The Talking Dog

June 28, 2012, Healthy dose of political reality

For those interested, the incomparable Scotusblog has complete coverage of the Supreme Court's affirmance of the constitutionality of "Obamacare." The most surprising wrinkle is the (unexpected) pragmatism of Chief Justice Roberts, who, correctly, found that this Franken-statute exceeded Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause, but also found, in a most unexpected and "anti-formalistic" way that the "individual mandate" that is the primary funding mechanism of Romneycare Obamacare Oromney care Affordable Care Act was within Congress's power under its taxing power.

I readily confess that as an employed individual with health insurance (btw, for which my share of the premium is about to increase), I was not the biggest fan of the approach taken (either procedural or substantive), although I admit that I believe the lack of health insurance coverage for 30... or was it 50 million Americans... is appalling, and I applaud the effort to "do something" for them. But I always thought the answer should be one or a combination of (1) expansion of Medicare to the entire population, (2) an expansion of Medicaid eligibility [or even the Veterans Administration's health care] to all but those who couldn't actually afford health insurance on their own and/or (3) the dreaded "employer mandate" to provide health insurance coverage to all workers (in conjunction with a meaningful minimum wage increase). Alas...

Obamacare is, of course, an expansion of our hopelessly broken public/private crazy quilt abomination of a current system, where it is (immensely) profitable to take people's hard-earned money and then screw them out of coverage for medical treatment when they need it most not by eliminating the fundamental problem (that would be "private health insurance providers"), but by handing that particular abomination of a sector tens of millions of new customers at taxpayer expense, in an insanely complicated arrangement of state by state "exchanges" that don't yet exist, mixed in with some admittedly salutary measures, such as an expansion of Medicaid (though, alas, thanks to today's decision, states can opt out of the new Medicaid expansion without risking their existing Medicaid funding), and some substantive provisions like a ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions (or for getting sick.)

But then, the sort of corporation that would even think of these practices (which result in the majority of bankruptcies involving health expense related issues and 3/4 of those bankruptcies involving people with health insurance) is not the sort of corporation that the government should be handing trillions of taxpayer dollars to. Then again, what are financial institutions and defense contractors, but themselves taxpayer supported sociopathic entities pretending to operate under "capitalism" while in reality they suck at the public teat of free profit, rather than risk "competition."

OK then. On net, Obamacare remains generally unpopular; striking it down would have been a perverse favor to Obama by taking the Romney chant of "I'll repeal Romney- Obama-care" off the table, much as NYC's Mayor Mike Bloomberg was politically helped by the defeat of his vaunted West Side Stadium project. In this case, Chief Justice Roberts gave Obama what he wanted; unlike his ideological brethren, Roberts sees the big, pragmatic picture... Big Money benefits from Obamacare, just as it benefits from encouraging our below-minimum-wage house guests from Mexico not to run home by having Arizona police abuse the crap out of them... Roberts sees a bigger picture than this quarter's Republican fundraising... which makes him an extremely interesting figure, and extraordinarily formidable for those who generally oppose his views (like, say, anyone who believes in the Constitution, or "democracy"). In short, Roberts has a broader vision of just how to advance the interests of the plutocracy that his more short-sighted colleagues [Scam Alito, Harpo Thomas, Nino "Sleeps with the Duckies" Scalia and, of late, Anthony "I'm Not Bork" Kennedy] have been missing in their short-sighted partisan posturing. Roberts is, indeed, formidable.

So... there will be some level of triumphalism about this healthcare thing from "my" team... but I suspect not too much. It's the [collapsing] economy stupid... whose collapse is accelerating, of course, because the wars are accelerating. Both parties are committed to the wars, and hence, neither can "solve" what's wrong with the economy [or anything else], and hence both deserve our contempt, and neither deserve our support. Simple as that. We can't serve both God and Mammon... we can't close Guantanamo and let Jon Corzine be above the law... we can't have a "green economy" in the "environmentally sustainable" sense when the "green economy" of financial repression dominates the polity. In short...

Nothing in the Supreme Court's decision will result in a deviation from the nation's current path toward rapid, self-inflicted ruination... one supposes that by increasing the cost of hiring employees with yet another crazy-quilt mandate on marginal employers, perhaps unemployment will be that much worse... but the answer isn't really "expanding the coverage" so much as its insane cost, which rests on the fact that making (and keeping) people sick is so damned profitable in this country, and of course, is now moreso than ever (with yet another government subsidy to do it)... and of course, so much of the GDP is now devoted to pure waste, even before we talk about the incredible waste that is the health care sector itself that consumes around 1/6 of every dollar in this economy-- the wars, the fantasy of "security" against a mythical "threat" (even while the same "threat" is actually assisting in fighting our proxy wars), the insane militarization of our domestic police service, and of course, the repeal of "posse comatatus" in last year's NDAA so that the military itself can engage in domestic policing... not to mention 3 million plus incarcerated... add up. The costs-- not merely the psychic, social and moral costs-- but the money costs-- are insane, unsustainable, and, in short, are destroying us. So-- yeah.. Health care "reform". Boo ya.

America... f*** yeah. Until the wars end (the war on drugs, the war on terror, the wars against the people of Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and who knows where else)... none of this really matters... does it?