Romney Wins!

What a great day for Mitt Romney. His signature health care plan will be implemented nationwide as he had hoped. The nation took heed of his message that it’s “poppycock” to blame the president for an economic downturn which is caused by a “perfect storm” of unfortunate events, and gave the president credit for all the jobs created during the financial crisis. While his positions on women’s choice and gay rights were defeated, he should be pleased to know that is other positions on those same issues were victorious. And he learned that a candidate can win even when the other side appeals to fundamentalist bigots by questioning if he’s Christian enough. Indeed a wonderful day for Mitt Romney. Congratulations are in order.

A Convert Writes about Universal Health Care

Sasha had me read this post about a former American conservative’s experience with the Canadian health care sysem ..

… I had better prenatal care than I had ever had in the States … and I never had to worry about how much a test cost …. the percentage rates of abortion are far lower in Canada than they are in the USA … a mother pregnant unexpectedly would still have health care … even if she was unemployed, had to quit her job, or lost her job … lest you think that the Canada system is draining the government resources, their budget is very close to balanced every year. They’ve had these programs for decades.

We are in the process of overhauling our health system which, even with the best doctors in the world, fails to meet the needs of millions. Opponents are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying reverse this process because despite all the money that they’re spending, it’s in their financial interests to go back to the system of skyrocketing health care costs which an ever more exclusive percentage of Americans can afford. For the rest of us, it’s in our interest to keep the process on track.

I’m Still Thinking about Impeachment

I know how happy I’m supposed to be with the Supreme Court approval of the health care mandate but little has changed when it comes to talking about impeachment for Supreme Court Justices who act more like politicians than constitutional interpretors. Justice Scalia has provided more than enough examples of his willingness to alter his opinions to meet the Republican agenda, Justice Thomas weighed in on the health care mandate despite a strong and clear financial conflict of interest, and Justice Roberts produced a convoluted opinion based more on threading a political needle than on providing an honest interpretation.

I’m glad that ACA passed but it should have passed under the commerce clause just as the Obama administration argued. The U.S. government has the right to regulate commerce. Health care is a fifth of our economy, a vital service on which our very lives depend, and has costs which have been rising out of reach for an increasing number of Americans because the wealthiest are willing and able to pay so much for it. It’s clearly under the purview commerce, but after the Affordable Care Act passed in congress, an idea emerged, the explanation of which could easily be followed by the phrase, “yeah, that’s the ticket!”. The idea was that the mandate was unconstitutional because it tells us what to do, instead of telling us what not to do. It was dismissed as ridiculous at first, but not wanting to overlook any opportunity to cause the president to fail, conservatives eventually began to support the ridiculous challenge.

There were no honest grounds for the challenge, and conservatives knew it. As Brad Delong explains, referring to Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s health care plan on which the ACA was modeled, and a similar “mandate” proposed by Republican president George W Bush,

No office-holding Republican complained that RomneyCare was bad policy, or would destroy the economy, or would be unconstitutional, or whatnot–for it was the signature policy initiative of a Republican governor. The mandate that was at its core? That was the conservative Personal Responsibility principle. And remember the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s Social Security privatization proposals: it was an individual mandate to regulate “inactivity”: to require that people who had not established their own private individual retirement accounts do so.

Had the issue of “inactivity” reached the justices in the form of a challenge to a Republican mandate to purchase retirement accounts rather than a Democratic mandate to purchase health insurance, the Republican justices would have voted the other way.

But when the same Republican policy became the signature policy initiative of a Democratic president, every single Republican in office changed their mind.

But despite the lack of any legal basis, conservatives pushed the idea. The CATO institute, always ready with an argument to protect the secure from the needy, said, “It would be a radical departure from existing case law to hold that Congress can regulate inactivity under the Commerce Clause.”

But it isn’t a radical departure. Consider two of the important historical cases which considered during the deliberations: Wickard vs Filburn and Gonzolez vs Raich. In the first, Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat (beyond a certain acreage) to feed his own chickens, because doing so effected commerce in wheat, and in the second, Angel Raich was told she couldn’t grow marijuana for her own medical use, even though her doctor said it might save her life and it was legal under California law.

In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

The individual mandate forces individuals into commerce precisely because they elected to refrain from commercial activity. Such a law cannot be sus-tained under a clause authorizing Congress to “regulate Commerce.”

Conservatives contend that in earlier cases, the citizen’s activity was restricted, not mandated. But that argument isn’t completely true. The government didn’t expect Filburn to starve his chickens, they expected him to buy wheat. If he wasn’t expected to buy wheat when told he couldn’t grow his own, then growing his own would have had nothing to do with commerce. And Angel Raich, who can’t grow her own pot, is forced to purchase whatever medicine the marijuana would have replaced.

Technically, Filburn and Raich weren’t mandated into commerce, but realistically they were. So five Supreme Court justices made a falsely grounded interpretation based on a technicality in order to support a political attack on the president and on the millions of people who will be helped by affordable health care. Justice Roberts, of course, came halfway back and found a tricky way to support the ACA while apparently hoping to appease his conservative peers by upholding the silly technicality.

One crazy aspect about this situation is that right wingers are correct in saying that the commerce clause has been stretched beyond its written scope and used to justify actions that have nothing to do with commerce. But the decision of the Supreme Court, that the commerce clause can’t be used for a mandate, does nothing to reign in the abuses of federal power. A mandate to enter into commerce doesn’t effect my freedom nearly as much as a restriction on what I can grow on my own property; especially when the restriction prevents me from growing my own medicine to save my own life, and especially if I can opt out of the mandate for religious purposes.

If the conservatives on the Supreme Court wanted to reign in the overreach of the commerce clause, they would have to have chosen a case other than one which is clearly about commerce.

I’m not supposed to have a fit when the Supreme Court makes a decision that I don’t agree with, and in this case it made a decision that I do agree with. But the five justices who tried to strike down the ACA, including the one who changed his mind half-way, were motivated by politics rather than jurisprudence. And while there’s no chance of unseating any of those judges, the specter of impeachment might keep justices in line in the future.

The Mandate is No Big Deal. Defeating it Would Have Been

I keep reading that requiring us to do something, as opposed to requiring us to not do something, is a new step, and conservatives are sounding alarms all over the internet that freedom died as a result of the Supreme Court upholding the health care mandate, and that we’ve crossed a line into government mandated oblivion. But the health care mandate is not the first mandate. Several months ago the story of George Washington’s gun mandate was making the rounds. Other examples are in a discussion about the draft, posted by Greg Sargent, and in a post in Daily Kos about a railway case, which quotes NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel (1937):

The decree which we affirmed in that case required the railway company to treat with the representative chosen by the employees and also to refrain from entering into collective labor agreements with any one other than their true representative as ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the act.

In other words, the railway company was required to do something, and face penalties for not doing it.

With all of the power that the federal government already has, much gained with the support of right wing ideologues, the idea that this power to enforce a mandate represents a bold new step seems petty and hypocritical. The court didn’t grant any new power, it affirmed power that already exists and refused to carve out a special exception. It should have affirmed this power under the commerce clause, as argued by the administration. As a Kos commenter noted, referencing Gonzales v. Raich:

Growing pot on your patio to smoke yourself is clearly interstate commerce, but a central issue facing any effort to reform a sector that occupies 18% of our economy, well that’s just going too far.

But instead, the Supreme Court affirmed the power as falling under the power to tax. Either way, the power was there.

If freedom died, it died long before the Affordable Care Act. It was dead on or before 1942, when Roscoe Filburn was told that he couldn’t grow his own wheat for his own use because doing so interfered with interstate commerce. So don’t blame Obama.

Abuses of eminent domain and laws against personal use of home-grown medicine are examples of overreaching government that I’m all for rolling back, along with all of the Monsanto and factory-meat friendly laws which make it almost impossible for a small farmer to legally sell his product. But I don’t want to go back to the days before equal rights, national fire codes, child labor laws and environmental protection.

Unlike eminent domain abuses, invasive drug laws, and overregulation of home-made produce and meat, the Affordable Care Act won’t prevent us from doing things that we’re free to do. There are plenty of examples of over-regulation and abuses of federal power. But we didn’t suddenly become unfree last Thursday and we didn’t cross a line into new territory.

There are plenty of ways for Americans to become freer. Allowing health care companies to keep increasing the cost of health care isn’t one of them.

Reasonably be Characterized

My wife and I raise animals for meat. We occasionally grow fond of a certain animal and decide not to eat it. That animal can “Reasonably be Characterized” as a pet, because certain rules of pets apply to it. But other rules don’t apply, and therefore we don’t consider it a pet. And I’m not a big liar when I tell you that it isn’t.
Sow and Piglets

The President’s Warning

It’s been almost a week and I keep reading about the president’s unprecedented warning to the Supreme Court.

Copied from Real Clear Politics, here’s what the president said in response to a question about health care and the Supreme Court:

With respect to health care, I’m actually — continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional. That’s not just my opinion, by the way; that’s the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.

I think it’s important — because I watched some of the commentary last week — to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.

The law that’s already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it. There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law. Parents don’t have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can’t be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition. That’s part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.

So that’s just the part that’s already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.

And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.

I’ve read this a few times but I keep missing the big warning.

Of course a warning can be implied, like a boss telling an employee, “I’m confident you’re not going to use the company car for personal business”. But unlike the boss and his employee, Obama can’t fire the Supreme Court. He can’t get Congress to fire them and can’t get the American People to fire them. There is nobody in the world with better job security than a Supreme Court justice, and few who are as unaccountable for their decisions.

So I can’t figure out what hundreds of Right wing politicians, reporters, pundits, and bloggers have in their heads whey they accuse President Obama of “warning” or “trying to intimidate” the Supreme Court.

The president’s words are not unprecedented either. As the Daily Beast aptly points out:

In words echoed by Obama this week, Reagan reminded Americans that “in our democracy, it is the elected representatives of the people, not unelected judges, who make laws.” And Reagan warned what would happen if justices ignored that civics lesson: “If that happens,” he said, “the words of the documents that we think govern us will be just masks for the personal and capricious rule of a small elite.”

In those quotes, President Reagan was not referring to a specific ruling, but those words were still as much a description of the president’s expectations as Obama’s were.

President Obama did, by the way, correct his mistake about the precedence of the Supreme Court overturning congressional law, and explained that he was referring to laws concerning the commerce clause. Without that modification, the suggestion was absurd.

But despite that slip, there’s nothing unprecedented about a president stating how he expects the Supreme Court should act. His words were mild compared to some of those before him, and all this nonsense about the president’s warning is another dishonest effort to invent nefarious meanings hidden behind the president’s actual words.

Reason: Yes, Mitt Romney Flip-Flopped on the Mandate makes a strong case that Mitt Romney did, in fact, advocate for health care reforms on a federal level. Mitt Romney Central disputes that claim, citing a 2009 Newsweek Op-Ed in which Mr. Romney wrote:

Center reforms at the state level. Open the door to state plans designed to meet the various needs of their citizens. Before imposing a one-size-fits-all federal program, let the states serve as “the laboratories of democracy.”

But after reading the back and fourth between Mitt Romney Central and those who accuse Mitt Romney of flip-flopping, I’ve concluded that while Mr. Romney would allow more flexibility to the states in administering the program, on top of it all would be a federal policy which either rewards citizens for purchasing insurance or penalizes them for not doing so. Even in the rebuttal on Romney Central, Ben Collins quotes Mitt Romney:

For the uninsured who can afford insurance but expect to be given free care at the hospital, require them to either pay for their own care or buy insurance; if they do neither, they would forgo the tax credit or lose a deduction. No more “free riders.”

and states:

What Romney is saying is that those who don’t purchase health insurance lose the opportunity to gain a “tax credit” or “deduction.”

Romney is not advocating a “mandate” of the type Obama used where people are fined for not purchasing insurance, and Romney is certainly not advocating a FEDERAL mandate of any kind

My problems with Mr. Collins’s argument are that it’s a false distinction between causing those who don’t purchase health insurance to “loose an opportunity to gain a ‘tax credit'” and penalizing them with a fine, it’s a dishonest use of semantics to call financial incentives to coerce people to purchase health insurance something other than a “mandate”, and imposing such a mandate is a use of congressional power even if administering that imposition is delegated to the states.

Even NRO’s Andrew McCarthy, a kinder, gentler hatemonger who usually writes about why Muslims can never be trusted, delved into this issue and admitted that “health-care extortion, by the way, is not Obama’s doing”. He only accuses President Obama of “fast-forwarding to the next logical steps.”

But the health care mandate is not a “fast forward”. It’s what’s required in order to make health care accessible to all Americans, other than a single payer system.

Trolling about Health Care at NRO

Trolling at the NRO is frustrating because it takes so long for comments to appear. On the other hand, I should admit that I was wrong In an earlier post when I suggested that my comments would be replied to by excessively nasty and low-class remarks.

Charles Krauthammer wrote a post about the Affordable Care Act in which he begins re-telling the easily and repeatedly debunked lie about the 1.76 trillion cost estimate from the CBO. Then he gives the old slippery slope warning, suggesting that if the Supreme Court approves Obamacare, there won’t be any limits on federal power. Finally, he writes about Catholic organizations being forced to pay for contraception, which they’re not actually being forced to do, as an unprecedented denial of religious freedom, when actually it’s tame compared to oppression that the Supreme Court has approved of in the past.

I wrote a reply, but it probably won’t appear until tonight or tomorrow.

The 1.76 trillion figure is part of a calculation that has been taken out of context from a report (pdf) in which it’s very clearly not being used as a final estimate. One conservative lied about it and it spread through the internet at an amazing clip. Mr. Krauthammer undercut his usual low standards by repeating a lie that not only has been debunked by multiple organizations, is pretty easy for anyone to debunk on their own. The report isn’t too hard to read. The report actually says, on the first page, that the CBO’s new estimate is lower than previous estimates for the same period of time. But when not using the same time period, which is what happens each year when the CBO produces it’s ten-year projections, the cost will rise as more of the ACA is implemented. This is a well known fact but Mr. Krauthammer sounds the alarm as if he’s just uncovered a secret plot. But 1.76 trillion is false even with the new, increased estimate.

The health care mandate is in keeping with current powers of the federal government. A commenter on National Review suggested that if Obamacare passes then everyone over 18 should be mandated to purchase a gun. I don’t know if the commenter is aware that a similar mandate was passed during the presidency of George Washington. Washington’s mandate was never challenged in the Supreme Court but 1942, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can use the commerce clause to put limits on wheat production even if the production is for private use. More recently, the court overrode state law by outlawing marijuana for medicinal purposes, and Justice Antonin Scalia supported the power of the commerce clause in that case. Charles Krauthammer wants to know, if the mandate passes, is there anything the commerce clause doesn’t allow the federal government to do? George Washington’s mandate was never challenged and the two cases I just mentioned are far more overreaching than the health care mandate, so whatever the federal government can and can’t do now, it won’t change with approval of the health care mandate.

The recent accommodation for Catholic institutions means that those institutions will not directly pay for contraception. If it’s unconstitutional for Catholic organizations to be forced to pay indirectly for something they don’t believe in, than all taxes are unconstitutional because they may be used indirectly to pay for things that citizens don’t agree with, such as war, subsidies for farms which produce pork, and even Medicare, since some people don’t believe in medicine.

Mr. Krauthammer writes,

Today, it’s the Catholic Church whose free-exercise powers are under assault from this cascade of diktats sanctioned by — indeed required by — Obamacare. Tomorrow it will be the turn of other institutions of civil society that dare stand between unfettered state and atomized citizen.

But the federal government has a long history of trampling over religious beliefs when doing so supports a national agenda. One good example, also supported by conservative Justice Scalia, is the religious use of controlled substances, which the Supreme Court has determined can be disallowed. Mr. Krauthammer has access to high level archival databases. Surely has access to wikipedia.

Conservatives, including Mitt Romney, New Gingrich, and the leadership of the Heritage Foundation all supported the individual mandate before defeating the mandate became something that could used to damage the Democratic party. That’s another inconvenient fact that Mr. Krauthammer has to ignore in order to paint Democrats as Socialists for their support of Obamacare.

A nobody like I can be forgiven for acting like a passive element and mindlessly repeating lies that are bouncing around the internet. Someone with Mr. Krauthammer’s resources should know better.

Wynne Legrow for Congress.

Last year, Randy Forbes got a lot of support by mis-characterizing the public option as a government takeover. Thanks in part to his opposition, the public option died, and today right-wingers cite percentages of people who are unhappy with the health care bill without noting the fact that a lot of people are only upset about the concessions that were made to opposition.

I’ll give Mr. Forbes credit. He’s not as nasty as members of his party who are making the rudest insults and wildest accusations about the president and Democrats in general. He is a polite, well spoken gentleman and I would probably like him as a neighbor.

But as politician, he’s dangerous. While he refrains from the worst of Republican behaviors, he rides the waves generated by the lies of his party. His pleasant demeanor provides a false sense of credibility for the worst policies of the right wing, which he supports with lock-step party-line zeal while claiming to be above partisan bickering.

Unfortunately, support for wars based on mis-information, hate-based immigration rhetoric, violations of the first amendment, and mis-characterizations about health care have made Randy Forbes unbeatable in election after election for Virginia’s 4th congressional district.

It’s time for a change, and that change comes, perhaps ironically, in the form of another polite, well-spoken gentleman, Wynne Legrow. As a retired physician with nearly thirty years experience, he and his wife Marilyn, a nurse, know a bit about health care, and will speak honestly against the lies that have blunted what could have been a better reform bill. That he has built a successful medical practice, including his own dialysis center, means he also knows about business and economics, and has what it takes to implement successful strategies. And Dr. Legrow served his country in the U.S. Army.

Dr. Legrow is an outsider, driven into politics by a desire to prevent this nation from backsliding towards the awful policies that we’re finally starting to recover from. He has no need to promote himself with populist rhetoric.

Dr. Legrow will continue to support health care reform, as well as intelligent wall street regulation and clean energy policies. Despite the rhetoric from the right, these policies are being proven effective as our economy shows signs of recovery, while the opposing policies have resulted in a series of economical and environmental disasters.

Visit Legrow For Congress for more information and to make a contribution.

Freedom Fighters

“You are the most beautiful sight any of us freedom fighters have seen for a long time”, said Michele Bachmann, to a crowd of people carrying a large sign that showed a pile of naked, concentration camp bodies. The visual aide was part of a protest against health care reform. Sure, I see the connection, don’t you?

Of course, it wasn’t actually a “Protest”, it was “Press Conference”.