The Supreme Court's decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was clearly an upset. Just a few days earlier, the operations manager of Intrade, the Ireland-based market where futures traders can bet on forthcoming political events, told ABC News that there was a 76 percent chance that the law would be ruled unconstitutional. Intrade's traders correctly predicted the 2004 presidential election results in all 50 states and were correct in all but two states in the 2008 election.
Little wonder, then, that the reaction has been hyperbolic. Filmmaker Michael Moore called it "a great victory" that deserved "loud cheers;" former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel thanked his former boss for having "the courage to bend the needle of history."
On the flip side, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the decision was "a crushing blow to patients;" Rush Limbaugh bemoaned "We have been betrayed and deceived by the Supreme Court!"
But, for two main reasons, the ACA decision was not America's game changer.
First, the court invalidated the act's mandatory expansion of Medicaid, which had been challenged by 26 states, thereby subverting a significant part of the entire law.
Second, and much more important, one week earlier, in a different case, this same court's 5-4 decision doubled down on its 2010 Citizens United decision that permits secret unlimited corporate and other big money financing of national political campaigns. On June 25, it reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld a 100-year-old anti-corruption state law restricting corporate contributions in its state and local elections. Twenty-two states supported Montana, claiming state laws dealing with state and local elections are state and local matters and therefore should not be subject to the Citizens United ruling, which dealt with national elections. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down American Tradition Partnership Inc. v. Bullock without a hearing. The reversal destroys the last barrier to the corrupting influence of big money in our politics at all levels, whether from corporations, rich individuals or secretly financed super PACs. Our elections may now be auctions favoring the highest bidders. There are no limits. It puts America well on the road to big corporate control of the nation's affairs.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told MSNBC, "We've had 100 years of clean elections. And now the Supreme Court back there in Washington, D.C, think they know better for us in Montana. They tell us we have to accept dirty, secret, corporate, and even foreign money, pouring into Montana, taking over everything from the courthouse all the way to the statehouse ..."
The Montana decision mocks the court majority's presumed legal philosophy of fidelity to the 10th Amendment stressing states' rights, just as its predecessor Rehnquist court's 5-4 majority invalidated Florida Supreme Court's decision to let counting continue in the 2000 presidential election. That overrule meant one justice's vote selected our 43rd president. The unelected black-robed politicos selectively rely on their states' rights creed when it suits their political predilections, as in their rejection of the above-mentioned Medicaid expansion.
In his 2010 State of the Union speech, President Obama said he believed the Supreme Court had "reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections."
Discarding judicial restraint, Justice Sam Alito mouthed the words "Not true!"
Typifying anti-Obama rhetoric, conservative talk show host Michael Medved insists the president "went way over the line in attacking the Supreme Court." An attack? Come on! It was a mildly stated opinion that these days resonates with great truth: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker narrowly escaped being recalled last month after outspending his opponent 7-to-1, thanks to out-of-state financial support. The Koch brothers recently disclosed that they would spend $9 million in advertising to defeat the ACA. Super-rich conservative financier Sheldon Adelson made a $10 million contribution to the Koch brothers to support Republican candidates and defeat Obama. Talking Points Memo reports he has also given $10 million to Restore Our Future, the Romney super PAC, and another $10 million to two Republican congressional candidates. Politico reports that the Koch brothers are expected to steer $400 million to conservative election causes this year.
Today's conservatives fondly refer to our Founding Fathers for political guidance. They would do well to recall the words of Thomas Jefferson who in 1816 wrote: "I hope we shall ... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to trial and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
- Michael Zucker is a resident of South Lake Tahoe and a stockbroker with Regal Securities.