Republicans are cheering the DC Circuit Court’s ruling that people in states that haven’t set up their own exchanges and who therefore have to buy their health insurance through the federal exchange can’t receive federal subsidies because Congress failed to spell things out in a way disingenuous conservative judges couldn’t pretend wasn’t implicit in the law.
I’m not sure why the DC Circuit Court’s ruling is getting more attention from the punditry than the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ almost simultaneously delivered ruling the opposite way unless it’s just that it’s more fun to construct worst case scenarios than to report things are likely to continue on as they are despite the Circuit Court’s partisan Republican majority or it just always has to be bad news for Democrats. But things are what they are in punditland, and I suppose, if worst case scenario comes to worst, the effect of the Circuit Court’s ruling could be, if it isn’t overturned on appeal or the Supreme Court gets involved and rules in a way inconsistent with its previous ruling on the ACA, that a lot of middle and working class people in Republican states are going to see their insurance premiums jump way high! So high that many of them will have to reduce their coverage or drop it altogether.
Hooray! say those people’s supposed representatives.
Hooray, say many of those people who will be hurt by this.
This sounds crazy. Politicians happy their constituents are going to get hurt, those constituents happy to cut off their own noses to spite their faces or happy to have the politicians do the cutting for them. It’s just nuts, right?
But that’s the way it’s been with the Republicans for over five years now. They hate President Obama so much they would rather suffer themselves than see him succeed at anything.
They hate the people they see as the main and close to the only beneficiaries of the President’s Marxist-Kenyan agenda, THEM, those OTHERS, so much they would would rather nobody got any federal help paying insurance than they themselves got it even it means they’d be paying only a couple hundred bucks a month for coverage. They’d rather pay a thousand a month or go without insurance entirely than live with the idea that a dime of their tax money was going to help THEM!
Martyrs to the cause.
This is assuming they believe it’s helping anyone at all.
Many of them don’t.
Many of them believe that everything the President does is the opposite of help. Everything he does is a trap or a trick designed to wreck our country and take away our freedoms! Everything he does is corrupt, corrupting, illegal, and unconstitutional because he’s not really one of us. He’s not a real American. He’s not really the President. Not our President Impeach!
There’s more to it, though. The propagandists for the corporate powers that be have done a tremendous job of inculcating the faithful with a near religious conviction that all forms of government aid are sinful. Doesn’t matter how much good the feds do you in the here and now, it’s the devil’s work and you’ll pay for it down the road, the road being the road to hell or, at any rate, the road out of Galt’s Gulch.
The corporatists and their flunkies in the media and politics have been at this for generations and they’ve managed to convince millions that that they should be ashamed to accept any government help at any time. Real men, real Americans would rather die on their own two feet than relax in a hammock bought with somebody else’s tax dollars. (Never mind asking what your own tax dollars have been paying for all along.) Real men would rather lose their homes than take a government job. Real men would rather their pregnant wives received no pre-natal care than let them go to a government funded clinic. Real men would rather their children went hungry than feed them king crab legs and steak bought with food stamps. Real men would rather they themselves and their whole families never see a doctor, that they live with the pain and the cough and the fatigue and the rash and the chronic indigestion and hope it all goes away than pay for a routine check-up through health insurance subsidized by the government.
Real men should be ashamed to receive any of this help because only losers and slackers and parasites and thieves need it or want it, and is that what you are? A loser…a slacker…a parasite…a thief?
Not only are you asserting your manhood by refusing the help you earned and paid for and your family needs. You are helping others assert theirs by denying them the help they’ve earned and paid for and their families’ needs.
God will reward you for your good character in the end.
And here’s where the quasi-religious bleeds into the truly religious and the preachers of the capitalist gospel join hands with the preachers of Right Wing Christianity to manipulate and exploit the faithful.
We’re talking about the last heirs of Calvinism, the remaining Puritans, who believe that God does not want us to be happy. Not here. Not on earth. HE wants us to suffer. He wants us to endure. He wants us to do without---without pleasure, without joy, without comfort except that which comes from knowing that if we’re good, that is, if we take what comes, good or bad, thanking Him for it, even if all it is a deserved lesson in what happens if we earn his displeasure or incur his wrath. (Thank Him for His mercy that He did not make it worse for us!) Pain and suffering inflicted upon us, by God, Nature, or Man is meant to be endured without complaint, even welcomed. Better to sit in the dung heap nursing our boils stoically than to even mildly and politely question His judgments.
As for the suffering and pain of others? There’s a lesson in that too. And besides the fact that God helps those who help themselves, if God let it happen to them, let the tornado blow down their house, let the drought wither their crops, let the fetus of a forced pregnancy die in their womb, let a forced pregnancy kill them, let the homophobic bullies drive them to suicide, let their children die in the desert walking towards our borders, let the lunatic into their school to shoot their children, let the terrorists blow up their buildings, well, then they must have deserved it and who are we to get in the way of God’s justice by coming to their aid and comfort or doing anything to prevent such divinely-meted pain and suffering in the future.
They’ll rarely put it that explicitly themselves because besides sounding nuts it sounds blasphemous.
God wants us to suffer and wants us to make each other suffer in the process?
Well, there are passages in the Old Testament in which He appears to be just that kind of demon.
It goes way back. There’s a always been a sado-masochistic strain in Christianity that’s held that this world is a temptation and a trap. Early pleasures, earthly joys, earthly comforts take our minds off of God from whom they should never wander. Hence, a tradition of hair shirts and self-flagellation.
On top of this, let’s not forget that many Right Wing Christians believe God wants them to be rich. They believe that the Jesus who said Do not store up treasures on earth and Sell everything and follow me was kidding. He really meant the opposite: Pile it up the gold to the rafters and buy whatever you want and can get your hands on.
They believe that the only earthly pleasures, joy, and comfort we’re allowed are the ones we can purchase at top dollar.
So there are people who think or unconsciously accept that if they can’t afford gold-plated insurance, it’s because they’ve done something wrong and don’t deserve it or because God just hasn’t gotten around to them yet but when he does---BINGO! They’re going to hit life’s jackpot.
Either accepting government aid is going against God will and what He’s ordained for you or accepting it is unnecessary because you’re only temporarily not a millionaire and you can be patient until He sails your ship in.
Or maybe I’ve read the right amount of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Whatever’s the case, here we are, with a government program that, however flawed it might be, isn’t just better than nothing, it’s far, far, far better than nothing. Millions of Americans’ lives are vastly improved by it. Saved by it! And here are people positively gleeful at the prospect of its being taken away, including people whose lives are being improved, even saved, including politicians whose job you would think is to look out for those people’s general welfare.
But, of course, many of those politicians represent no one but the rich corporatists who’ve bought them and the rich corporatists are opposed to government aid programs on two grounds: Those programs cost them money in taxes and accounting fees and they give workers the courage and the resources to stand up for themselves against their bosses.
What the corporatists and their flunkies in Congress are hoping is that the District Court’s ruling spells the end of Obamacare. If millions of healthy people can’t afford the premiums anymore and drop out, the only people sticking with the program will be the sick and at risk, which will cause the dreaded death spiral.
Wiser analysts than I seem pretty sure this won’t happen. They think the DC District Court’s full panel will overrule the lower panel, that the Court of Appeals ruling will become the precedent, and the Supreme Court will pretend none of this is going on. The worst case scenario in their opinion is that subsidies will continue for people in the states that have set up their own exchanges or entered into state-federal partnerships, almost all of them Blue States, while people in the rest, almost all of them Red States, will get screwed.
And apparently the people getting screwed and their political leaders will be content with this arrangement.
As far as they’re concerned, if Blue States want to guarantee their citizens health care, raise the minimum wage, protect workers, clean up their lakes and rivers, adopt more green energy systems and technologies, let everybody even those people marry, let anyone come live there, let anyone vote, feed, house, and educate those people’s children, and safeguard women’s health and their autonomy and their economic well-being, fine! Let them go their way and we’ll go ours. As long as our tax dollars don’t help pay for any of it.
The country will divide even more between states that are progressive in taking care of their citizens and increasing their general welfare and prosperity and states that in the name of Freedom are willing to grow poorer and more backwards and less attractive to businesses and to intelligent, creative, and upwardly mobile people looking for a place to live and raise their families.
It’ll be a long drawn-out, passive-aggressive act of de facto secession.
At any rate, that’s what it looks like to me, going by Paul Waldman’s description at the Washington Post of how the process is already underway:
In the Halbig case, conservatives located a drafting error and pursued it for no reason other than that it looked like a promising vehicle for Republican-appointed judges to strike a blow at the law. Creating two different countries when it comes to the ACA wasn’t really the goal, but it could be the outcome.
Let’s imagine the Supreme Court upheld the D.C. Circuit panel’s decision. In the states that have already established state exchanges, nothing would change. With a few exceptions (like Kentucky and Idaho) these are blue states. Everywhere else, people would immediately lose the tax credits they received to buy insurance, reverting to the pre-ACA status quo. That means more people without insurance, and a system that is generally more cruel and unforgiving. The states that are Democratic-controlled or divided but haven’t yet set up an exchange, like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maine, would probably move to do so in order to restore those subsidies to their citizens. Once it all shook out, you’d have a situation in which, for all intents and purposes, the most consequential social legislation passed through Congress in nearly half a century was operative in only half the country.
If that were to happen (and maybe even if it doesn’t), Republicans are likely to see a new means to accomplish their policy goals on any number of issues. If you can’t repeal a federal law you don’t like, maybe you can have it apply only to Blue America. Get a few creative lawyers together, and you can come up with a rationale for a lawsuit to allow states to opt out of almost any law; few can deny now that no matter how thin the legal reed you hang such a suit on, there will always be conservative judges who will embrace your logic. We could see a proliferation of opt-out amendments in Congress, as each significant piece of legislation is accompanied by an effort to give Republican states the ability to exempt themselves.
And I’m tempted to say, Fine! If that’s what you want for yourselves, go your way and let us go ours. Let us keep our money and our resources and our talent and our technological know-how and innovations, and you can keep your false pride, and we’ll call it a deal.
Goodbye, and good luck!
If only it were that simple.
If only it was the right thing to do.
We can’t give up on them because that would mean giving up millions of our fellow Americans.
Because the political and corporate powers that be in those states would let their citizens go without seeing doctors. They would let them die of treatable diseases. They would let the children of the poor go hungry. They would destroy their own public schools. They would take the vote away from African Americans and never give it to any immigrants or not to brown-skinned, Spanish-speakers, at any rate. They would push their gay friends and family members back into closets or drive them from home and break their hearts. They would force non-Christians to pray to Jaysus in public. They would ban the teaching of any real science that contradicted the bible or thwarted the interests of their big businesses. They would let their lakes die, their streams choke, and their rivers fill up with poisons. They would turn back the calendar to that wonderful day when women knew to keep to their places as obedient wives, doting mothers, and uncomplaining baby-making machines.
They would do all that. They are doing it or doing all they can trying to.
It’s not that the only thing stopping them or reining them is their connection to us here in the Blue States, although they are as tangled up with us as we are with them and we keep winning just enough national elections to have a strong say in their affairs. Plenty of their own citizens are standing up and fighting the good fight and even winning here and there.
But they need our support and encouragement. They need us to back them up. They need to know if things get dire, they can count on us to come running to help.
And they can, because they are not a they and we are not just us.
We’re all us.
And we’re all in this together.
No matter what some of us might think.
Be sure to read all of Waldman’s post at the Post, The deepening divide between red and blue America.
And don’t miss Michael Tomasky’s post at the Daily Beast, Conservatives Find Typo in Obamacare, Try to Kill People With It.
Maybe it’s best, though, to start with Nicholas Bagley’s post at The Incidental Economist, Halbig said it was applying the law as written. Don’t believe it