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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  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
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