Like the Hunger Games, in which leaders of the 1% connive to rig a contest so that a charismatic representative of the 99% is defeated, there’s lots of intrigue behind the US Supreme Court hearings on the federal health care law that begin today.
The ostensible issue before the high court is whether the universal health care system established by Congress in 2010 is constitutional. Like the systems in most other developed nations, that law requires all Americans to be covered – whether through their employer or by purchasing it directly. Now this is just plain arithmetic: you can’t have a solvent universal care program if participation is voluntary, because the young and healthy won’t bother to pitch in until they get sick, leaving the older and less healthy to cover most of the cost. Universal means everyone has to be part of it – both getting the medical benefits and paying for its cost. Today, taxpayers end up bailing out people who don’t buy insurance and then get sick or in an accident.
But the corporate funded US Chamber of Commerce and other right wing entities, plus anti-government foes (including most of the Republicans candidates who want to run the government), argue it was unconstitutional for Congress to order everyone to pay for health insurance. My problem with that part of the law – known as the "individual mandate" – is that you have to buy the insurance from private insurance companies, and there is no limit on what they can charge you. That’s gotta be fixed, and a campaign is underway to do that in California. As everyone knows, however, Obama lifted his health care proposal from the law that Mitt Romney, then Governor of Massachusetts, enacted there in 2006. So its obvious that a big part of why the corporate Republican establishment opposes the law is that it was backed by a Democrat – Obama – and they don’t want him or any other elected Democrat to be able to claim any political victories.
There’s much more to the Supreme Court case than crass party politics, in any case. Many on the corporate right are hoping the US Supreme Court will issue a sweeping decision like they did in Citizens United, this time ratcheting back Congress’s regulatory authority across the board and therefore bolstering the power of big corporations – just as Citizens United did, in the guise of granting corporations a new right to corrupt elections under the First Amendment.
A decision limiting Congress’s power to regulate pollution would be a huge win for chemical manufacturers; drug and tobacco companies want to escape the Food and Drug Administration’s safety requirements; Wall Street wants taxpayer bailouts with no strings attached. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the powerful elites in this nation think that the health care case is the Supreme Court’s best opportunity in decades to roll back constitutional rights to the deregulated era of excess that led to the First Great Depression eighty years ago. This will be done in the name of protecting Americans against the intrusion of government in their lives.
In the Hunger Games, the hundred thousand wealthiest people in “Panem” gather in their Capitol to watch as twenty-four randomly selected citizens fight each other to death. This is a yearly penance, we are told, imposed by the wealthy in response to an earlier, unsuccessful revolt by the 99%. The Games provide an excuse for a non-stop party for the powerful – like Mardi Gras only with unimaginable excess. The citizens – known as “Tributes” – come two each from all twelve “Districts” in the country. Those Districts looked a lot like many parts of the United States. People trudge to poor-paying jobs and live in flimsy structures one step up from homelessness. They shop at flea markets where barter is common. They catch their own food. They help each other out because the Capitol has long since abandoned them.
There are other eerie similarities and ironies. In the Hunger Games, the entire game area is wired with cameras and the contest is continuously broadcast to the nation on enormous screens. This quickly turns to the disadvantage of the 1% in the Capitol, because the 99% become inspired by watching the heroine’s courage and humanity and start to rebel anew. This is a lesson our Supreme Court has already learned: you can forget about seeing any of its hearings on the health care law on a screen of any size. Watching the Justices and corporate lawyers rework the Constitution into a weapon of the mighty might anger some Americans. So the Supreme Court has banned any video… but says it will release audio at the end of each day’s hearing.
It’s clear from the movie that the elites have powerful medicines that can instantly eliminate infections and heal wounds, but residents of the Districts have never seen that kind of health care. I guess the Panem Chamber of Commerce would argue that these citizens are fortunate to be “free from government interference in their lives.”