I’m still trying to sort out what happened in the Supreme Court spectacle that we witnessed last week. I am struck, as Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Cohen is struck, by how much more empathy (remember that word? Obama was accused of valuing it when he chose Sonia Sotomayor) the conservative justices had for insurance companies than they had for the millions of Americans who will not get health care if they strike the health care mandate down. Here’s Cohen:
[Justice Samuel Alito] didn’t ask a single question over three days about how the Affordable Care Act’s demise might impact the millions of Americans who already are benefiting from it. But twice in his questions, he expressed concern for the burden the insurance companies might have to bear if only part of the care act, the part without the individual mandate, were to survive.
Katy Giebenhain, an editor with the Seminary Ridge Review (of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary), sent me a poem that reminds us of the days when insurance companies would refuse to enroll people for preexisting conditions (or would drop them if they discovered preexisting conditions had existed). If the Supreme Court forces Obamacare to drop the mandate (originally a conservative idea), then we will return to those days. It may have seemed for a while that Robin Hood would redistribute some of the country’s wealth to the poor and the lame (Katy tells me that she was inspired by the recent BBC Robin Hood series), but Nottingham’s sheriff is hoping that the justices will allow him to return to business as usual:
Robin Hood is Gone
No hatchets, candle fat, Saracen bows.
No windchimed sunlight
shaking the leaves like hair,
the whiiiiiihtt of launched arrows,
bawdy, creative justice.
None of that.
This is how the sacking’s done:
one by one by one.
It’s paper terror,
the American NO
the daylight-dying status quo.
a health insurance company rides
into the forest, right now
with an armed escort, good weather,
the confidence of true thieves.
Robin’s gang is gone.
How the sacking is done:
claim by claim by claim.
What we’re up against –
all of us
is darker, stickier.
Picture wagon wheels. Picture
what’s in their path.
Make way for clean kills, legal kills,
assassins at photocopiers.
New feudalism settles in, makes
normal the way
sacking is done today:
trick by trick by trick.
I hope my predictions are wrong but it appears that this Supreme Court leans towards moneyed interests, which doesn’t bode well for Obamacare. Another poet who has choice things to say about such interests (and the legislators who cater to them) is the 17th century religious poet Henry Vaughan, who I’ve been teaching this week. Because of their greed, corrupt politicians (“statesmen”) are shut out from eternity’s “pure and endless light” and move instead in the world’s dark shadows. (You can read the entire poem here and my previous post on it here.) Although they are seen for who they are by “clouds of crying witnesses” (people who have been martyred for their truth telling) and by God, nevertheless they continue to violate divine justice:
The darksome statesman, hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog, mov’d there so slow,
He did nor stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts—like sad eclipses—scowl
Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout.
Yet digg’d the mole, and lest his ways be found,
Work’d under ground,
Where he did clutch his prey; but one did see
Churches and altars fed him; perjuries
Were gnats and flies;
It rain’d about him blood and tears, but he
Drank them as free.
A lot of blood and tears will be alleviated if Obamacare is upheld. They will start raining upon us again (or continue to keep raining) if it is not. That’s what is at stake in the case, not some far-fetched hypothetical that the government could force Americans to eat broccoli.