SCOTUS stunned everyone with their ObamaCare decision. Only the most devoted Democrats thought there was a chance that it would get by a steadfastly right wing court. Republicans, especially those flirting with the tea party contingent, were counting on a major league slap down of Obama’s bill. It would have given them some serious talking points going into this fall’s political silly season.
First responder comments ranged from the thoughtful to the thoughtless to over-the-top hissy fits lead by Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) who said, "This is a crushing blow to freedom and an absolute insult to the dignity of all Americans. I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court for giving the government the authority to force citizens to buy a product. I believe this encroachment of government is unconstitutional and offensive. It puts the life and death health decisions of our families and loved ones in the hands of Washington Bureaucrats. We don't want the compassion of the IRS or the efficiency of the DMV in our healthcare system. Now we must work tirelessly to continue defunding and destroying the monster that is ObamaCare.”
Standing in a centrist position are The New York Times’ Adam Liptak and John H. Cushman Jr., who expressed their opinion that "The court’s ruling, seen as one of the most significant in decades, is a crucial milestone for the law, allowing almost all of its far-reaching changes to roll forward. Several of its notable provisions have already been put in place in the past two years, and more are imminent. Ultimately, it is intended to end the United States’ status as the only rich country with large numbers of uninsured people, by expanding both the private market and Medicaid."
Realistically, Liptak and Cushman are right. Whether you’re pro or con on this health care bill, it is one of the most significant rulings in decades. Standing in the middle of the road in 2012, as they are, means they’re likely to be run down by traffic coming at them from both directions.
What did President Obama have to say about this surprise decision? Speaking shortly after the confusion created by CNN’s careless rush-to-report faux pas was cleared up, he said, "The highest Court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we'll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won't do -- what the country can't afford to do -- is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.
"With today's announcement, it's time for us to move forward -- to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law. And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.
"But today, I'm as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we'll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward."
The Tea Party Patriots declared a war on Obama and ObamaCare when they Facebooked “If the Supreme Court won't Repeal ObamaCare, we will! Sign the petition today to Repeal ObamaCare. Please ‘Like’ and ‘Share.’"
But let’s stop the self-serving rhetoric and the insanely egoistic posturing for a moment, even if those two points are the entire stock-in-trade of too many politicians. Here are two more points to ponder. (1) The highest court in the land has said ObamaCare is constitutional. That argument, which has been slow crawling through the courts since day one, is over. Deal with it. (2) The court only ruled on its constitutionality, not its implementation which might prove far more difficult and divisive than the law itself.
My friend and dairy farmer Marianne Friers wrote, “You know Chuck, there are those among us who are struggling to maintain multi-generation dairy farms, who can barely pay our bills. Have you compared milk prices to grain prices lately? The milk to feed ratio is the worst that it has been in history! Where on earth are we supposed to come up with another thousand bucks a month to buy the health insurance we have gone without for years because we couldn't pay for it...not wouldn't-couldn't? It is (not) always about politics, it is sometimes about the economy, which is pretty dire for a lot of people right now.”
The often painful truth is politics has to be about compromise. It's impossible to benefit some without discomforting others. I don't know where some people will find the money but the individual mandate, by bringing healthy people into the insurance market and lowering premiums, means health insurance will be within the means of as many as 24 million more Americans than if the mandate was struck down.
Is it socialism? No more than the financing of fire departments and police stations, no more than the building of roads for everyone to use. Is it fair? Not to Marianne Friers and her family, but to my nephew Michael and his wife and daughter who have never been able to afford health care and have been forced to cross their fingers and hope for good health, it’s a Godsend.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.