Supreme Arrogance

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, April 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Supreme Arrogance


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

Five justices put our lives on the line.

my fellow americans, your health care is now in the hands of the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court. These are the folks who disgraced themselves in Bush v. Gore and who auctioned off democracy in the Citizens United decision. You thought it was bad when Congress and the insurance companies were making health-care policy? Wait till you see what five Republican lawyers can do.

The oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act give us very little reason to have faith in the wisdom of the court. Some of the justices came off as smug, arrogant, and frighteningly detached from the realities of everyday life in America. Justice Samuel Alito engaged in a discussion of whether Congress could force Americans to purchase burial insurance. "I don't see the difference," Alito said. "You can get burial insurance. You can get health insurance. Most people are going to need health care. Almost everybody. Everybody is going to be buried or cremated at some point. What's the difference?"

The difference, you want to scream, is we don't have a burial-insurance crisis in America. We aren't spending 17 percent of our total national wealth on burials year after year. We aren't bankrupting families because burial costs are out of control. Perhaps most important, if a person doesn't get good health care, he or she will die. If someone doesn't get a good burial, well, she or he is not going to die. Because, you jerk--I mean, your Honor--that person is already dead.

I have a law degree. I passed the bar. I know what Justice Alito is trying to do: reductio ad absurdum. He is probing the limits of Congress's constitutional power. But here in the real world he's wasting our time. And he's pissing us off.

Civic Freeloaders: People who have insurance are being overcharged to cover free riders who think they'll never get sick--like Mary Brown, the small businesswoman who filed the original lawsuit asserting her right not to buy health insurance. "She firmly believes that no one should have the right to tell her she has to use her own money to pay for health insurance," Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business legal center, said two years ago when NFIB filed the lawsuit on Brown's behalf. But Brown is no longer the named plaintiff. Why? Because NFIB dropped her when the real world intruded.

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