As the Supreme Court laced up its gloves to get in the ring with Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), demonstrators in D.C. are petitioning the Court outside for it to be or not to be. It always seemed strange to me that ACA was intended for 30 million people without health insurance though you had to pay for it either through your employer or an IRS tax on income. Why couldn’t Obama and Congress have opened up Medicare as a single-payer insurance plan for working people and Medicaid for the poor?
Stranger is that if you don’t manage to get healthcare by 2014 by buying it or through your job, you will pay a penalty. That alone could make you sick. What if you’re out of work? What if your employer can’t afford to give you insurance? What if he or she is simply too cheap to do it? Do you quit? Sue? More headaches!
That aside, one of the questions the court debated Monday was whether that penalty should be thought of as a tax. If it does, according to the Washington Post, the “Anti-Injunction Act” may be invoked so the courts have to keep their conservative noses out of how the average citizen is required to pay it.
The 1867 law says, “No suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person.” It was designed to make sure taxes kept flowing to keep the government running and not be disrupted by lawsuits. That is, if it ends up as a tax.
In fact, Supreme Court Practioner Robert A. Long of the Washington law firm Covington & Burling was brought in to present the argument that the courts have to cool their heels and wait. Long also points out that the penalty sure looks like a tax, estimated to bring in up to $6 billion yearly by the end of the decade. The penalty for not buying insurance is based on your income and collected by the IRS. Now you’ve got a stomach ache, too.
Long added Congress could have come up with some way to allow courts authority to decide immediately on the constitutionality of the law, but did not. Early on, the Obama administration barred such a quick decision. But then the administration dropped that argument and told the Supreme Court the “penalty” for failure to secure health insurance is not a “tax” for AIC purposes. Then, what is it?
Whatever it is, it comes with challengers to “invalidate the ACA’s mandate that individuals need to purchase costly insurance” said Michael A. Carvin, representing the National Federation of Independent Businesses and private individuals. These sound like businesses scrooges who don’t want to pay. Again, what if you can’t afford it?
Initially, I understood that the government would then lend poor people the money. Now, that doesn’t seem to be on the table. If they wait to decide, the courts could stay out of it altogether, I hope, I hope. And if there’s no change in the law from now till 2015, the decision of constitutionality could be made then.
There will be a hearty discussion whether states can be forced to expand Medicaid by threatening to cut off federal aid if they don’t comply. I guess an expanded Medicaid could be the way the federal government might help the poor to pay for health insurance.
All in all, these ands, ifs, and buts the court has to deal with set the scenario for a circus of radio stations, political figures, according to truth-out.org, including Michele Bachmann as well as Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Oh boy.
Groups of all kinds joined in the festivities of dissent on Monday. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity organized a “Hands off My Health Care” rally at a park near the court. Backers were bused in from all over. Yessir, it was a festival of ignorance mixed with blind passion, which will do little to clarify the 2,700-page health care law as it now stands.
Truth-out.org reports “More than four in 10 U.S. residents surveyed this month mistakenly think the Supreme Court has already struck down the law or are unsure whether the court has acted. This news came from a Kaiser Family Foundation Report. The talk show hosts wore out the airwaves with support for the law. Some groups are holding daily news conferences featuring doctors, nurses, patients and others to give the pros and cons.
All will be attending the talk-out in the park across the street from the court, providing enough bull to fertilize the lawn for a decade. Some will be there to try to cut Medicare as Democrats hopefully try to protect it in the jamboree debate.
But pushing all this aside, I have a basic problem with giving the Supreme Court the final say on a bill already pushed through Congress and signed by the president. It gives the court way too much power—power the Constitution did not extend to it when it was created. It was supposed to be the least powerful of the three governing bodies, a go-to of last resort to decide unresolved issues of importance.
What’s more, we can all see what a horrendously partisan job the court did on giving corporations personage, i.e., Citizens United, to give as much money as they wanted to various Super PACs to push whatever cause or political candidate they wanted, thereby, at the very least, corrupting the whole election process. So, for that reason alone, the Supreme Court should bow out, or be bowed out by Congress and the president.
My third point, as stated in the opening, is that Obamacare should go. In its compromised place should be a Medicare-expanded single-payer health plan. It would shut out the insurance companies and lobbies better to maximize monies for patients. Also, Medicare can do it most economically because it’s been in operation since 1965. And practice, in this case, does make for perfect, or as near perfect as you can get.
The fourth point is that Mitt Romney then can’t tap dance on over and call it Romneycare as he’s just done with Obamacare. BTW, I’m not the only one who shares this desire to return to the expanded-Medicare-single-payer-plan for all.
Monday night, on the Thom Hartmann show, I heard Congressman Dennis Kucinich endorse the same idea. Even though he thought Obamacare might be a good start, he was hoping that Obamacare would get scrapped, and we could all have a fresh start with single-payer, expanded Medicare. And, moreover, keep the Supreme Court out of making or breaking legislation. Hartmann, who has a brilliant sense of American History, was in full agreement with Kucinich on both issues. This by far extends the court’s delegated powers beyond the founding fathers’ intentions.
For me, Kucinich is probably the most conscionable congressperson I’ve seen in Congress or American politics in a long time. And it’s a pity that he lost his bid for reelection due to the fact that his district was cut into a new set of pieces that gave his adversary the win. But I know that he’s a strong man and a fighter and he will fight his way back. So that’s where I come out as a recipient of Social Security and Medicare. They work. They’re affordable. Coverage can be expanded or contracted.
I think the single-payer approach would go a long way to bringing us up to par with all of the modern European nations. As to those who call a single-payer Medicare health plan socialistic, I would point them to the trillions given away to float the banking system’s bad debts, which gives nothing in return to anyone but those big bonuses to the bankers, including the privately-owned Fed that controls our money supply and interest rates and takes a piece of the action on every buck it spends. That is throwing money out the window as if it were confetti.
Lastly, if the Republicans start regurgitating their austerity program cantata, I would remind them of the nearly $700 billion Pentagon/DOD budget, not to mention its dark ops money stream. And on top of that, remind them of the nearly 1,000 military bases of all sizes that ring the world and are breaking the back of the civilian economy. See my Intrepid Report article, U.S. bases loaded for empire.
It’s about time we stop the wars, the killing and empire-building and use that vast amount of money for the purposes of life, at the very least, to keep every U.S. citizen healthy.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.