Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Why the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Should be Found Constitutional

April 8, 2012

While the Supreme Court considers appeals regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – which some pro and con now call “Obamacare” for different reasons – we citizens can apply our own common sense to the question.   When we do, we see that, unless this Court engages in rampant judicial activism driven by political ideology, they should uphold the act.

Consider these portions of the US Constitution:

Article I The Legislative Branch

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

And; To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Look at the second of the powers listed: To regulate Commerce  “among the several States….,” in other words, “interstate commerce.”  Is buying and selling health care insurance interstate commerce?  Seems pretty clear that it is since customers buy coverage from nation-wide companies.  Is buying and selling health care itself – paying the doctors, hospitals, drug companies, etc. to care for us – interstate commerce?  Again, it surely is, as the providers, the medicines and the equipment come from all over the world.

Look at the last of the powers listed, the power “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers….”  Under this section, Congress is authorized to enact detailed standards and requirements “necessary and proper” to accomplish their goals.  We should not be surprised the act takes up two thousand pages and has to be phased in.  It’s a big deal benefiting millions of Americans and something 70% of us asked Congress to do in 2008.

So, how did Congress choose to enforce a requirement that everyone obtain health insurance coverage?  Read the first of the enumerated powers:  “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes….”  They chose to enforce PPACA through the tax code.  The “individual mandate” is actually in 2 parts of the act.  The first part says everyone must buy insurance and the second part says that, if they don’t do so, they will have a penalty added to their taxes.  No one goes to jail or faces criminal or civil penalties.  And if we are unable to pay for the insurance, assistance in getting good coverage will be provided.  By the way, the “individual mandate” has no effect whatsoever on people who have health insurance – over 60% of the population.

With authority to tax, Congress could have taken other routes in assuring health care that would also be constitutional. Congress could have simply left out the first part of the individual mandate and left in place the tax penalty clause to have exactly the same effect. Alternatively, they could have just raised everyone’s taxes to fund a single-payer insurance program like Medicare and made it available to everyone. Either way, the authority of the government to lay and collect taxes and thus enforce the mandate is provided in the Constitution.

Regarding the requirement to purchase insurance from private companies, government often requires that we pay for certain things we may not want to purchase – like care insurance we may never use.  Intuitively we know that health care isn’t the same as cars. Virtually, all of us will at some time need health care, yet we don’t know in advance when and what we will need; and at the time of need we likely won’t be able to pay out of pocket.  So we must pre-pay for some unknown but virtually certain need.  Those of us who don’t pay are costing those of us who do over $1,000 on average per year to cover their care. There’s evidence in the questions asked by the Supreme Court justices, that they understood how this market works and why everyone has to pay so everyone is covered.

Finally, in previous decisions, the Supreme Court has asserted its authority to rule on the constitutionality of legislation, a claim unchallenged by Congress and the President. However, the Court also has ruled that acts of Congress are presumed to be constitutional because House and Senate members are elected by the people and take the same oath of office the justices do to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  The Legislature is a branch of government coequal with the Supreme Court; thus the Court has recognized that ruling legislation unconstitutional “…frustrates the intent of the elected representatives of the people.”  The Supreme Court has previously upheld many interstate commerce and tax laws. If they now were to rule PPACA unconstitutional it would call into question other programs (like Medicare) that have long provided “…for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States…”

An “activist court” steps beyond its proper authority by ignoring the actual wording of the Constitution and ignoring previous court decisions in order to write its own laws based on its own ideology.  Odds are good that a majority of the members of this Court know both the Constitution and the previous decisions of their Court. When they were confirmed before the Senate they all testified under oath that they would follow “stare decisis” and abide by the rulings of previous Courts.  Thus it would be an extremist and activist court that failed to uphold PPACA.

By the way, if you think PPACA erodes your individual freedom, consider how free you’d feel ill, aged or disabled and unable to get care because you didn’t have insurance or your insurer had dumped you.  A whole other article could be written on the “powers” individuals have already or will gain from “Obamacare.”  It’s likely a majority of the Supreme Court justices know this as well and are reluctant to take those away from the people.


The Supremes Sing the Corporate Tune

January 22, 2010

“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”- Theodore Roosevelt

I was busily writing an article regarding the destructive effects on our society of huge bonuses for corporate CEOs, when the January 20 news interrupted such that I must comment.  An astounding Supreme Court decision was handed down that effectively handed our democracy over to corporations, including multi-national, even foreign-controlled, corporations!  The case was titled Citizens United v Federal Election Commission.  The issue was whether or not corporations could pay for material that advocated for or against specific candidates for President, Senator or U.S. Representatives. This ruling overturned a 20-year-old ruling that prohibited corporations from using money from their general treasuries to pay for campaign ads.  It also reversed the McCain Feingold law that kept them from running ads within a certain date before elections.

Historically, corporations and unions have been prohibited from spending their own funds on broadcast ads or billboards urging election or defeat of a federal candidate.  This restriction dated from 1907, when President Theodore Roosevelt asked Congress to prohibit corporation, railroads and national banks from using their money in federal election campaigns.  At the end of World War II, Congress applied the restriction to labor unions.

Now the Court said that corporations have free-speech rights just like natural persons. They are free to use their billions to distort, exaggerate and lie, if they so choose, to support or oppose as they see fit. And it doesn’t matter who runs the corporation, even non-Americans.  They could be a Saudi oil company (ARAMCO) or a Chinese manufacturing company, or a corporation owned by anti-American extremists. Are you ready for the next President from Citibank?

Corporations and unions still can’t give money directly to campaigns.  But they won’t need to since they can run their own ads.  And they do have to identify themselves in the ads, but not necessarily who their backers are.

I don’t know about you but I take deep offense at the idea that corporate entities are anywhere akin to human beings.  The US Constitution begins, “We the people of the United States,….”  Were they talking about anything other than human beings?  Does anyone really believe the First Amendment  to the Constitution refers to the speech of anyone other than natural persons?

The ruling passed 5-4.  Those in favor were the conservative bloc on the court, ALL appointed by Republican Presidents.  Here it is, folks, as if we needed any more evidence that the “Party of Lincoln” has been taken over completely by corporatists.  Conservatives railed against “activist” judges who “legislate from the bench,” yet this ruling from their anointed Court is EXTREME activist legislation from the bench.  In this ruling, the Court ignored its long-standing rule of stare decisis (“Maintain what has been decided”).

However, in a 90-page dissent from the opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said that the framers of the Constitution “had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.”  Good for him and good for the other dissenters, Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer.  Those who rail against liberal justices should take note that THEY are the ones who stood for YOUR rights in this case.

Aside from Republicans and Libertarians, too many Democrats are cozy with corporations as well.  As we’ve recently seen in health insurance reform debates, a few Democrats and one Independent have carried water for their corporate insurance backers, trying to give them everything they want including the mandate that everyone buy insurance from for-profit corporations.  I’ve come to believe that the battle of this century will be between the populists and the corporatists.  The Democrats should step up to be the party of the people, because Republicans and Libertarians have already sealed their deal with the corporations.

Like many Americans, I’ve created a corporation.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3 and there are plenty of websites that will throw one together for you on the spot.  But corporations are the creation of the government which authorizes their existence.  Does it not seem sickly circular that they should now be able to directly manipulate election of candidates to positions that set their taxes and operational standards?

If you think this decision doesn’t affect us here in West Texas, think again.  Texas politics is already controlled to a great extent by the energy industries and by insurance companies.  With this ruling, there is nothing to stop them now from taking more of our money then spending it to buy politicians who will let them take even more of our money.  Long gone will be legislation that benefits ordinary Americans or protects the environment and wider will be the gap between the rich and the rest of us which is eroding our society.  And we’ll be drowned by more lies from corporate-backed entities such as Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity and Fox News.

To those who claim President Obama is trying to establish fascism in this country, take note:  This is the REAL fascism – wedding the corporation to the government.  Government of, by and for the corporation, brought to you, not by Obama, progressives and Democrats, but by conservatives who put these people on the Supreme Court.

In 1857, the US Supreme Court ruled, in the infamous Dred Scott decision, that people of African descent and their descendants were not persons and could never be US citizens.  They were deemed property, not people.  This decision so outraged the people that they enacted the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.  A similar outrage should consume us now.  We need to amend the Constitution to state once and for all that corporations are NOT persons and are not entitled to the rights of natural persons.  Corporations are things, not people.  Think of it as the battle of Man vs Machine.  I know which side I’m on; do you?

Want to take action?  See:

Move to Amend

Free Speech for People

Public Citizen