I have been a politically active person for decades now. Before I could even walk, my parents dressed me up as Superman to protest a power plant that was dumping krypton into a local river (true story!). Every day, before I even eat lunch (I am not a breakfast person) I devour the headlines from several news sites just so I can get my anger levels up to where they need to be to survive. But sometimes something comes along in the political world that is so baffling, so ass-backwards that I can do nothing more than slam my head down on the table and scream. Something that makes so little sense, that is such a shimmering example of how fucked our political debate has gotten in this country, that it makes me throw my hands in the sky and scream “You win, Politics! I GIVE UP!” Last week, that thing was the health-care reform law.
I don’t know if you guys heard about it because it got a bit lost in the whole Iowa Straw Poll nonsense, but last Thursday an appeals court in Georgia upheld a lower court’s ruling that a key provision in the health-care reform bill, the one requiring every citizen of the United States to purchase some form of health insurance, was unconstitutional. And then the uproar began on both sides, the left condemning this travesty of social justice and the right cheering a victory over prosperity-destroying socialism. Exactly the sort of thing you would expect to happen when part of the sacred cow bill that Obama promised us begins to crumble. But hang on, something’s wrong here…
Let’s take a look at the particular portion of the law that is being challenged here (and will no doubt go all the way up to the Supreme Court, where the appeals court ruling will be upheld in a 5-4 decision, mark my words): the “individual mandate” portion of the bill requires nearly everyone in this country to purchase health insurance. I hate to agree with Bill O’Reilly on this one, but I don’t want to live in a United States which has set the precedent that the government can force every citizen to enter into an expensive, life-long contract with a private corporation or face hefty fines. Put me in with the right-wingers on this one – that seems patently unconstitutional.
But here’s where the whole thing gets to the point where it hurts my feeble, withered, alcohol-soaked brain to just think about it: the two parties are taking stands on this issue that are completely opposite their ideologies, and doing so for purely political (as opposed to ideological) reasons. Here’s the deal:
This provision was put into the law as an appeasement to insurance companies in exchange for them being forced to cover pre-existing conditions, a part of the bill that I very passionately believe in. When that bit of legislation was introduced, the insurers (or, more accurately, their billion-dollar lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for members of congress on both sides of the aisle) screamed foul, because covering pre-existing conditions would cost them a fortune and cut into the record-breaking profits they have been enjoying while the rest of the economy crashed around their ears. And because we live in a country where the government’s primary concern is making sure the rich stay rich, a compromise was struck (for those of you who don’t remember compromise, it was a quaint old method of doing business where both sides of a deal gave a little ground in order to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement; don’t worry too much about learning the word, it has since gone extinct) that would mandate that all those deadbeats who can’t afford to buy insurance pony up and kick in their dollars to help the insurers maintain their profits.
If you didn’t follow that (and I certainly didn’t make it easy with all those snarky parentheticals; oh shit, I did it again!) what the left are steadfastly defending and the right loudly decrying is a mandate that assures corporate profits. What the fuck, America? Are you even listening to yourselves?
Let me rebut each side individually, starting with the right because their stance is the easiest to prove false:
Attention America’s right wing: forcing Americans to purchase health insurance, even at a reduced cost through government pools (which still purchase the actual insurance from private corporations) is not fucking socialism. It is, in fact, some sort of Bizarro socialism, wherein instead of everyone being forced to kick in money to support all members of society and provide essential services free of charge, everyone is forced to kick in money to make sure that the CEO of Kaiser can still buy a new solid gold yacht every year. Sure, there are tons of socialistic aspects to the health reform bill (though not nearly as many as there should be, in my opinion), but this ain’t one of them! This is a decidedly pro-business piece of legislation, and if the last eleven years have taught me anything, it’s that Republicans love business so much that they would totally give business a handjob in their cars behind the gym, if only business would notice them! You should also probably understand that just because one blatantly unconstitutional part of the law is struck down, the whole house of cards isn’t going to fall. What happens if this ruling is upheld is that that provision is stricken from the law and the rest goes on until it’s challenged, leaving the corporations who would have had their profits ensured dangling in the breeze, the way I personally would like to see it done.
And you, lefties. Have you all lost your fucking minds? You are defending corporate welfare simply because it’s part of a package that your party barely managed to squeak through congress. This isn’t the real, sweeping reform we were promised, it’s a few good changes and a shit-ton of concessions to corporations who are making record fucking profits. I know I tease you guys a lot about giving away the farm on every deal you make, but this is just too goddamned ridiculous. Between this absurd mandate and the fact that most of the reforms made in the law don’t take effect until 2014, giving the insurance companies years to find work-arounds, challenge the law in court (not that that would ever happen *cough*) or just wait for a new president to take office and strike it down in toto, all we got was a symbolic measure with absolutely no teeth whatsoever. And here you are, defending the one part of the bill that you should, according to what I thought the Democratic party stood for, be happiest to let go.
I’ve heard people compare the “individual mandate” to car insurance: if it’s constitutional to require everyone who drives to purchase car insurance, why isn’t it constitutional to require health insurance? Two reasons: one, you’re not required by law to own and operate a car. If you want to avoid paying for auto insurance there are a wide variety of ways to get around: feet, bicycles, skateboards, buses, taxies, rideshare, rickshaw, motherfucking ponies! I hear some cities even have trains that go underground! And don’t give me that “have you ever tried to get around on public transportation” garbage, because I have and it’s possible. Convenience does not equal necessity, you spoiled little assholes. By contrast, the law in question leaves no alternatives – you pay a monthly premium for insurance or you pay a fine which would cost more than the premium. There is no bus option, not even a public option (like we were promised so many times).
Second, the laws mandate car insurance only require you to purchase liability coverage – the kind that pays for damages you do to other people’s stuff – not coverage for yourself. It’s a law designed to protect people’s property from irresponsible drivers and car crashes that could ruin their primary means of transportation and cost them thousands of dollars through no fault of their own. The health insurance mandate covers you and only you. The only two things outside of yourself that it protects are the insurance companies’ profits and the government coffers that would have to pay for your dumb ass in an extreme emergency situation.
I have railed on endlessly before about partisan politics and how they are dragging this country down the toilet, but this right here, this really takes the cake. This is a clear-cut example of the parties lining up against their own ideologies just to take a stance opposite the other party. I…I don’t even know how to express my disgust with enough vitriol to accurately portray what I’m feeling right now. I cannot facedesk hard enough to represent my disgust. I think I’m going to go soothe my troubled mind with some good old-fashioned morning drinkin’ and a few hours of daytime “courtroom” tv shows. Hopefully the ensuing coma will give me the chance to rest up enough to begin to deal with this.