Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Gearing Up For Outrage

This is the week the US Supreme Court has chosen to decide whether or not the mandate within the Affordable Care Act (now better known as "Obamacare") is constitutional.  Essentially, the ACA forces people to buy insurance - or more specifically, it raises the taxes of those who don't.  The reason for this is obvious - if you're going to build your healthcare system on insurance companies (which I don't like as an idea, but that's another story), you can't let people refuse to buy insurance until the very moment you get sick.  Everyone has to buy in, otherwise the costs for those who have insurance all the time become astronomical.

Of course, just because something is a logical step (from an admittedly wrong-headed starting point) doesn't mean that it's legal.  Simply put (which it has to be, since I'm clearly neither a lawyer nor a constitutional scholar), can Congress force an American citizen to pay for something they don't necessarily want, within a commercial context?  (That last part is pretty important of course, because it would be awful if people tried to argue they shouldn't have to pay for bombs used to blow up Pakistani wedding parties, or what have you).

Supporters of the ACA argue that they can - it's unquestionably constitutional to tell the public that if they want to buy something, they have to buy it in a certain way (assuming that method is determined to be both reasonable and in an area the government has any stake in), and since anyone without insurance can still go the emergency room, it's argued that every American citizen ends up purchasing health care at some point, even if on some occasions it's the taxpayer that pays the bills.

Opponents of the bill argue, well, I'm not really sure, to be honest.  Some of them are staking everything on the idea that this method is actually unreasonable, though I can't figure out why.  Others are arguing that there's a bright line in the constitution between "you must buy this" and "if you buy this, you must do it like this", which there isn't, or that the founders meant to put that line in, which is possible, and that trumps anything so irrelevant as the fact that everyone buys health care, and getting some other poor slob to pay for it doesn't change a damn thing.

Still others have just gone stark raving mad:
It ought to scare liberals to come run and join conservatives, because what it means is when this president's out of the White House and you get a conservative in there, if this president has the authority under ObamaCare … to trample on religious rights, then some redneck president's got the right to say, 'you know what, there's some practices that go on in your house that cause people too much money and healthcare, so we're going to have the right to rule over those as well
Leaving aside the fact that Gohmert, displaying his typically tight grip on the issues of the day, is confusing the Supreme Courts deliberations with the fight earlier this month about religious exemptions for insurance providers, this is exactly the same crap that the perennially mendacious and ignorant Megan McArdle was pedalling when the ACA was first passed. 

Actually, it's even worse.  McArdle's "argument" was that if a majority of elected officials pass a law despite it being fractionally less popular than unpopular at the precise moment the vote is called, there's nothing to stop a later majority passing a law that almost everybody would absolutely despise.  In short, officials are not elected based on what they claim are their policies, which they then try to enact and are re-elected or not based on what they attempt and what they accomplish.  They are simply there to note the current opinion polls and vote accordingly every time.  I'm not saying (holy God, am I not saying) that this is never how politicians behave, just that it's the first time I've seen the argument that this should be the standard template for the Republic.

Still, worthless as McArdle is, at least she's aware of the concept of checks and balances (she just presumably believes they're irrelevant in the Athenian democracy she's always thought she lived in).  What's going to stop a psychotic red-necked President from imposing all the crackerjack laws he damn well pleases?  Motherfucking Congress.  Also, the voters.

Also, the constitution, which, contrary to Gohmert's apparent belief, does not cease to apply to all mandates just because it allows things he doesn't like.

(Not that it really matters, I'm betting.  I reckon the mandate is headed for the scrap-heap.  There's some optimism on display around the internet, but I say no court that handed down Bush vs Gore gets the benefit of any doubt on anything, ever again.)

(h/t) Attaturk.

Update: Shorter Dahlia Lithwick: Conservative Supremes won't vote down ACA, in case it makes it harder for them to be remoreless turds in future.

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