Supreme Court May Yet Destroy Obamacare

John RobertsNot depressed enough, liberals? Well, I can help. The Supreme Court has decided to hear King v Burwell. This is just the latest in literally hundreds of lawsuits designed to cripple Obamacare by any means necessary. This one is based on a typo in the law that the plaintiffs claim means that people in states that did not set up their own healthcare exchanges do not get federal subsidies to help people pay for their insurance. If this case was reversed by the right wing extremists on the Court, it would be a catastrophe.

Of course, even now, in states that didn’t accept the Medicaid expansion, the working poor fall into a kind of “doughnut hole” where they don’t get free healthcare but also don’t qualify for any subsidies. This alone should have caused the voters to reject every Republican legislature in the nation. But of course, that didn’t happen. Even Sam “Screw the kids, rich people need more cash!” Brownback managed to win re-election by four percentage points. What’s the matter with Kansas? It is filled with the apathetic and the evil. Good job guys! At least those awful working poor won’t get healthcare so they can continue to function at their back-breaking jobs!

King v Burwell would do the same thing that is currently happening to the working poor to the entire middle class. And you, my dear liberal reader, are probably now thinking, “Well, then the Republicans would have to get on board; they can’t slight the middle class!” Oh, grasshopper, how much you must learn! It won’t matter. Sam Brownback and Scott Walker and all the rest won’t be up for election for four years anyway. And by 2017, Walker may be in the White House — propelled to the high office by his bold stand destroying public sector unions. If your life can’t get better, at least you can feel good about other lives getting worse, am I right?!

Sadly, if the Supreme Court manages to do this to the country, it will not only harm red states. Oregon, for example, will be harmed, because its state exchange turned out to be a complete fiasco and they were forced to use the federal exchange. Of course, the idea of King v Burwell is not to hurt individual states. The idea is to destroy the law in total. If 21 states in the union are not given the benefits of the law, there will be a huge call for its repeal.

That’s why the red states will not accept the fact that they are not representing the best interests of their people. This will be a great opportunity to demagogue the issue, “It is outrageous that the people are forced to pay higher taxes and yet they get nothing for it!” It will not matter that (1) they won’t in general be paying higher taxes and (2) the only reason they get nothing for it is because their leaders refuse to accept it. American politics doesn’t do fact or nuance. And the Republican Party is the perfect organization for this kind of environment.

Nicholas Bagley is very pessimistic about this, The Supreme Court will hear King. That’s bad news for the ACA. His argument is that it takes four justices to hear a case. And in general, they will only decide to take a case if they think it will go in their favor. Those who are inclined to agree with the lower courts’ decisions have no real reason to hear the case. So there is a very good chance the usual five suspects will hear the case and throw a major wrench into the workings of the rest of government.

My gut reaction is to think that they won’t do this. After all, John Roberts seems to be concerned about his legacy, even if the others aren’t. What’s more, he already took a hit when he found in favor of Obamacare before. But my gut reaction could well be wrong. I don’t think that Roberts — or for that matter any of the justices — is that rational. In fact, he may use his previous vote to self-justify that he is the truly objective justice and now he is just “calling balls and strikes.”

I weep for the once great country of my birth. This is how empires crumble.

Update (7 November 2014 6:10 pm)

If you aren’t as familiar with King v Burwell, Jonathan Chait has a pretty good overview of it, Supreme Court to Hear Newest, Craziest Legal Challenge to Obamacare. He’s far more positive about sanity prevailing. He may be right. I just wouldn’t count on it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

5 thoughts on “Supreme Court May Yet Destroy Obamacare

  1. Hmmmm …. I’m unconvinced by your “a typo in the law ” argument. Okay, there are arguments both ways for whether people relying on Federally-run insurance exchanges rather than state-established exchanges should have insurance subsidies. But what strikes me is that AT THE TIME when the PPACA was being hammered out and passed, just about everyone in sight took it for granted that virtually all the states would create such exchanges. In other words, the Federal subsidy was viewed — by at least some of Obamacare’s creators — as an inducement to the states to set up such exchanges. The possibility that Republican governors en masse would refuse to create state exchanges was completely overlooked. Thus the present mess.

    As for what we do about, I dunno. It’s now up to the Supreme Court, and I’m not very hopeful. As Mr Dooley used to say, “The Court follows the election returns.” And we all know how the election went.

    • It is a single phrase in a single sentence. In fact, it would have been fixed if it weren’t for Kennedy’s death and the election of Scott “Will Undress for Food” Brown. It is a typo.

      The question will be whether Roberts wants to keep it or not. It is now clear that Kennedy wants to destroy the Obamacare, so he will have no problem finding a justification. It’s sad. And he’s a “moderate”!

  2. Sure, Chief Justice Roberts is a moderate. And Roger Taney was a moderate — he too steered the Supreme Court in a direction that would satisfy property owners and preserve the unity of the country.

    And a century and a half after his term on the Court, Roger Taney merits about two lines in any school kid’s US history textbook. Is Justice Roberts going to get that much? A favorable two lines?

    • I really question it. Of course, Scalia has recently admitted that he may go down in history as someone like Taney and he’s fine with that. And why not? He’ll be up in heaven where everyone speaks Latin. Although I think Taney is a bit more famous than that, but as you say, not in a favorable way. Dred Scott stands out as one of the worst decisions from a Court that has had a whole bunch of them. My favorite is Plessy v Ferguson. How can conservatives on the court look at decisions like that and not think, “I don’t want to be associated with that.” Roberts’ legacy is clear. By his gutting of the VRA, he will be seen as a polished racist. The best people will say is that he didn’t know what he was doing. But I think history will be more clear-eyed, just as it is today about poll taxes of the past. At the time, bigots all said they weren’t racist, but we see through that clearly now. So I don’t see Roberts as having much a reputation to save.

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