different from everyone having the "right" to a Ferrari, Tom.

The point of taxes is to have a national pool of money to pay for expensive things such as health care -- or for that matter, the military -- which PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE. The Republicans, of course, are against taxes generally (a la Grover Norquist) partly because they really are opposed to promoting the general welfare. Of all the things George W. Bush had to regret, he said that the thing he regretted most was not being able to privatize Social Security.
-33 # 2012-03-26 23:37
You are making an assumption here. The opponents do not see the healthcare law (or social security for that matter) as serving the general welfare. They see it as an expensive straight-jacket that forces them to hand over their hard-earned money to insurance companies for coverage that they were previously unwilling to buy.

Being an older person and remembering quite well when everyone paid for their own health care (or got charity), I have to wonder that anyone believes that a world without healthcare guaranteed by government would result in disease-ridden citizens or people dying in the street. I remember nice doctors making house calls and helping indigent patients for free (while charging his better off patients a bit more perhaps). When I compare that world with my experiences with various European healthcare systems, there is no doubt in my mind that voluntary systems are more humane and probably offer higher quality.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+15 # kyzipster 2012-03-27 12:02
You sound like Ron Paul, romanticizing the days when a person could just write a check for affordable health care or a church might cover costs for poor people. Those days are long gone. A cancer diagnosis can lead to 6 figure medical bills. It now costs $12,000 per year on average to insure a family of 4, if they're fortunate enough to have perfect health. That is why this is defined as a crisis, this rate has doubled over the last decade. Why do you want corporations to take on so much of this burden? I can't think of a bigger drain on economic growth.

Republicans are offering no solutions and this problem is going nowhere if they manage to make 'Obamacare' ineffective. I almost wouldn't mind seeing that happen because voters would be looking to Mitch McConnell for solutions and Republicans have none. They collapse under pressure. However, I know too many people struggling because of this issue and we can't wait any longer. Your neighbors are being bankrupted for getting sick and the government has nothing to do with this free market disaster.
+4 # Texas Aggie 2012-03-27 23:35
You are the one making the assumption. The opponents realize quite well that health care available to everyone promotes the general welfare. Their problem is that they are basically unwilling to pull their share of the load, but want the benefits from other people's sharing.

I also remember the times when you either paid for your health care or managed without. Charity didn't even begin to cover what individuals couldn't pay for. That is the reason that first Social Security and then Medicare came into existence. Charity just wasn't up to the job by a long shot. And while you may not remember people dying from lack of care, I certainly do. You are the people that Robert was talking about.
+52 # reiverpacific 2012-03-26 22:45
"Hacks" is too good an expression for the most corrupt and cynical assembly of rogues to occupy these overly-exalted lifetime offices, at least in my lifetime.
They are openly and clearly corporate shills and in two cases at least, religious zealots in the thrall of Opus Dei who couldn't try a case of non-renewed dog license without seeking dog-shit to throw in the face of the proletariat to their lofty amusement and nepotistic profit.
We live in the age of mediocrity indeed.
+15 # KrazyFromPolitics 2012-03-26 23:59
We will see if they are insensitive enough to begin dismantling improving health care. I have good insurance and am well paid in my profession. It is unconscionable that some would allow other citizens to go without health care based on inability to pay for it. The concept of the commonwealth is what more enlightened societies use to ensure a more harmonious society for all, including those who can pay for anything they want. I would rather live in a society where everyone has an adequate share of the pie, and I am willing to pay for it. From a cynical point of view that, at least, protects my sliver of the pie from those that have none and might want mine. I'm afraid that MidwestTom suffers from an even worse form of cynicism, Marie Antoinette Syndrome, that argues with superficial false comparisons that deserve no more attention than a rhetorical question, while assuming some sort of grandiose divinity of self. Too bad that there are so many pathetic and mean spirited people of his ilk.
-22 # CharlesH2011 2012-03-27 00:29
Parry forgets that when Obama was running in 2008, he exposed the flaw in the "mandate" philosophy- people don't buy health insurance because it is too expensive for what they get. Essentially it is a market failure. Take actions to bring costs down and the system would work better, Obama correctly claimed in 2008.

But when the basket of health care "goodies" that everyone is entitled to becomes politically determined, the cost becomes so high that government compulsion becomes the only way to make the system work.

Pretty soon, we are in the Soviet Union, where the government must force us to do things "for the common good". I would much prefer a single-payer system, where the government is clear and transparent about its role in providing a public service, rather than forcing citizens to buy over-priced products from private companies.

You'd better hope they find this law Unconstitutiona l. If not, there really is no limit to what the Federal government could compel you to do, in the name of "regulating interstate commerce".
+12 # bugbuster 2012-03-27 11:52
"Take actions to bring costs down and the system would work better, Obama correctly claimed in 2008."

Universal single payer health care is the correct solution, but not feasible at this time. ACA is version 1.0 of the solution, not the final cut.

One of the cost stabilizing actions is to even out the risk pool. As with Medicare, the healthy young pay forward for their future needs. Insurers meet the costs of the new rules with these funds. State insurance exchanges set up through ACA enable individuals to get favorable group rates.

Today's "free market" system gives us the highest costs for health care in the developed world, and far from the best results. It is inhumane, costly, and inefficient. ACA is a first pass at turning this steaming pile of dung into a reasonably functioning system.
+6 # reiverpacific 2012-03-27 13:23
I know what you are saying but I think your comparison to the old, dreadfully inefficient and long-dead dictatorship known as the Soviet Union is a bit archaic.
The current, long-standing medical non-system in the US is in it's own bogged-down way archaic, retrogressive, evil, inhuman and could also be described as a dictatorship of sorts which actually dictates who shall live and who shall die!
It is also the laughing-stock of the industrialized world.
Most of these reactionary politicians, including the current and corrupt overly exalted lawyers-with-ro bes-, insurance executives, their lobbyists, shills and propagandized supporters ("Keep government's hands off my medicaid" types) have high-end free (to them) insurance which we are all paying for and cannot in any way relate to the horrors extant at the lower-levels, the bankruptcies, loss and disincentives to small business -and thereby lack of growth, incentive and employment it causes and which is a yoke on the neck of any American taxpayer but the wealthy or highly paid.
Hell I was bankrupted by it and HAD decent" (by US standards anyway) insurance, which is fairly typical.
I'd use many other nations than Soviet Russia as more practical, progressive examples of how it should be, as indeed you hint at when referring to single-payer.
Don't expect anything but the most pro-corporate decision from on high an any case they allegedly "consider".
+20 # seeuingoa 2012-03-27 04:07
I thought that the US Supreme Court
justices were the ultimate guardians
of the Constitution.

How come they are not screaming in
uproar over the NDAA ?

Isn´t intentionally violation of
the Constitution an impeachable act
for these clowns?
+13 # Stephanie Remington 2012-03-27 04:36
These justices proved they were hacks when they created the Citizens United case from one that hadn't even been made by the plaintiffs and then forced their pre-meditated democracidal ruling on us.

But if they reinforce their credentials as hacks on the Health Care law, what does that make Obama for eagerly embracing and promoting the mandate in the first place?

If he’d really gone to bat for single payer and had failed, then pushed for the public option and failed again, his main critics would have been a fringe group who’d hate him no matter what he did.

But he didn’t even try. He shut down virtually all discussion of single payer and shut out its advocates. Then, he worked hard behind the scenes to kill the public option while publicly pretending to support it. The mandate wasn’t even something he was forced into. He chose it without prodding because it represented a huge windfall for the insurance companies – big campaign donors. Yes, those SCOTUS justices are mercenary, but that trait has grown to epidemic proportions in all branches of government.

Every official avenue of representation has essentially been invaded and taken over by corporate body snatchers. If we don't like what we see, we’ve got to abandon false hope in the system. It’s up to us to change it.
+2 # Barbara K 2012-03-27 05:27
Absolutely, for some.
+8 # Giverny 2012-03-27 05:50
When our congress is compensated for life as well as medical benefits that few in this country are able to acquire, why do people ask if Affordable care is a right? It is a moral responsibility. The mandate should have been single payer and if congress was not covered by our generous compensation they might be more open to the whole country having what countries around the world already have.
+7 # RMDC 2012-03-27 05:52
This is a good article. Obama's healthcare bill most resembles Bush's medicare prescription drug bill. They both shovel federal money into private for profit health insurance companies. But that is not the issue. The bill has become a republican or teaparty organizing principle. The right wing is mobilizing its base in opposition to Obama care. How silly.

Personally, I do not care if the Supremes turn down the bill. The US healthcare system is not sustainable as it is. It will collapse of its own corruption in less than a decade, and maybe then it will be totally replaced by an efficient, non-profit universal system. That is the only way to contain costs.

The mood of the world and the US is not in favor of a universal plan right now. The world is being forced into austerity as banks demand more and more transfers of public wealth into their private accounts. So the banking theft will have to be stopped first.
+12 # railroadmike 2012-03-27 06:31
If Obama Care fails this will open the door to abolish SSI.
+21 # dick 2012-03-27 06:31
This Court blatantly, flagrantly, arrogantly committed treason by stealing a Presidential election. Their unanswered in-your-face challenge to our commitment to our democracy exposed our
pathetic passivity. The people of former Soviet Republics would have courageously taken to the streets.Encoura ged by our capitulation, they slammed Corporate Citizenry in our faces.
They have sacrificed any qualification for respect. The are the spear tip of class warfare. If their "let them eat cake" arrogance does not arouse an OCCUPY spring-summer-f all, we deserve what we get, no? They despise & depend upon our weakness, softness, willful ignorance, lack of courage & commitment. Non-violent civil disobedience & economic pressure must be added to electioneering as minimal tools.
+8 # cordleycoit 2012-03-27 07:58
Of course this is the same court which sold the presidency to W Bush does it make sense to expect justice from compromised justices? Don't worry no matter how they rule the insurance companies will get their money's worth of justice.
+11 # ericlipps 2012-03-27 08:09
I can't help notng that though "Justice" Scalia insisted the Court had "gone off in error" in applying the Fourteenth Amendment to women and gays as well as blacks, he has had no trouble with applying it to corporations.
+4 # artful 2012-03-27 08:21
>>Are the GOP Justices Political Hacks?
+11 # humanmancalvin 2012-03-27 09:15
The radical right wingers on the court will try with all gusto & manner of B.S. to twist, bend, & manipulate their positions to overturn this most important law. Remembering how cool Roberts was during his confirmation hearings gives me the heebie-jeebies. The man will lie with grace & a straight face to please his political friends. Clarence Thomas, need I say more? Lump Scalia into the previous comment. Anyone else in RSN land remember when The Supreme Court was respected for its impartial reading of the constitution? There have been some boneheaded decisions in the past but after the insane Citizens United ruling I cannot give the court absolutely any respect or expect any good decision making. Hoping at least 2 justice's retire during President Obama's 2nd term (if we work hard) so that there is a chance of righting (or lefting) the balance of the Christian Taliban currently sitting on this most important bench.
+5 # MindDoc 2012-03-27 13:36
What a difference 19 years makes!
" 'I am for people, individuals - exactly like automobile insurance - having health insurance and being required to have health insurance,' said Newt Gingrich, then House minority whip, in 1993.' "

The alternative-app arent to a Democrat(ic) Presidency - Romney ( "godfather" of 'ObamaCare') - is happy to just 'shake the Etch-a-Sketch' and reset. On cue, Santorum holds *his* Etch-a-Sketch high and spews absolutist 14th century doctrine and promises that *he* is not at all changeable. The winners thus far? Etch-a-Sketch, the toy, SNL & comedy skits.

Enter now the Supremes - ostensibly anchored in precedent and some in "strict" abeyance to the intent of the Constitution. At issue: commerce and insurance. While 'pursuit of life' (health) gets applied to contraception/a bortion politics, never is death by war or lack of medical care mentioned . And as always 'a piece of the action' for insurance giants is a given.

"Only in America" do we intercept the doctor-patient relationship by filling our insurance forms first, being disallowed coverage second, and (always) allocating the 'profit' to insurers & drugs.

Might there not be more viable healthcare delivery models? Here's what a group of 18,000 physicians believes to be the situation, problem, and solution…
-2 # Loupbouc 2012-03-27 16:55
Robert Parry is dead wrong.

Very often, the five "conservative" Justices do harm and the "liberal" four do good.

But in this instance, the conservatives' position is right.

The Obamacare individual mandate is blatantly unconstitutiona l (exceeds, markedly, the limits of Congress's power) and also threatens to impair personal liberty wrongfully and extort, wrongfully, much money from ordinary folk. Worse, Obamacare's existence reflects Obama's sabotaging the single-payer and "public option" plans that would have passed the House and Senate in 2009 had Obama not pressed Harry Reid to stall those plans' coming to a "reconciliation " vote that would have avoided filibuster.

Obamacare's individual mandate gives medical insurers a federal-tax-fin anced guaranty of a HUGE increase of insurance premium profits. Obamacare and Obama are corrupt.

For details of my perspective, see my comments posted at
+5 # reiverpacific 2012-03-27 17:21
By the way, here's a comparison between "various European Healthcare systems". When I first came to this country, I developed a hernia -no insurance at the time- and after getting estimates from three local quacks, concluded that flying back to the UK and having the surgery and recovery time was > HALF the cost, plane fare, living costs and all -and they kept me in for ten full days until they were sure I was functional enough to get around on my own, including some physical therapy.
Ten years later I had another hernia operated on in Lexington KY WITH insurance this time and they declared that it would be covered IF I left the hospital the SAME DAY. So I found myself still groggy from the anesthetic, being carted out of the recovery booth by my ex-wife and a couple of friends, into a car and home to be carted in and helped into bed!
So much for comparisons between European (which country; Spain under Franco?) and US care (or lack thereof); -there IS NONE!
Hell Cuba has the US beat hands -down, as do so many other "inferior" nations, in terms of quality of life indicators. I think we are somewhere between 35th and 42nd depending on where you get y'r studies.
And they they still make house-calls in Europe although less than before. I'm planning to return before I get much older and ever more vulnerable.
+2 # Shenonymous 2012-03-27 20:38
I'm not sure if they are political hacks. Four to five of them are partisan conservatives which handicaps the American people from a fair and objective court. The other four are liberal. Kennedy votes with the liberals about 29% of the time, which means he is a conservative 71% of the time. It seems if the people want to have more fair justice system, they should vote for a liberal executive chief (President) and Congress who would support him.
-3 # CharlesH2011 2012-03-27 20:47
Here is the difference between US and European models:

In the US, most people have (or think they have) access to excellent health care through their employer-paid private plans. (Admittedly, some of this is an illusion, but personal choice, within coverage plans is real).

In a public plan, we would ALL have access to the level of care the government is able to provide, for the average person. For many of us, this "feels like" less care, less choice.

In reality, a US public health care system would become like the US public education system- mediocre, but available to all. The rich would still have access to the best care, just as they have access to the best schools.

The real blow would be to the middle class, who would now have to live with a public system that would tell them what health care they could get, and when and from whom they could get it.
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-03-28 11:01
Quoting CharlesH2011:
Here is the difference between US and European models:
In the US, most people have (or think they have) access to excellent health care through their employer-paid private plans. (Admittedly, some of this is an illusion, but personal choice, within coverage plans is real).
In a public plan, we would ALL have access to the level of care the government is able to provide, for the average person. For many of us, this "feels like" less care, less choice.
In reality, a US public health care system would become like the US public education system- mediocre, but available to all. The rich would still have access to the best care, just as they have access to the best schools.
The real blow would be to the middle class, who would now have to live with a public system that would tell them what health care they could get, and when and from whom they could get it.

So where's your comparison to Europe?
Here's a fact that most Americans don't know.
In the UK and all European countries, anybody can pay for private health by posh private quacks and can also pay for different levels of service, like a private room.
Both my aunt and a fairly conservative friend tried this and cancelled the plans after six months, as they received the same care that they got for free under the NHS.
I do get that care levels may well be compromised by reactionaries in the US, to sabotage any public plan's integrity.
+2 # jerryball 2012-03-28 16:12
If the Supremes rule that making one buy insurance is Unconstitutiona l, does that mean my state mandating that everyone driving cars MUST buy insurance is Unconstitutiona l? Sounds like a very dangerous precedence to me.

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