I want to elaborate a little on something that I brought up in the last piece about the oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the "individual mandate," or the requirement that everyone has to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. The Supreme Court has had three days of oral arguments on this - the first on whether or not the penalty was a "tax", second was whether or not the mandate constituted "interstate commerce" and thus was covered by the constitution, and the third having to do with whether or not the individual mandate, if declared unconstitutional, can be severed from the law while the rest stays in effect.
Going into this, a good number of pundits, including reputable legal scholars, had written or spoken that it was clear that the health care issue was one of interstate commerce, because the cost of health care to purchasers of health insurance and health care were impacted by those that don't have insurance, and that crosses state lines. It does seem pretty obvious in a certain way. And the prediction was that the Supremes would approve it. And, they still might.
But interesting, a lot of the reporters and pundits are now scratching their heads and saying that, based on the arguments, that it seems that perhaps the court is ready to find that the mandate is unconstitutional, and that the remedy is to throw out the whole law.
And while, in long run, this will be the best thing because the private insurance based model is not a good model in my opinion, and the problem of health care costs is one that, just like a medical emergency, will have to be dealt with, I'm seeing that this could serve to be a short term embarassment and a political setback for Obama. Afterall, this was supposed to be his biggest accomplishment. And perhaps this is just what some of the justices want, as payback for Obama embarassing them.
I keep coming back to the state of the union address where Obama criticized the Citizen's United decision on campaign financing which opened the uncontrolled spigots of big money into our elections under the guise of free speech. But Obama not only criticized the decision, with the court sitting right in front of him, but he said that it would allow foreign money to get into our election process. This probably has been going on all along in some manner, and probably the Citizen's United decision will open that spigot more, but I just don't see it as the consummate issue here. And, while the decision is horrible, it is bringing the issue of unchecked money in our politics to the forefront, to the point where the country will find a way to address it. But the accusation that the 5 conservative justices are accomodating foreign money is serious - it's not far from accusing them of treason or betraying the country.
Alito was very offended, and sat there and shook his head no as Obama was saying this, and it was obvious that other justices were as well. It was covered by the media at the time, but I don't think that the media really understood that the wound was deep. Now it is personal and professional between Obama and at least some of the court. They aren't going to do anything to help him.
Perhaps Obama should have respected that the supreme court does have equal power to him in many ways - that's our system - and even though he may have, in some technical way, had an arguable point, it wasn't necessary for him to air that particular point in such a visible and high profile way. I think that whoever advised him to make that kind of confrontational statement advised him wrong and didn't think it through. Obama needs the Supreme Court, and it already leaned against him.
It will be interesting when push comes to shove whether or not the justices have the nerve to be so political as to pretty much ignore the facts of the issue in order to come up with a result that could only be described as political and/or personal. Then again, they did issue Bush v. Gore, so they must not worry too much about that. But if you add personal animosity to the formula, it starts to look like there may be 5 justices that might not be above settling a score. Considering how careful Obama is in most everything else, it seems a bit out of political character that he got in their face like that so publicly.
Nevertheless, I too have discomfort over the government requiring me to buy something from a private corporation. But the nation does need to deal with health care. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to lose a lot of sleep if the law gets thrown out, even if it is thrown out in totality. Then it is up to the public to demand a system that works and is constitutional. Seems to me that system is going to be superior in the long run to the private corporation system. That system is too expensive.