The Edmond Sun


June 28, 2012

The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer: Affordable Care decision: Politics and precedent

EDMOND — Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act is a landmark ruling by any reasonable definition of that familiar term.

Such status does not in itself convey value judgment: “Landmark” cases have ranged from the reprehensible Dred Scott ruling of 1857 to the civil rights affirmation of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954; somewhere in between are still hotly debated outcomes like Roe v. Wade in 1973 or Bush v. Gore in 2000.

But the high court’s narrow (to the surprise of few) ruling will serve as a new precedent for congressional authority. Indeed, despite the public and political identification of the health care act with President Obama, the ruling has larger implications for the legislative branch of government than for the executive.

The immediate political bounce is a judicial vindication and political victory for the president: The Affordable Care Act is a centerpiece of his agenda. Long term, it will be part of his record and legacy — for better or worse.

The politics between now and November might be tougher to handicap. Polls have consistently shown a majority generally opposing the health care mandates, and an even larger majority insisting that some kind of health care reform is imperative.

If the justices have been influenced by political rhetoric about the law — and in an ideal but imaginary world they would not be — then attempts by opponents to portray the insurance mandate as “the largest tax increase in American history” might have backfired. (Every tax, at every level of government, is invariably portrayed by opponents as the largest in history, so that tack has perhaps lost some of its political sting.)

If it is indeed a tax, then it is within the constitutional authority of Congress to approve it: “Because the Constitution permits such a tax,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, “it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

The corollary, of course, is that if Congress has the authority to approve such a law, then it is also within the power of this or a future Congress to amend it, improve upon it or discard it. It has survived a legal challenge; if it survives future political ones, then health care law in the U.S. is subject to fine tuning, which can be a good thing. When tens of millions of Americans have no affordable access to health care short of the emergency room, politicians might be well advised to tread lightly.

The law’s ultimate test will not be political, but practical: its real-life impact on the millions of Americans it affects — its benefits, its costs, and whether the balance between the two is reasonable and sustainable. The status quo cannot be an option.

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  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

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