|Could it be that these words still carry some weight? Here's hoping.|
(Photo: Matt Wade, courtesy of Wikipedia)
Less than two weeks ago, I was so convinced that the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the Affordable Care Act — at the very least, its individual mandate provision, but much more likely, the entire damn thing — that I preemptively warned of the dire consequences of such a ruling and excoriated the justices for doing it.
And, indeed, the four dissenters in Thursday's decision — Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy — wanted exactly that to happen. Only Roberts' unpredictable move to join the moderate members of the court prevented it. Thank God.
This is a rare instance in which I'm very happy to have been proven wrong.
I won't repeat the particulars of why Obama's health care reform legislation, flawed though it may be, is so historic and so critical to the well-being of this country. I will note, however, that an opposite high court ruling would have been an unmitigated disaster — one that would have assuredly left us to cope with our calamity of a health care system for the foreseeable future, if not forever.
This is not a sensationalized assessment, either.
That's because Republicans have no desire whatsoever to fix our system. (Does anyone of any ideology actually argue that it isn't broken?) Their only interest in this issue is the opportunity they see in it for political profit in the form of destroying Obama's legacy as a president. If you have any doubt about that, read this smug editorial by Georgia's Republican governor, Nathan Deal, which offers plenty of foot-stomping red meat for conservatives, but nothing apart from vague, tired platitudes in the way of viable alternative solutions.
Deal presides over a state, by the way, where nearly 2 million people — or 20 percent of the population — are uninsured, which puts it in or near the top 10 in a dubious category. It goes without saying that he's not in a particularly solid position from which to speak.
Meanwhile, used-car salesman and presidential candidate Mitt Romney is also put in an unenviable spot by the Supreme Court ruling, which requires him to double down on his vociferous opposition to a law whose provisions he vociferously championed less than a decade ago as governor of Massachusetts. He'll continue to peddle the hollow, nonsensical "one-size-does-not-fit-all" sound bite against Obama's signature legislative achievement, but he'll fail to explain why all Americans should not be required to pay into a system they'll all use at some point in their lives, as he asserted should be the case in his home state for precisely the same reason.
stated it best, I think:
"It's perverse that Mitt Romney won't share details about what he'd do for the millions he'd leave uninsured or at the whims of insurance companies when he 'kills Obamacare dead,' but he'll share the hourly details of his fundraising after the Supreme Court ruling."
I usually hate when raw emotion interferes with an intellectual assessment of a controversial issue. But in this instance, it's quite tough to avoid; and, dare I say, it's downright justifiable.
Yesterday, I read this Washington Post article about how thousands of the heroic firefighters who are battling the terrible blazes in Colorado don't even have health insurance. Then, this morning, I read this account of a former health insurance executive who changed his life's work after he observed uninsured Americans receiving medical attention outdoors in animal stalls at a free clinic.
Again, these are not sensationalized accounts. These things are really happening to real human beings — perhaps our next-door neighbors — in the wealthiest nation in the world. That isn't just wrong; it's intolerable. Shame on those who would use this issue for political purposes.
The constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate is no longer in question. With that in mind, the Obama campaign should begin doing effectively what they've done an absolutely deplorable job of doing up to this point: highlighting how this historic legislation helps people. Hammer those points home. Repeat them ad nauseam, the same way that opponents of the law have repeated their falsehoods.
Finally, when that happens, Americans will have a fair, accurate framework from which to make a choice: Should we adapt a viewpoint that is so captive to rigid ideology that it is bent on moving this country backward if that means that no compromise of any kind will have to made? Or should we work with and build on the progress we've made — however imperfect — with an aim toward resolving once and for all the national crisis that has confronted and eluded congresses and presidents for generations?
The choice should, in theory, be an easy one.
This will be my last commentary on the health care debate for a while, so you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.