So the Supreme Court decided against what you expected. Some of us are elated, while others depressed at the specter of a less free America than it was at 9:58 on Thursday morning. Either way, it is impressive to view this nation, seemingly divided but not truly, in the response put forth by Chief Justice Roberts.
For those who feared his appointment to chief in 2004, who said told I you so in 2009 with the myopic “Citizens United” decision, here is a man among women and men, simply doing the best he can. Yet here is a strict Constitutionalist, who in fact took a more enlightened view of that document when it came to setting forth what the highest court would say as a whole to the nation. Moreover, in being one of five judges on that bench who view so much federal power as an overreach, he could find no fault, inferred or otherwise, in levying taxes for the benefit of all Americans.
Chief Justice John Roberts is not a man who crossed the aisle. He is simply the lead arbitor and crew chief of umpires. He, like the other eight Justices, all gained their law degrees from the Ivy League. All were educated at either Harvard or Yale with one Justice, Ruth Ginsburg, having begun at Harvard, only to finish at Columbia.
Any assumption that Conservative justices had the presumed benefit of primary education in private school and so formed their views, would also be mistaken. Justice Sotomayor went to Catholic school in the Bronx while Justice Alito attended public school in southern New Jersey. What may be most striking to some is with only one Protestant on the court, Justice Thomas, decisions are being handed down by Jews and Catholics whose judicial ethos are on both sides of the political divides in our nation.
Those who drafted the Affordable Care Act did so with the understanding that it would end up in Justice Robert’s court. In knowing this, they played by his rules in not arguing apples to oranges when it came to the majority viewpoint toward federal mandates.
Even so, I disagree with President Obama, who said today, “It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics.”
Mr. President, you have been vindicated by the highest court and by the slimmest of margins, the Yankee dollar. Be assured that those who will not vote for you in 2012 will someday have to answer their children when they say “health care is as American as education, safe streets and good roads. Ming, what was wrong with you?”
Would it were so that we were able to bring people forward from our American past. That they could tell us about the fear the poor Southerner or the immigrant had when the slaves were freed or a farmer parents outcry when public education was mandated for all their children. They could tell us what men feared women would do with the vote or how federal income tax would ruin our capitalist nation.
But what happened? We got better. With public education, we got smarter, broke down social barriers through learning and gave businesses more to choice in their hiring while also creating generations of educated people. In granting the vote to all, we enhanced not only the right of every person but expanded what it was we vote on. With Emancipation, we made those who already had those rights more free so they would lead the way for the rest of us. And finally, in levying taxes on income, we have built, with all our faults, the best public schools, highways and military in the most diverse and powerful nation the world has ever known.
This is still a battle only half won. The other half requires great endurance over a longer period of time. We must now ensure that we avail every family both of their right and responsibility to care for their own and that it is not an option. That obesity or bad teeth in a twelve year old is not acceptable. We must ensure that good health is as vital to success as good education. And we must prove to those on the other side of the aisle that we mean what we say.
Ours is a nation built on law, on great capital and on the competing rights of individuals. The dissenting opinion on the Affordable Care Act seems inclined to misunderstand this basic notion. They seem only willing to view commerce as the single engine that will drive this nation for it’s betterment, forgetting that every industry is driven by individuals. They ignore that any captain of industry could come from the worst of circumstance if given a more equal footing. And they ignore that a baseline of physical health, like that of public education must exist for every citizen to have not only the option of equal survival but of equal success in and for the benefit of this republic.
Robert Emmet Mara has been in Baltimore since 2006. A native New Yorker, Robert came to Baltimore to do three things: work with kids, renovate houses and write a second book of fiction. Since his arrival, he has managed to do all three and more.
He has sought better oversight for his still blighted Harwood neighborhood from the city and has been asked to speak to various community association leaders on the subject of city agency relations.