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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Defying the Law of the Land

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What are you reminded of when Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin joins Southern Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia in proclaiming that they won't comply with the nation's health care reform even after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it as the law of the land?

If you're a student of history, it's most reminiscent of Southern defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated schools based on race.

Die-hard Southern states resorted to every legal trick imaginable to avoid compliance, including shutting down public schools and reopening them as all-white private academies.

The comparison may be particularly apt since one of the major achievements of the Affordable Care Act is to move the United States toward near-universal health care, providing insurance to 30 million previously uninsured, low-income Americans, including 340,000 in Wisconsin.

Needless to say, because of the economic disparities this country still perpetuates, a large proportion of those at the bottom without health care are black and brown.

But in Scott Walker's world, all those Wisconsinites gaining health coverage aren't his concern.

Neither are an estimated million people in Wisconsin with pre-existing conditions who could be denied coverage by insurance companies before the law was passed.

It also affects those who previously could lose their insurance when they got sick, reached a lifetime limit on benefits or lost their jobs—and all those seniors who had to pay thousands of dollars every year when they fell into Medicare's “doughnut hole” of prescription drug coverage.

Dismissing all the law's provisions eliminating those devastating flaws in the nation's health care system, Walker instead invented transparently fallacious arguments against expanding and improving health care.

Without any facts to support him, Walker claimed the law “would require the majority of people in Wisconsin to pay more money for less health care” and “reduce access for those truly in need of assistance.”

The media's unchallenged reporting of such dishonest claims demonstrates how Republicans succeeded in spreading complete fabrications about government “death panels” plotting to exterminate senior citizens and a “socialist takeover” of America.

Poor journalism is responsible for much of the negative public opinion toward the health care reform law. After flooding the nation with unsubstantiated Republican falsehoods against the law, commentators now criticize President Barack Obama for failing to adequately explain the law's positive benefits.

Perhaps the biggest boost for the law going into the November elections was the president's surprise victory after the media widely predicted the court would strike down the reform sought by multiple presidents, Democrat and Republican, since Theodore Roosevelt.

Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you almost lose it. Many people are now hearing for the first time all the health care benefits nearly killed by brazen Republican partisans on the court.

And Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, is going into absurd contortions trying to explain why he wants to destroy national health care reform modeled after the extremely popular law he passed as governor of Massachusetts.

“On my first day in office, I vow to deny health care to 30 million Americans” does not sound like a winning Romney campaign message.



Wrong Side of History

Walker and other Republican governors continuing to battle the law of the land are like those clueless Japanese soldiers on isolated Pacific islands who didn't know World War II was over and kept fighting into the 1970s.

Walker turned down a $38 million federal grant to help set up a state “health care exchange,” actually a competitive free market where insurance companies offer their best plans to people buying coverage on their own.

Walker and Dennis Smith, his health secretary, are right-wing ideologues viscerally opposed to government health services for poor people. That's why they're expected to turn down the law's expansion of Medicaid.

That's an important provision that could cover nearly half of the 30 million additional Americans receiving health insurance.

For most states it's too good a deal to pass up. The federal government would pick up all of the cost for three years and no less than 90% after that. But Walker seems to enjoy turning down federal money that benefits Wisconsin people he doesn't like.

We're all fortunate there are still conservatives who aren't nearly as petty and shortsighted as Walker and some of the other Republican governors.

The media appeared baffled as to why Chief Justice John Roberts, a staunch conservative, would provide the swing vote to uphold the president's health care reform.

Why should anyone be surprised Roberts might try to honestly follow the Constitution and be on the right side of history? But there's also the fact that Roberts has a pre-existing condition, a form of epilepsy.

Before health care reform, if Roberts weren't fortunate enough to have a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, he wouldn't have been able to buy private health insurance.