Sunday, July 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Happy birthday, United States.
This has been a particularly long birthday celebration for our country, given that the Fourth of July holiday managed to settle in the middle of the week, which allowed half of working America to celebrate the first part of the week and the other half to enjoy this weekend. All I know is that it was time we all needed to reflect on what was important in our lives.
It didn’t hurt us any to have 236 national birthdays to reflect upon as we tried to understand the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. In the best of circumstances, that would be a difficult chore, but given the unending barrage of “expert” commentary from cable “news” and other paid shills whose job it is to confuse the body politic, is it any wonder that everyone has retreated to their respective corners ready to fight over whether health care will be the undoing of our democracy?
Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t think the end is nigh. Certainly not because of health care. And, more because of the decision than in spite of it, I think we have taken a short step back from the cliff of utter hopelessness.
Where do I start? How about 239 years ago with the real thing? The real Tea Party!
Even today’s faux patriots — you know, the ones who claim Donald Trump as their mascot — have to admit that the people who boarded the ships in Boston Harbor in 1773 to throw overboard the heavily taxed tea that belonged to the king of England and his favorites were risking it all to make the substantial point that the king should not be allowed to impose a tax on the colonists without giving them a voice at the table where it was decided how those tax monies were to be spent. It wasn’t as much about whether to be taxed and how much to be taxed, although that was certainly part of the complaint, but rather for what the money was to be used and who was to make that decision. Remember “no taxation without representation”?
As is usually the case with the demagogues who desire to take advantage of the rubes, today’s “patriot” games being played against the political system have morphed the original intent of the Boston Tea Party into a new Tea Party intent on “no taxes, no growth and no government” that is of, by and for the people who will directly prosper — read that billionaires are funding the action, using the plight of decent and frustrated Americans to give them the cover of a right and proper political movement.
So just when the folks pulling the strings thought they had the upper hand — that would be, in part, convincing a large part of the country that the United States should be the only major industrialized country that doesn’t need to and shouldn’t have to provide a modest level of health care to all of its citizens — who threw a monkey wrench in the program?
Why, none other than the darling of the right wing. The man who could and should have been trusted to toe the line. The man who was to be counted on come hell or high water to do the bidding of those who thought they had a certain vote on the Supreme Court, not just as one of nine justices but as the chief justice himself!
That’s right. When Chief Justice John Roberts decided to join the four more liberal-minded members of the highest court in the land — to find that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional, individual mandate and all — you could have heard the sputtering throughout the hallowed halls of every conservative think tank, right-wing caucus and Republican money-raising machine throughout America. What?
But that is exactly what happened. Roberts found that, whether he agreed with the politics of the matter or not, which wasn’t his place or his job, the Constitution gave Congress the power to tax and that is what it was really doing.
Roberts found that there was plenty of taxation and a roomful of representation when Congress passed the health care act. All was proper. And even though Democrats, on the one hand, were not brave enough to tell the voters that they were basing the health care bill on the ability to raise taxes and Republicans, on the other hand, were too timid to tell the public that, taxes notwithstanding, they preferred not to provide even basic health care to all Americans, the Supreme Court made the call.
And it was the right one.
And it was the most conservative decision that could be made. We have for too long watched, in the name of conservative values, the institutions of government being torn asunder. We have witnessed voters turning away from long functioning governmental programs because they have been led to believe that government is somehow the problem when, in fact, government has always been at least a part of the solution.
We have witnessed an entire generation of Americans grow up on the false notion that without government, we would all be better off. But that was only until those who espoused such drivel came up with needs of their own.
For instance, when public schools needed a few extra dollars for medical research or the arts, or the unemployed could have used a helping hand, government was evil. But spending taxpayer dollars for tax cuts for billionaires or for government assistance for those who don’t need it, or to pay for vaginal probes of all things, well, is that a proper use of government?
In the case of the chief justice, a most conservative and consistent judge, he ruled in a most conservative way. He stood up for the Constitution; he stood up for the power of Congress to act as it saw fit. He stood up for the power of the people to be represented. He stood up for the separation of powers as envisioned and as written by the Founding Fathers and given life through the Constitution.
The chief justice is not a man with whom I agree very often. But in this matter and with this Constitution, I agree completely. I can’t ask for a better birthday present for my country than to have a man at the head of the Supreme Court who is willing to stand against his politics and in favor of his country.
Brian Greenspun is the publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.