Happy Independence Day America “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

July 4, 2012     John Hanno

Happy Independence Day America  “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (or Obama Care to the tea-party and free market zealots) are apoplectic that someone, especially “the Government,” should force them to do anything. They believe it violates their constitutional rights if the “Government” should require them to purchase health insurance, ignoring the fact that for generations, we’ve required individuals, businesses and institutions to purchase automobile liability, workers compensation and other forms of insurances.

Our founding fathers and the framers of our constitution could not possibly have foreseen the complexity of our society today, the 50 million Americans without health care or the hundreds of hospitals on the verge of bankruptcy because they must treat for free, millions of sick folks who flood their emergency rooms 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Nor could they have contemplated the burden on the taxpayers who must ultimately pay the interest on those unpaid costs.

The Republican’s demonized the President for wasting too much time and effort on getting the Affordable Care Act signed into law, instead of dealing early on with unemployment and the national debt; again conveniently ignoring the fact that a large portion of that debt is caused by our dysfunctional health care system and also that a cornerstone of the Act is it’s provisions designed to help control runaway health care costs and enhance preventative medical care. The Republican’s have had no plan of their own, other than their business as usual doctrine of tacking closely with the insurance industry; but that approach was thoroughly indefensible.

And of course for the last 30 plus years, corporate leaders joined at the hip by Republican apologists throughout the country, have disowned our working class and preached from the mountain tops that the reason they were closing almost 50,000 factories and exporting those good paying manufacturing jobs was because of the generous and untenable benefits paid to our middle class working men and women. We’ve heard for decades that the American auto industry can’t compete when the average legacy costs for each American made auto was more than $1,500 (now between $2,300 and $2,700), compared to a small fraction of what it is in Mexico, Korea or China. But is that what America has become; a society that will build things but only as long as the workers are willing to forsake the benefits the American worker has fought and died for over the last century?

So in order to level the playing field a bit, President Obama and critical thinking Democratic Congressmen and women realized early on that if we’re going to create living wage jobs for hardworking Americans, they would have to first tackle our health care crisis. They believed that if American manufacturers were not burdened with unpredictable and ballooning health care costs, they could more easily compete with the rest of the industrialized world and consequently bring back those good paying manufacturing jobs.

But the Republican’s pledged, soon after President Obama was sworn in, to do everything they could to keep him from being reelected. They obstructed each and every one of his and the Democrats efforts to pull us out of the depression era financial collapse and debt crisis, which the Republicans created, by disregarding and dismantling financial industry regulations, giving unnecessary and unneeded tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and by waging two unnecessary and unfunded wars.

Their single minded campaign to overturn the Affordable Care Act and obstruct the President at every opportunity during the last three and a half years, has stymied America’s fiscal recovery and brought us to the edge of the cliff, wondering whether a majority of our Supreme Court Justices would cling to their ultra conservative ideology or side with the 50 million Americans without health care and the 36 to 112 million Americans with pre-existing conditions who couldn’t afford or even find any form of health care if insurance companies had their way.

Would the Supreme Court side with the special interests that have funded these attacks on the Act and the President and his party’s attempts to begin removing the albatross around the neck of America’s recovery and prosperity or with the 13.7 million young American’s between 18 and 25 who are now able to remain on their parent’s insurance policies until they’re 26 years of age.

Would the Court side with the tea party crowd that has commandeered the Grand Old Party or with a large number of the 65% of America’s prison population who have some mental health issue and who might not have even been institutionalized (at $50,000 per year) had they had medical insurance and the specialized care they desperately needed. Our prisons are not equipped and their employees are not trained to care properly for these mentally ill inmates. And taxpayers should not have to pay for their expensive incarceration because even the best of the mental health care provisions of health insurance policies cover only 65% or less of the costs of mental health care, if at all. The Affordable Care Act strengthens mental health coverage for all.

Would the Court side with the libertarians who firmly believe they are not their brothers or sisters keeper or with the tens of millions of working poor who can’t afford health care insurance even if it were available.

Would they side with the insurance companies who skim more than 30% off the top of America’s astronomical health care expenditures (which is 50% more per person than virtually all industrialized nations) or with the 86 million people who have already received free preventive care, the 105 million people who no longer face a lifetime cap on benefits and the 17 million children who already cannot be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions.

The new tea-party controlled Republican members of Congress were adamant that no part of President Obama’s health care act should survive the Supreme Court’s decision. Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa outlined their ideology when he stated the previous month that “I don’t want any vestige of Obamacare left in law,” “Not one particle of DNA.” Could the Affordable Care Act survive if the individual mandate were to be struck down or would it be in jeopardy of collapsing, as the Republican’s prayed, because the mandate is what makes the law affordable? In fact we already have a mandate, one that requires taxpayers to pay the unreimbursed medical costs for those who can’t afford, can’t find or refuse to purchase health insurance. The irony is that this mandate was proposed by Republicans who, at one time believed in personal responsibility; that is before they flip flopped on the issue just so they could oppose President Obama and the Democrats. Would the Supreme Court side with these uncompromising neo-con’s or with the tens of millions of hard working American’s who have fallen out of the middle class.

Should our Supreme Court have even choose, or be allowed to rule on, such a consequential law; a law written by an elected legislature, which had struggled for decades to reach a hard fought, acceptable compromise that finally passed through both houses of Congress and then signed into law. Would these privileged deciders, none of which ever held elected office, have an inkling of what it took for President Obama and the Democrats to accomplish this feat over the monumental obstruction from special interests and their congressional minions?

Do you think any of the Justices ever had to worry about paying for health care for themselves or a sick family member? Thanks to the American taxpayer and our socially democratic form of government, they have one of, if not the best, health care insurance in the world and will have that insurance until the day they die.

Do you think any of the justices have had to sit with a gravely ill or injured family member or child at the emergency room hoping and praying that they will be taken care of instead of just being patched up and shunted off to fend for themselves, by a hospital struggling to keep its doors open?

Do you think any of the Justices or their loved ones have ever been denied hospital care and admission for mental health issues because they had no health insurance and the hospital claimed they had no available room at the inn and just shipped them off to a state run mental institution?

Would all of the justices be able to sympathize with the parents of chronically sick children that kneeled on the steps of the Supreme Court during oral arguments praying for divine intervention?

European and many other countries believe it’s obscene that we allow Americans to be forced into bankruptcy and lose their homes and wealth because of catastrophic health care expenses. Here in Illinois, our governor had recently signed a bill booting 25,000 poor working Americans off of Medicaid. And many other states had or were contemplating similar belt tightening legislation. The Affordable Care Act was not perfect but it’s a start on the road to the universal health care system America needs in order to remain a world leader. A healthy America is a vibrant and prosperous America.

I don’t have an ax to grind when it comes to health care or medical insurance. Fortunately I’m (knock wood) very healthy. I don’t take any medications and I’m old enough to qualify for Medicare. I worked hard in the trades for more than forty years and earned supplemental insurance from my past employer, for which I pay affordable subsidized premiums. And because I spent three years in the Army serving my country, I can go to our local V.A. clinic and hospital if I need routine exams or prescriptions. But not all Americans are so blessed.

I believe health care for all human beings is a right, not a luxury only the rich can afford. I believe health care for all is essential to the “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” principal embodied in our Declaration of Independence. That Declaration was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, exactly 236 years ago. After the Court announced that the Affordable Care Act decision would be issued before Independence Day on June 28th , I wished that our Supreme Court would ask themselves, what Thomas Jefferson would do if he were here today and then decide do what’s best for America for our nation’s upcoming anniversary by upholding the law.

I believe we should have long ago implemented a universal, single payer health care system like much of the civilized world. But there were more than a hundred million Americans who desperately needed that mediocre token of what America really needs and deserves. Considering the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, I didn’t hold much hope for a “just” decision that would be in the best interests of all Americans; but hope springs eternal. A week before the ruling, Sen. John McCain, one of the architects, together with Sen. Russ Feingold, of the 2002 campaign finance law limiting donations to candidates, commented on that Citizens United decision. “I wish one of them had run for County Sheriff” he said of the Justices. Well I think many American’s wished the 4 or 5 most conservative Justices had, at one time or another, lost their health care insurance, been at the mercy of an uncaring and unbending insurance company or had been on the verge of loosing everything they owned because of a catastrophic illness. They wished those Justices had found it necessary to go to a banker, hat in hand, asking for financing to get back on their feet after their credit was destroyed by overwhelming medical expenses. They wished the Justices would try to put themselves in their shoes, as the highest court in the land routinely used to do.      John Hanno


Post Script: After the oral arguments were completed, a poll of constitutional lawyers and experts believed, almost unanimously, that the Act would be upheld. But after months of intense ranting by the right wing noise machine, the odds had changed and were almost 75%, that the law would be overturned.

But miracle of miracles happened, the four more progressive Justices joined with Chief Justice Roberts to uphold most of the act

The ink was barely dry on the court ruling when the cacophony of  Republican congressmen and women, past and present presidential candidates, vice presidential wantabes and most conservative pundits were tripping over themselves to demonize the act and Justice Roberts.

It’s now the job of the President and his surrogates to convince a substantial majority of Americans, that his administration’s courage and determination against the rights scorched earth opposition, and even his own party’s indifference, was worth splitting the union into a medically induced civil war.  Portraying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as (1) vital to creating living wage jobs, (2) helping to reduce the deficit and (3) bringing America’s health care system into the 21st century, will eventually convince most of America, that this is an important step on the path to universal, single payer health care.        John  Hanno