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Thursday, June 28, 2012

First Thoughts on the Healthcare Ruling


A surprising victory for the Forces of Light and Good.  Romney seemed unable to articulate a response other than to repeat that healthcare repeal will be his first job if he wins the presidency -- that even if the ACA is constitutional that doesn't make it good law.  Notably, Romney did not say that he would replace it with anything.  Presumably he is appealing to that extremely large constituency that wishes we could go back the days when college students were kicked off of their parents' plans, when people could be denied coverage for any pre-existing condition, and insurance companies weren't required to spend any particular portion of the premiums they receive solely on reimbursing health care expenses.

President Obama's statement was dignified in its understatedness.  He outlined - again - what the bill does and does not do (necessary, as I've been seeing a lot of Romney ads that grossly misrepresent the bill) and suggested that everybody should now move on.  It'll be interesting to see if the GOP can do that.

Finally, the big news is that the 5-4 decision upholding the bill was decided by Chief Justice John Roberts, and not by Kennedy.  Indeed, it appears that Kennedy would have ruled that the bill in its entirety was unconstitutional.  So can we now please dispense with calling Kennedy the all-important "centrist swing-vote" on the court?  One every significant 5-4 decision rendered over the last few years, Kennedy reliably comes down on the conservative side of the court.  He gets called a "swing-vote" and a "centrist" because he makes a pretense of hemming and hawing and being open to suggestion, but he always votes with the conservative bloc.  Let's just acknowledge that the Supreme Court as it currently stands is dominated by a reliably conservative five justices:  Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas.

And speaking of Roberts . . . . look, I'm glad he cast the deciding vote to uphold the law, and maybe I'm getting a bit cynical in my old age and I should just count my winnings and shut up.  But it occurred to me to wonder where this decision came from.  (Chris Matthews seems to believe that Roberts simply did not want his name associated with something that killed healthcare reform; the argument that Roberts ruled this way based solely upon considerations of his legacy seems unlikely to me -- he certainly wasn't worried about his Citizens United ruling).

Then I remembered that the one main reason Roberts generally is known for being "conservative" is that he is overwhelmingly pro-business.  I remember I saw an analysis a few months ago about the Court's decisions (sorry, I'm not going to bother to try and track it down again today) that found that the Robert's Court seemed to follow two main rules in its 5-4 decisions:  (i) always back big business, and (ii) always back the federal government over the individual rights of non-rich people.

One of the things that most bothered liberals like me about the Affordable Care Act is that it basically operates by requiring people to purchase money from the same insurance companies that have economically raping the American public for years.  Sure, it's supposed to also regulate those companies more, but the essence of the deal -- the reason Obama thought he could get it through Congress in the first place -- was that in exchange for insuring almost everybody, the insurance companies were going to get a whole lot of new, low-cost customers.

So within about 15 minutes of the decision being reported, I immediately wondered whether this was simply another example of Roberts going along with what Big Business wants.  I mean - hey! - maybe the Teabilly rubes do think requiring everybody to enter into the private market and buy insurance from private companies constitutes "socialism" and so are against the ACA on ideological grounds, but I wonder if Roberts is simply thinking that - in the end - this is going to be good for business.

I know, I know . . . I'm an ingrate.

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