Today the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act.  Here's why it's a good thing.

SCOTUS is legitimate again

There's an overwhelming feeling among lawyers, and anyone else paying attention, that judges nowadays only vote according to their political bias.  In this case, it was never really about whether health care reform is a good thing; the ACA is the same exact plan proposed by Republicans in 1994.  It was always about denying a victory to your political opponent.  Judges aren't supposed to rule based on that, but everyone expected them to.  I remember the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, and I remember seeing a federal judge literally spitting with anger as he said he would never respect another decision from that court.

The real damage of Bush v. Gore wasn't 8 years of Bush, two massive unfunded wars, and a ruined economy.  Well okay, it was, but it also did lasting damage to the Supreme Court.  In this country we have a principle that judges are unbiased and decide cases on the facts.  And yet, in Bush v. Gore, every single justice voted based on their party affiliation.  Ever since then, the expectation has been that every other judge would do the same.  Presidential elections are now about who will get to appoint the next crop of federal judges, because a president's ability to change the judiciary is his real lasting legacy.  Nobody expected this decision to be any different.

Instead, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a conservative Republican appointed by George W. Bush, wrote a majority opinion based on law and constitutional principles, not politics.  He upheld a law that had been passed by Congress and signed by the President, because he honestly believed Congress was properly using their Constitutional powers.  If you're curious, here's the full decision:

(And if you're not curious, then please spare me your fist shaking.  I don't mind you being angry, as long as you're not stupid.)


It's Actually A Good Thing

Obama's biggest mistake was that he never explained to people all the great stuff he did.  Credit reform, giving people jobs, all these stories got swept under the rug.  In his first couple years in office, Obama had some remarkable achievements, things that have directly benefitted millions of Americans, but none of it gets talked about.  The Affordable Care Act is perhaps the biggest.  Here's a brief run-down of how the ACA will improve your life:

  • Insurance companies can't deny you coverage for a preexisting condition.
  • Your insurance can't drop your coverage just because you get sick.
  • Your insurance can't stop paying just because you have an expensive illness.
  • Children are covered under their parents' plans until they're 26.
  • Increases competition between private insurance companies, so you can choose better care.  (Since when was capitalism un-American?)
  • Better preventive care.
  • Your insurance can't raise your rates dramatically.
  • Death panels.  (Just kidding.  But your doctor will be encouraged to talk to you about your DNR/DNI wishes.  If you haven't had that conversation yet, you should.)
  • If you already have health insurance, you get all this on your current plan, you don't have to do a thing.  If you don't already have health insurance, congratulations.  There are new plans to make it more affordable.

For more information:

Is any of this a surprise to you?  They didn't talk about this on Fox News, did they.  And Mitt Romney certainly hasn't mentioned it (even though he did the same exact thing in his own state).  If this plan is so great, then you should ask yourself why the Republicans hate it so much.


GOP Got Nuthin'

Romney grabbed the spotlight this morning, of course, with a big  banner saying "Repeal and Replace."  What a joke - as if he has any intention of replacing the ACA with something better.  The House Republicans were more honest: they've scheduled a vote to repeal, but haven't breathed a word about replacing it with anything.  Never mind the fact that it takes two houses of Congress to repeal a law; this isn't something that the House, or a presidential nominee, can do themselves.  And they know that, which makes me wonder why the Republicans are spending so much time on meaningless gestures.

The real answer, of course, is that they aren't governing.  They never had an alternative to health care reform, just like they never had an alternative to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the federal budget last year.  The Republicans don't care what happens to this country, or the people in it, as long as they can get Obama out of office.  Two wars, a global financial crisis, and urgent problems at home, and all the Republicans want to do is attack the guy on the other side.

Obama may not be right in everything he does, but at least he's doing stuff.  That's what elected leaders are supposed to do.  I wouldn't even mind the partisanship, if the Republicans had any kind of real policy to enact.  No, destroying the work of others doesn't count.  Let's see some actual Republican proposals on how to fix this stuff.  All this money being spent on attack ads, and not a cent on how to actually fix problems.


Finally Catching Up

Apparently a lot of disgruntled conservatives are talking about moving to Canada.  You know, to get away from socialized medicine.  I find that absolutely hillarious.  A friend of mine on Facebook pointed out that Canada already has socialized medicine, and disgruntled Republicans should try India.  Whoops, India already has universal health care.  In fact, there aren't that many countries left in the world that don't.  Try, um, Zimbabwe.  And good luck with that.


Legal Justification

What about all the Republicans that attempt to craft actual arguments against the ACA?  Never mind that they all supported it when it was Bob Dole's idea.  Let's unpack some of these arguments.

"I shouldn't be forced to pay for something I don't want."  First of all, you're not.  If you don't, there is a penalty that takes the form of a tax.  If you really hate the idea of health insurance that much, just pay the fine and go about your uninsured life.  And good luck with that.

Besides, do you drive a car?  You've been paying for government-mandated insurance for that since you were 16.  Even if you're a perfect driver, odds are someone else is going to hit you some day.  It's not fair to expect society at large to shoulder the burden for your recklessness.  Health insurance is different, of course, because you can choose not to drive a car, but you can't choose not to get sick and die.

"But it's not really a tax."  Sure it is.  The only people I know who are uninsured are those who can't afford it.  That's about to change.  But what about the hypothetical asshole who can afford insurance, doesn't get it from his job, and simply doesn't want to pay it?  For this person, the Individual Mandate is the "you're an asshole tax."  We all know you're going to get sick at some point, and then you're going to walk into an emergency room and demand expensive, high-quality medical care from the hard-working hospital staff, and you're going to expect to do it without paying a penny.  You are an asshole, and this tax is for you.  You still have a right to be an asshole, but at least now the government is going to be reimbursed somewhat for it.  Which is only fair, since you're expecting the government to pay for it when you get sick.  And yet, somewhow, you oppose socialized medicine?


Why Blame Obama?

Seriously, I never understood why this became "Obamacare."  A majority of both houses of Congress voted for it, Obama just happened to be the guy warming a seat in the Oval Office when the bill landed on his desk.  (That's not entirely true, of course; the White House had a lot of involvement.  But the President cannot submit a bill to Congress, neither can he vote for it.)  Shouldn't this be Congresscare?  And now the Supreme Court has voted to uphold the constitutionality of the law.  Wouldn't that make it SCOTUScare?

And yet the Republicans keep trying to pin this on Obama, because he's the one they want to remove from office.  The Republican hate machine has been carefully calibrated to aim for one person, and they've been firing volleys for four years.  The last time I heard a Republican say something gracious about the President was during McCain's concession speach (during which the crowd booed the person who had just become president).

But calling it "Obamacare" is a double-edged sword.  The Republicans are attempting to use this as a tool of blame, but the history books are going to record it as a label of praise.  If the ACA was all Obama's doing, then he gets the credit for your kids still being insured, and keeping your premiums down, and all the other benefits that we're only just starting to see, but which will be with us for the rest of our lives (see above).


Final Word

Bottom line: I'm not happy because my side "won," although Democrats are already calling this a victory, which it is.  It shows that Democrats are actually fighting to make things better for people, while all the Republicans can do is make life more difficult.

But the real reason I'm happy is because this law was the right thing to do.  I've already seen the benefit in my own family: My sister has health insurance thanks to Obama.  If not for Obamacare, my sister would be unable to treat her Crohn's Disease.  I am grateful to Obama, not for beating the Republicans, but for making this country a better place, and for making our lives a little better.

And also: