Robertsí rescue of high court

July 18, 2012

Rutland Herald

John McClaughry ascribes Justice Roberts’s tie-breaking vote in support of the Affordable Care Act to a quest for enhanced reputation. But Linda Greenhouse, in a perceptive New York Times op ed ( says that although Roberts “is conservative to his bones,” he may have been horrified by “the breathtaking radicalism of the other four conservative justices,” who, in rejecting the entire act, not just its controversial personal insurance mandate, “were about to drive the Supreme Court over the cliff and into the abyss.”

We should all be alarmed by these 5-4 Supreme Court rulings in which one justice — frequently the unpredictable Anthony Kennedy — decides what is constitutional, essentially appointing George Bush president in 2000, for example, and decreeing that corporations are people, whose unlimited spending to influence politics constitutes free speech. The court certainly made a hash of the ACA ruling. But flawed and inadequate as the legislation is, many of its provisions, including keeping children on their parents’ insurance through age 26 and prohibiting some of the worst insurance company abuses, represent real progress toward breaking the insurance industry’s dictatorship and establishing health care as a public good in which government plays a legitimate role.

President Obama himself admitted that only a single-payer system will provide automatic coverage for everyone. The ACA excludes many people and leaves private insurance companies with too much power. But though Obama unfortunately lacked the courage to fight for what he knew was right, the ACA provides a stepping stone from which Vermont will be able to enact the nation’s first single-payer system: publicly financed health care with everybody in, nobody out regardless of age, income or employment. The result will be a healthier population for whom job loss will no longer mean an end of medical care and serious illness will no longer lead to bankruptcy.