Last week, lots of things were supposed to happen that didn’t, and plenty of things that shouldn’t of happened, did (like the GOP making a mockery of Congress’ power to levy charges against the Executive Branch for political gain… again). There was no update here on MaRS (my new shorthand for “Mugsy’s Rap Sheet”. Like it?) the day after Father’s Day, and with rumors that the Supreme Court might finally release some early rulings on The Affordable Care Act (aka: “ObamaCare”), I had hoped to post an update following that ruling. Now they are telling us to expect the verdict sometime this week. So, unwilling to wait any longer, I’ve got to ask: “If the Supreme Court rules The ACA ‘unconstitutional’, seeing how it was originally a Republican idea cooked up by the hard-right ‘Heritage Foundation’, does that mean that a Conservative solution for Health Care Reform was in fact ‘unconstitutional’?” And more to the point, will anyone note that fact?
It was back in the early 1990′s when newly elected President Clinton made health care reform the primary focus of his new administration. Sadly, Clinton aimed too high, suggesting a Single Payer system similar to Medicare, where every American was provided with a government-issued insurance card. The system would be paid for with taxes (like the European system) where all you’d have to do was show your card at any (still private) hospital to receive care. The Right… as you might well imagine… went nuts. Back then, (in those pre-Fox days) the initial outrage wasn’t over any “government takeover of health care” (though that did come later). Instead, it was “the threat to privacy” that came from placing all of your medical records on a single “stealable” ID card. That led to a pseudo “1984-esque” outrage over a “National ID System”. Yes, you read that right, Republicans went apoplectic in 1993 over the idea that every American might be forced to carry a “National ID Card” (ala Nazi Germany. Funny how often The Right goes there). If you’re not shaking your head right now, you’re probably a Republican that doesn’t get the hypocrisy of recent “Voter ID” laws being passed in a swath of Southern states. But eventually, the insurance companies lobbied Republicans into wailing like howler-monkeys over a program that threatened to put them out of business.
In order to counter President Clinton’s push for Health care reform and soaring insurance costs (that were trite in comparison to today), the uber-Conservative “Heritage Foundation” came up with a counter-proposal: The Private Insurance Mandate. A plan that forced every American to “purchase private insurance” from the existing privatized health insurance system with the goal of cutting off the free-loaders, and force people to “take personal responsibility for themselves” (something Republicans THINK they are very big on) by purchasing health insurance. Their “Free Market Solution” belief was that by insuring everyone, the price of insurance for all would drop. Then later, during the Bush-II Administration, when it was pointed out how many insurance companies have near monopolies in most states, the Right introduced the idea of allowing people to purchase insurance “across state lines” to a state with lower rates. And that’s how “interstate commerce” (and by extension the Federal government) was dragged into the debate.
When the Obama Administration adopted the GOP idea for “cross border health insurance exchanges”, that instantly became subject to the “Interstate Commerce Clause” that dictates that the Federal Government MUST (not “should”) regulate consumer activity between states. Why? Because every state has its own insurance regulatory system. They set rules on the insurance companies for what they can and cannot refuse to cover and how much they can charge for that coverage. Now let’s say you start allowing anyone to buy insurance from companies based on the state with the most lax coverage laws in exchange for low rates (eg: buying hurricane insurance from North Dakota). Suddenly, states no longer have any power to manage insurance coverage for their state. And when things go bad, who gets stuck holding the bag? They do.
The ONLY solution is an “Insurance Exchange” where every company must agree to a set of Federal Insurance guidelines in order to be included (ie: “Pay-to-Play”). If everyone does not agree to basic minimum standards (set forth by the states), then you can’t join the Exchange (and thus sell across state lines). Competition between companies included in the Exchange is supposed to keep rates down (take that for what it’s worth.)
And there it is. The ENTIRE concept of “ObamaCare”… from the “mandate” to “cross border exchanges”… all Conservative Republican ideas that they think are “Socialism of the highest order” today, and rendering President Obama “Karl Marx incarnate” for proposing them.
During “Fox news Sunday” yesterday, perennial blowhard Bret Hume said that he believed that “if the Supreme Court strikes down ObamaCare, they will have levied a catastrophic blow to the signature achievement of the Obama Administration.”
I beg to differ. I believe a negative ruling by the Supreme Court would be an undeniable rebuke of Conservative policies in action. And should the Court strike down the mandate, will anyone acknowledge that this was initially a REPUBLICAN idea the President patterned his bill after (because he thought it would have an easier time moving through Congress)? Do fish ride bicycles?
In my “End-of-Year Predictions” last December, I predicted the Supreme Court will uphold “ObamaCare”. No question the Federal Government has the authority to regulate “interstate commerce” as a result of these Exchanges. The question then becomes whether or not The GOP’s mandate idea was Constitutional. Personally, I don’t understand the distinction that States can pass a mandate, but the Federal Government can not. To me, it’s a distinction w/o a difference. The Federal Government forces states to do all sorts of things… like “threatening to deny highway funds if they don’t set the speed limit to 55″, or threatening to withhold Education funding if students don’t pass a minimum basic skills test (see: “No Child Left Behind”… another mandate… and an unfunded mandate at that). I see no reason the Federal government couldn’t simply force every state to “mandate health insurance” the same way. But why go through all that rigamarole when we can just pass a single Federal Mandate?
Okay, okay, just for arguments sake, let’s consider whether of not a Federal mandate is even Constitutional, or whether the “rigamarole” method is the only way to do this legally? Is a Federal Mandate to purchase a product even legal?
First, unlike “eating broccoli” or driving a car, every person participates in the health care market. Even people in perfect health. Eventually, everyone is going to need a doctor. No one lives forever. If YOU don’t have insurance, that drives MY rates UP. YOUR inaction affects ME. How? Because when you get into an accident, suffer a heart attack, or get shot in a drive-by shooting, you end up in the hospital. And if you can’t afford to pay, the burden falls on the hospital, forcing them to charge everyone else more to cover those loses. So it’s not simply YOU taking a risk by going without insurance, you’re impinging upon ME by making me pay more to cover YOUR irresponsible ass.
Second, any male over the age of 18 is familiar with having to register for “Selective Service”, the Federal program that started back when we still had a Draft (yes, it’s still required in case you were wondering), as a way of helping the Federal Government keep track of how many military-aged men there are in the United States. While the military stopped drafting people during the Vietnam War, the Draft itself was not outlawed by Congress and can be reinstated at any time. How is a government mandate conscripting you into military service where you might pay “the ultimate price” any less of a burden than forcing every adult to buy health insurance?
Third, anyone that tells you this Mandate is “unprecedented”, doesn’t know what the Fudge they’re talking about. There are several examples throughout history of the Federal Government mandating people purchase something in the name of the Public Good:
In 1790, the very first Congress passed a mandate (embedded in another law) that ship owners buy medical insurance for their seamen. Why? Because our fledgeling nation was critically dependent upon International Commerce for most of our goods. And we couldn’t have scores of merchant mariners out sick for long periods of time. That Congress included 20 framers of the Constitution and was signed by another framer: President George Washington.
Two years later, President Washington signed “The Second Militia Act of 1792″, which mandated every American purchase a firearm and ammo in defense of this country against the British. We had no Standing Army in those days, so the duty of defending the nation fell upon the citizenry. It’s the reason for that whole “militia” clause in the Second Amendment that Republicans love to overlook, and why banners at every NRA meeting heralding the Second Amendment always start with “dot-dot-dot” (ie: “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”) I think George Washington knew a thing or two about what The Founding Fathers believed was within the rights of the Federal Government.
Participation in Social Security is also a Federal mandate that you pay into whether you live long enough to collect on those benefits or not. Whether you are wealthy enough upon retirement that you don’t need it. Because baring an early demise, you WILL live long enough to collect it. It’s a safety net that ensures our disabled and elderly won’t find themselves out on the street when they can’t work anymore. And that benefits ALL of society, not just those who live to collect. The power of the Federal government to mandate every person into participating in the system was upheld in a 1934 Supreme Court ruling on the Agricultural Adjustment Act that stated:
“…the power of Congress to authorize expenditure of public moneys for public purposes is not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution.”
Translation: When it comes to the public good, Congress can do most anything with public funds and is NOT limited to just the explicit wording of the Constitution.
(Note: The June 22 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show opened with an excellent, well resourced piece on Republican hypocrisy over the Individual Mandate.)
(UPDATE: I’m reminded by this video that… if the Court overturns “ObamaCare”, then who does the GOP look too for an alternative? The Father of “ObamaCare”, Mitt Romney?)
Of course, all of this could of been avoided if we had just ignored the “Republican” solution and focused on the Democratic solution instead: The Public Option.
POSTSCRIPT: Other topics I hope to cover this week:
- A member of The Muslim Brotherhood was elected as Egypt’s first Democratically elected president. Remember all the Righties claiming The Arab Spring was Bush’s “Democracy flouring across the Middle-East” as a result of “toppling Saddam Hussein”? Suddenly, we don’t hear many Republicans rushing to take credit for the rise of Islamic law in Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as a result of all this instability. The “Arab Spring” has more in common with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement than Bush’s invasion of Iraq in that the powerless are kicking out the Establishment and supplanting them with administrators they can relate to on a personal level (I’d also note that “The Muslim Brotherhood” members… while devout… are also anti-war isolationists. Good for the U.S. and Israel, bad for women and Christians inside Egypt.
- “Fast & Furious”: The Right is on another witch-hunt, demanding the Attorney General turn over documents pertaining to an ongoing investigation, something he is prohibited by law… a law passed by Republicans under Bush… to turn over. So when President Obama declares “Executive Privilege” to protect his AG (a member of “the Executive Branch”), the GOP led kangaroo court holds Holder in contempt for not revealing information that is obtainable elsewhere (such as calling up one of the members of Bush’s justice department). It’s election-year political theater at its most transparent. I Tweeted former Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying: “NOW do you understand why so many Dems were outraged when you took prosecution of the Bushies off the table?” The Right convinces everyone that if they put Democrats in charge, they will just engage in a parade of partisan witch-hunts, then when THEY get elected, they go on partisan political witch-hunts in the middle of an election year because THEY KNOW no one will ever call them out on their hypocrisy. Democrats promise not to hold hearings investigating Republicans even when they CLEARLY have every right to do so: like cherry-picked intelligence and those phantom “WMDs” they were so positive were there that were used as justification for war. There was also Gonzo’s firing of nine U.S. Attorneys reportedly because they refused to prosecute Democrats for supposedly being “lax on Voter Fraud” in an election year. And just WHO leaked the identity of Valery Plame?)
- The only reason we even know “Fast & Furious” was involved in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol officer is because a tracked gun was found at the location where he was killed. Had we not recovered that weapon, we might never have known of the connection. That begs the question, “How do we KNOW no ‘walked’ gun under the Bush Administration’s “Gun Runner” or “Wide Receiver” programs did not lead to the death(s) of any Americans? Simple answer is we don’t. So any claims that this is an investigation because of “Recklessness on the part of the Obama Justice Department” exclusively is a canard.
- Another issue I’d like to address in the near future: a slew of reports this past week of oil speculators manipulating the price of oil based on reasons that have NOTHING to do with Supply & Demand. So the next time some RW moron complains about obstruction of the Keystone XL Pipeline or intones “Drill baby, drill”, you can point to the REAL cause of high oil/gas prices: Wall Street.
I still have a bumper sticker in the rear window of my car the reads “Support Our Troops. Impeach Bush/Cheney”. When people “point out” to me that Bush/Cheney are no longer in office, *I* like to “point out” that “impeachment” is simply a Criminal hearing that takes place in the House of Representatives. You don’t have to still be in office to be impeached.
|Please REGISTER to be notified by e-mail every time this Blog is updated! Firefox/IE7+ users can use RSS for a browser link that lists the latest posts!|