Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It Won't Matter Anyway

In about 12 hours we are going to find out whether the right-wing Supreme Court of the United States is going to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, either the whole mess of it or only the individual mandate clause. It won't matter, not that much anyway.

The currently-sitting Supreme Court is remarkable only for the adherence to ideology of many of its Justices. But regardless of ideology, the Nine are all smart people. They know that if the law is declared unconstitutional, many will decry a judicial coup d'etat. That would be bad for politics. In a functioning democracy, the appearance of fairness is essential to the preservation of the system. If the Supreme Court issued a ruling that according to most impartial constitutional scholars is untenable, how long will it be before even the illusion of fairness is shattered and people rise against the system, which incidentally is working better and better for the rich and powerful? Besides, the Supreme Court has a pretty well-established history of deference toward Congress (or so I hear), and chances that it will pit its judgment so overtly against the will of Congress are slim (but don't underestimate the power of ideology). There is no need for the Court to expose its partisanship so blatantly.  

Since the Citizens United ruling, money has ruled our elections in ways that would have been unthinkable only 2 years ago. Almost invariably, the candidate who has raised the most money has won the election (or the recall election, in the case of Gov. Walker of Wisconsin), and chances are that sooner or later we will again have a fully Republican Congress and a Republican president in the White House. Once that happens, the Republican Party will be able to do its donors' dirty laundry without the need for the Supreme Court to further tarnish its already compromised reputation. 

That's why tomorrow's ruling matters little. Republicans (and too many Democrats) don't care if people are healthy or sick, dead or alive; they only care about protecting the interests of the corporations. So if the Affordable Care Act stands, they will just find a way to make it as costly for individuals as they can. With the added advantage that the law's name will offer perfect cover for the fact that their goal is to gouge every last penny and drop of blood from the people of the USA. And if it is struck down, well, too bad, but they will make lemonade with lemons.
In spite of its name, the Affordable Care Act doesn't guarantee real affordability, only make-believe affordability. As I explained in another post, affordability is not an absolute concept. If you have unlimited discretionary income, everything is affordable. If you live paycheck to paycheck, what percentage of that paycheck should go to "affordable" health care? 5%? 10%? 15%? 

My employer covers about 50% of my medical insurance, so I end up paying only 5% of my salary toward coverage for my wife and myself. But there's a catch: If I decided to quit, or if my employment were terminated, COBRA would only cover me for 18 months at a cost I could not afford. (There is no way I could afford a payment of several hundred dollars a month, in addition to my other bills.) Moreover, since I suffer from two chronic conditions, and need medication and regular doctor visits for each of them, I can't really take the gamble of changing employers because of pre-existing condition clauses. True, the ACA would make denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions unlawful, but it does not set an "affordable" limit on the premium  an insurance company may impose for covering me. In essence, pre-existing conditions are only a thing of the past as far as the letter of the law goes; but the reality is that the spirit of the law makes no provision for affordability of coverage. 

Think about it: Even if the predominantly right-wing court decided to let the law stand, their main constituency (corporations, which have been consistent winners with the Roberts Court) cannot lose. If the law is struck down, things go back to as they were before the bill was signed into law by President Obama, which is bad for common folk. If the law is allowed to stand, insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals win because they get 30 million new customers as the individual mandate becomes the law of the land in 2014, and because there are no meaningful cost controls in the law. And the Supreme Court could appear to have taken no stand in the matter, which is the opposite of what they have done ever since the Bush v Gore ruling in 2000.

As always, it's a win-win for the corporate sponsors of our Republic-in-name-only. What the Supreme Court announces on Thursday won't matter. Not that much anyway.

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