High Court a Political Machine?

English: West face of the United States Suprem...
English: West face of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. Español: Edificio de la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos en Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is anything comforting about the impending decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, is something that Charles Lane said in an article he wrote that appeared in The Washington Post:” …the United States periodically redefines the role of the federal government in society, in a process that is both political and legal — and, sometimes, more revolutionary than evolutionary. In that sense, we do have a “living Constitution.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-lane-redefining-american-government-through-obamacare/2012/06/25/gJQAdmIp2V_story.html).

What people want, or what we are taught to believe, that out of the three branches of the federal government, there is one branch, the judicial branch, that we can count on to interpret the law according to the Constitution, politics aside.

But that hasn’t been the case, and Lane quotes Akhil Amar, a professor of constitutional law at Yale University, who said that if the Court comes down against the Affordable Care Act by a margin of 5-4, it will show that it is not objective, but that it is bound by politics, party loyalty, money and party.

As a student of history, I have read of cases in which the High Court was not an agent for “the least of these;” I still shudder when I think of the wording Chief Justice Roger Taney used in the Dred Scott case. As part of the African-American community, I have yearned for a government that has been willing to live up to its ideals of being a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

What some Americans come to realize is that the government really advocates on behalf of “some” of the people, and some High Court decisions have validated that opinion.

Be that as it may, there is always a flicker of hope that in the end, no matter where else injustice may dwell, it will not be sanctioned by the United States Supreme Court. And so, when the Court shows its colors of party loyalty and politics, there is a collective sigh of dismay. If not even the highest court in this land sees “all of the people,” who will?

Perhaps my own state of mind is related to an erroneous way I have perceived America and the concept of democracy. I was taught – and I believed – that a democracy was different from other forms of government. I believed that that meant American democracy had a tradition of egalitarianism.  I believed that our democracy prided itself on “all” being equal.

That is not the case, however. All people in a democracy, more accurately a capitalistic democracy, are not supposed to be equal. Those who have get more and those who do not have…get less, and are chided for wanting what they see is possible.

At the end of the day, it seems that the United States Supreme Court justices are not people who believe in the make-believe of  “justice for all.” The laws of this nation were not set up to protect “all” people and I guess it is the work of the court to protect those laws, not “all” of the people.

So, I am bracing myself for the Court’s decision on health care. I am hoping that the gains made by the passage of the bill will not be lost; it is amazing that 46 million more people have health insurance because of this bill. It is inconceivable to me that a nation that is supposed to be so concerned with the treatment of people in other countries seems to be so callous when it comes to dealing with its own poor.

If I hadn’t had such good civics and social studies teachers, who taught me that America was probably the only country in the world that cared about the rights and care of everyone,  perhaps I wouldn’t have been so disappointed, time and again, when the High Court has not come off as the protector of America’s underclass, poor, and working poor.

Perhaps part of the issue, or my issue, with the Court is that it cannot let the Constitution breathe – it cannot allow that the Constitution is a live, living document, like Professor Akhil Amar said. Times change and so do the needs of the people and of the nation. Shouldn’t the law, even the Constitution, allow for that? Would the Founding Fathers have been pleased with a democracy where 46 million people didn’t have health care?

I’m blessed to have health care. I sure hope that by this time tomorrow, people who recently got access to health care after not having been able to afford it are not wringing their hands in despair, pushed yet again to the curb in the name of politics.

It would be the saddest thing ever…

A candid observation





America’s Moral Economy and the Issue of Health Care

I read a story in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/health/oregon-study-reveals-benefits-and-costs-of-insuring-the-uninsured.html?smid=fb-share) about a woman who “shattered” her ankle. Because she did not have health insurance, the emergency room put the ankle in an air cast, but doctors would not perform the surgery she needed. As a result, she “hobbled around in pain” for four years, causing her to gain weight, miss work and suffer other health challenges.

This woman did not live in a Third World country. She lives in the United States.

As the country awaits the United States Supreme Court‘s ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare), I find myself shuddering because I am worried that the Court will rule against the bill and if it does, so many people will again be out of luck.

The health care bill, though unpopular because opponents say it’s government-controlled, really does do some helpful things, like allow children with pre-existing conditions to get health care, children to stay on their parents’ plans until they reach age 26, and will eventually allow anyone with a pre-existing condition to get health care.

If the bill is shot down by the Court, however, all of those really positive gains will be lost.

What gets me is how this nation, which calls itself “the greatest nation in the world,” can live with itself when people like the woman mentioned at the beginning of this piece are walking around in pain in spite of our “greatest health-care-system-in-the-world” claim. How can any system be that great when the very people who need it most are shut out?

By now, people have heard of tragedies like children, primarily poor children, dying from such fixable ailments as an impacted tooth. Without health care, these children cannot afford the most basic of care, which also for them happens, many times, to be life-saving. Children and adults have been cut off from receiving necessary chemo-therapy or other treatments when Medicaid has refused to cover such treatment. Can this really be the reality of the so-called “greatest” nation?

Not having health insurance keeps some people from even seeking the care and treatment they need. In the same New York Times article, a woman, 24 years old, was said to be suffering from depression and C

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...
English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

rohn’s disease, but also for stage 2 cervical cancer – for which she cannot afford treatment.

In Oregon, there has been created a lottery where people can “win” health care through the lottery system. Because of that, some people now have health care.  The article is lifting up alternatives to the present health care system, where so many people are left out and is also presenting the benefits and cost of insuring previously uninsured people. The lottery, by allowing people to “win” health care, is apparently a win-win situation for the state and for the “newly insured,” who are getting better care and are cutting health costs in other areas.

That some states are looking for alternatives to our present system is a comfort, but that the federal government is not so supportive of a health care system that takes care of more Americans is troubling. We as a nation seem to have little time or patience for those who are poor and who depend on the government for help. There is a moral economy here that is not working, but the federal government and too many state governments seem unable and unwilling to look at that issue.

In effect, not providing the poor, the unemployed and underemployed with viable health care seems to be immoral, in a country which touts itself as a moral leader in and of the world. I don’t think a nation can be “moral” and not only blame “the least of these” for their predicaments, but also ignore them as much as possible.

I would bet that the nation’s highest court would not agree with me, but we will see, sooner rather than later.

For the sake of people like the 24-year-old woman who is walking around without getting treatment for serious illnesses and diseases, I hope I am wrong.  No nation can afford to ignore its masses, our nation included.

A candid observation …