A few thoughts regarding the Supreme Court decision today....what it means for the American Church and what the present social polarization points to in the coming days, months and years.
First a few specific points of consideration....
1. Romney has been avoiding an in-depth healthcare discussion due to the conservative condemnation of his Massachusetts programme. But now, Evangelicals more than ever will be polarized by the Supreme Court ruling the health reform as Constitutional. They will rally around Romney who has promised to work towards repealing Obama's reform....even though putting the rhetoric into action will be difficult.
· Some of the provisions have already proved popular, i.e. forced acceptance of pre-existing conditions, children staying on policies to age 26 etc...
· He's already indicated he wants to keep some of these provisions, but if he strikes down the individual mandate/tax penalty....then the insurance companies will quickly turn on him. They were willing to have their profits regulated like utility companies and to accept pre-existing conditions if they could have access to the 30 million or so new clients. This doesn't include the other 15-20 million who will be on the Medicaid expansion.
2. Conservatives will excoriate Chief Justice Roberts and accuse him of legislating from the bench. For all the talk of this in Christian circles, I have generally found conservatives to be more guilty in this regard. Even today I heard quotes from conservative congressmen who wanted the court to rule on 'bad policy'...indicating they don't understand the court's role.
· Though I'm hardly a fan of Roberts, he showed a great deal of integrity in his opinion. From his confirmation hearings to the present he indicated that it's not his job to determine if a law is 'good or bad' but if it is within the boundaries of the Constitution. He may not like the law (which Christians think is a criteria for a conservative judge to strike it down) but he understands the court's role is not to make decisions like that.
· Judicial Restraint demands that he doesn't receive a law and rub his hands together looking for every possible way to strike it down. Rather he's to understand the Legislative Branch passed the law and he's to uphold the spirit of the law they passed...if possible. So, if the law is compatible but needs to re-worded or tweaked, he can take that into account. If need be he can send it back with comment. In this case, the tax argument was used as a secondary position. Politically untenable the Obama administration (in the process of bungling this whole process) pushed the mandate angle to the public. If they had originally presented it as a tax or an extension of Medicare/Medicaid then it wouldn't have even gone to court. The power to tax is already a resolved issue. Roberts looked at the law and saw that it wasn't a problem at all if viewed as a tax penalty instead of a mandate falling under the Commerce Clause.
· Incentives and penalties are already legally established. The government pushes for certain building standards. If you use efficient or environmentally beneficial products you can get a break. If you don't you might have to pay a penalty....i.e. a tax.
· In addition, just like in the Bush v. Gore case, there are times when time is of the essence and in this case to send it back, knowing that it only needed a slight modification and would pass again and re-start the whole litigation process...would be irresponsible. Further delay would potentially throw the country into turmoil as some provisions would be in the process of activating... while the whole thing was still tied up in litigation...taking at least another year to make it back to the court and potentially harming the national economy.
3. The fact that Roberts himself authored the Citizens United decision is ironic. As the commentators keep pointing out, the Health Care Reform is really going to a referendum status. An Obama victory is a vindication. An Obama defeat is a partial rejection. A wave election...a Romney victory and a Republican capture of the Senate will mean the law will be either overturned or severely modified, hence a rejection of the law regardless of its Constitutional standing.
· Citizens United has been unanimously interpreted as a boon to the Republican party. The unrestricted millions flowing into Republican coffers will certainly aid them in November. As annoying and absurd as the advertisements are...they seem to work. It's quite a commentary on the state of our society.
4. The propaganda machine will work powerfully in Christian circles. Fear is a huge factor in American Evangelicalism...fear of change, fear of the 'other', and fear of a federal government embracing what they wrongly believe to be an internationalist conspiracy. There is an internationalist conspiracy...it's called the United States Establishment.
· The real issues in this election, in fact many of the real issues in society will be clouded by this issue which they will play for all its worth.
· They will insist it's about 'life' and that Obama's reforms will promote abortion etc...
· This will ignore the fact that our military is busy killing people in other countries and the poverty in part exacerbated by the current state of health care is destroying lives in many ways and forms. They're so worried about infant 'life'....or are they? Is this just used as a tool to reach a massive financial and voting bloc?...and yet they won't lift a finger to help that life succeed and prosper in society. So then when the poor and disenfranchised die at 18 or 40....these patriots, these conservatives, don't seem to care.
And a few related comments....
· I actually heard the supposedly Christian financial advisor Dave Ramsey advising a medical student who called in to think about another career as the Obama plan will destroy the medical industry and there's no future in it. He often gives terrible and unbiblical advice but in this case I was quite surprised. If anything he's good at numbers. Almost fifty million new patients entering the health care arena....I would say the medical industry is probably a pretty safe field to enter for the next generation or so!
· I've been astounded to hear many Christian leaders argue that by allowing these millions of people access to health care will mean they (the Christian leaders) won't be able to receive the treatments and tests they've been used to. Effectively this will be 'rationing' the likes of James Dobson and Cal Thomas argue. Regardless of what one thinks of the Obama legislation, they seemed to have missed the point that the 50 million or so people have for all these years been socially 'rationed' out of health care. And, are they that cold hearted they're willing to let so many suffer and die, so that they can be comforted? Certainly they've 'earned' their incomes and health care right? Living off donations? For so many 'ministry' leaders to speak this way takes some serious audacity.
· And more than once I've heard conservatives argue over the nomenclature surrounding the word 'insurance'. Insurance is about cost-benefit ratios and calculated risk. To speak of insurance as some kind of right or necessity is ridiculous.
Of course this argument is ridiculous. This social debate isn't about insurance. It's about access. The costs are so high, even middle class people can't afford them. This isn't about financial instruments and risk...this is about people being able to get to a doctor without losing their house.
For the poor, a lack of insurance often means no access except the local Emergency Room which by law cannot turn you away. Often they don't need emergency care and they certainly don't need the titanic bills that follow from an Emergency Room visit...bills they often cannot pay. But in desperation they have nowhere else to turn.
The fact that this is all reduced to some kind of insurance structure shows that the system doesn't reflect reality and that market forces don't always act as a corrective. Eventually the market will collapse and change. But how many thousands have to die in order for the Capitalist market to shift? Is the integrity of the system and its apologetic more important than lives and humanity?