Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If This Doesn’t Scare You, Nothing Will

Even though they’ve benefited from them, Republicans and other right-wing ideologues have hated the progressive political reforms of the 20th century ever since they were instituted. And they haven’t given up trying to overturn them, even after all these decades. In a piece today in Salon, political reporter Alex Seitz-Wald suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court’s possible overturning of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act might finally give right-wingers a chance to basically erase the social advances of the 20th century. Writes Seitz-Wald:
At the heart of case are two constitutional questions. First, whether Congress has the authority to require Americans to purchase health insurance under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. And second, whether the federal government can compel states to expand their Medicaid funding.

In a white paper published by the American Constitution Society last year, Lazarus argued that if both go down, “[it] will call into question the constitutional bases for, and hence could trigger copycat challenges to, provisions of other landmark laws and programs, including safety net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program); civil rights law guarantees against private discrimination by places of public accommodation or in the workplace; federal grant programs in education, transportation, and other large-scale cooperative federalism initiatives; and environmental protection.”

This line of argument assumes that the individual mandate is valid, as many legal scholars agree it is, and so for the Court to overturn it, they would have to invalidate other progressive reforms going back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, as they are all built on an expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause. This wouldn’t happen right away, but would come piecemeal through lawsuits against specific regulations over time. As courts applied the Supreme Court’s new precedent, they would chip away at labor, environmental and other regulations, and unforeseeable other programs.

A negative ruling on the Medicaid expansion could be even more consequential. This provision of the Affordable Care Act increases the number of people who are eligible for the federal low-income healthcare program, and is the means by which the law covers the bulk of today’s uninsured population. Under the new law, the federal government provides some of the funds for the expansion, and makes states pony up the rest by threatening to rescind all federal Medicaid funds if they don’t comply. Congress has used this same basic principle to do everything from increasing the drinking age to 21 to implementing Title IX, the gender equity in education law.

“The collateral damage is huge,” Lazarus told
Salon. “The Medicaid expansion would have farther reaching consequences [than the individual mandate], especially immediately. It would be more possible to contain the implications of the mandate than the Medicaid expansion.”
The full article can be found here.

Naturally, right-wingers deny that the Supreme Court’s actions might given them this opening to kill off Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a host of other social programs that have proved invaluable to Americans over the last 80 years.

But even presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt “Flip-flopper” Romney, by endorsing a budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), is now solidly in the camp of Republicans wanting to undo those progressive reforms. And if Romney--with the help of his self-interested corporate backers--wins the White House in November, and he gains significant backing in Congress, he’ll undoubtedly start the dismantling process, no matter what public opinion says.

The bottom line: Vote Democratic in November in order to save the nation’s most cherished social programs.

READ MORE:Social Security Bankrupt? Not So Fast!” by Nathaniel Downes (Addicting Info).

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