Chief Justice Roberts wishes a Happy New Year to all those losers who will not get health care insurance, thanks to his clever reading of the Constitution. There are 4.8 million of these losers and 2.6 million of them are people of color, black and Hispanic mainly. Not that the Chief Justice and his right-wing colleagues on the Supreme Court would make racist distinctions. No, no, no. They assure us their decision is solely driven by a matter of high comstittional principle—States Rights.
The problem with these people is that they are low-income adults without dependent children—not quite poor enough to qualify for Medicaid nor old enough to qualify for Medicare. President Obama’s original legislation took care of them by expanding Medicaid coverage and putting up the federal money to pay for it. The Roberts decision insisted that state governmednts have a constitutional right to reject this financial aid from Washington. And twenty-five states took him up on the offer.
This odd failure will probably be blamed on Obama but should rightly be called the “Supreme Court gap” in unversal health-care coverage. Because these folks do not not quite earn enough to qualify for Obamacare’s tax credits to help people purchase health insurance. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation outlined the consequences. ”Most of these individuals have very limited coverage options and are likely to remain uninsured,” the foundation explained.
Of course, they could get a job that pays more. Or maybe get married and have children that would qualify them for Medicaid. State governments set many of the rules for Medicaid coverage and some conservatives think fedeal aid saps individual initiative and rewards indolence. It is not entirely a coincidence that many of these rejectionist states are the same states that defied the Supreme Court half a century ago and resisted racial integration and equal rights for minorities. Some of them are the very states that went to war to defend slavery. Republicans are sometimes called a “neo-confederate party.” After the Supreme Court gutted the voting-rights act, the neo-confederates were free to pass restrictive laws designed to shrink minority voting, and so they did.
The Kaiser Foundation doesn’t get into any of that but simply observed, “These continued coverage gaps will likely lead to widening racial and ethnic as well as geographic disparities in coverage and access.”
Don McCanne of Physicians for A National Health Program circulated the Kaiser report with this comment: “What a terrible way to start the first of the year of what is essentially the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It seems pretty obvious what our New Year’s resolution should be. Let’s bring health care to everyone through an improved and expanded Medicare for all.”
Democrats ought to call out Republicans on these questions. And citizens generally ought to call out the Roberts court. The Supremes have done quite a lot in the last fifteen years to mess up our already weakened democratic system. They stole the presidential election in 2000. They cut loose big money to swamp elections by destroying lawful restraints. They are trying step-by-step to restore hoary old legalisms that favor capital over labor, corporations over individuals. Shouldn’t we be talking about how to stop them?
By: Wiliam Greider, The Nation, December 31, 2013
“The RNC Reflects On Ending Racism”: The Republican Party No Longer Qualifies For The Benefit Of The Doubt
For all of its many benefits, Twitter’s brevity can cause trouble for plenty of political voices. Yesterday, for example, the Republican National Committee decided to honor the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ “bold stand,” which seemed like a perfectly nice gesture. The RNC added, however, that Parks played a role “in ending racism.”
Not surprisingly, the message was not well received. Despite what you may have heard from Supreme Court conservatives in the Voting Rights Act case, racism hasn’t ended, it certainly wasn’t vanquished on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.
A few hours later, realizing that they’d made a mess of things, RNC officials returned to Twitter to say, “Previous tweet should have read ‘Today we remember Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in fighting to end racism,’” which was a welcome clarification, though the damage was done.
In fairness to the Republican National Committee, it’s hard to believe the party was trying to be deliberately offensive. For that matter, I rather doubt the RNC believes Rosa Parks helped end racism 58 years ago. This was likely the result of clumsy tweeting, not ignorant malice.
But in the larger context, stories like these resonate because the party no longer qualifies for the benefit of the doubt. Too many incidents come quickly to mind: the Nevada Republican who’d embrace slavery, the North Carolina Republican whose appearance on “The Daily Show” became the stuff of legend, the birthers, the fondness for Jesse Helms, the widespread voter-suppression laws that disproportionately affect African Americans, the Maine Republican who wants the NAACP to kiss his butt, the former half-term Alaska governor who’s comfortable with “shuck and jive” rhetoric, etc.
The RNC, in other words, can’t lean on its credibility on racial issues to easily dismiss poorly worded tweets. The fact that the party can’t even say a nice thing about Rosa Parks without screwing up and getting itself in trouble only helps reinforce the extent to which race is a systemic problem for the party.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 2, 2013
To the Republican supporters of laws that would treat the poll booth like an exclusive nightclub that asks for photo ID and other qualifications before allowing entry, the answer to why anyone would oppose this is simple: They must not want to vote badly enough.
This was the logic for Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman who last week on MSNBC said, ”I really don’t think they care that much about voting in the first place, right?” in response to a question about how African-American voters might be impacted by voter ID and early voting cuts.
This is not anomalous thinking among Republicans. Similar comments have been made by Republican state legislators in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Florida. In fact, they say these things so often publicly that you have to wonder if it’s some kind of dog-whistle to the more racially polarized portion of their voting base.
The idea that people of color don’t “care” about voting ignores how expensive it can be to meet the qualifications of voter ID laws to begin with. Those expenses are irrelevant only to those who can easily meet them. On Friday November 15th, a federal court trial over Wisconsin’s voter ID law concluded after two weeks of testimony from at least a dozen state residents illustrating how difficult it’s been to obtain the photo ID needed to vote. It also featured the testimony of state government officials who dismissed those residents’ burdens as easily surmountable.
The question of who’s right in that tug of war comes down to careful consideration of the racial and class contexts of the law. If you are a white male with a government job, you obviously are in tune enough with the law, and have the resources to meet it. But if you are not that … well consider the statistics:
- 78 percent of African-American men in Wisconsin between the ages of 18 and 24 do not have a driver’s license
- 66 percent of young African-American women in the same age range lack a driver’s license
- 57 percent of young Latino men aged 18 to 24, and 63 percent of young Latinas lack driver’s licenses
During the Wisconsin trial, statistician Leland Beatty testified that more than 300,000 registered Wisconsin voters did not have a driver’s license or state ID card in 2012—16.2 percent of them African-American registered voters compared to just 9.5 percent of registered white voters. For Latinos, over 24 percent lacked a driver’s license or state ID card. Beatty analyzed the same data for 2013 and found the same racial disparate impact.
The burden suffered by people of color in Wisconsin under a voter ID law is not an academic exercise in statistics, though. Real Wisconsin residents testified about how hard it is to comply with the law—a law unnecessary given the state went hundreds of years without it and yet still managed to earn the top score in election performance by the Pew Research Center last year. Despite that, the expenses that come along with the voter ID law were laid bare during the November trial, which is the first litigation that has happened under the Voting Rights Act’s Section Two since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the civil rights law this summer.
Lorene Hutchins, a 93-year-old, African-American woman born in Mississippi was able to retrieve her birth certificate from her home state only after her daughter Katherine Clark helped her through the arduous process. It cost them over $2,000 in expenses and legal fees to do so.
Ray Ciszewski, a volunteer for his church’s program that helps the homeless and those recently released from prison obtain birth certificates for jobs, and lately to vote, testified that it costs on average $20 for a Wisconsin birth certificate. Roughly 23 percent of the people he’s tried to help were unable to get their birth certificates for a number of reasons, he said during the trial.
Carmen Cabrera of the Latino non-profit Centro Hispano Milwaukee testified that many of their members encountered language barriers—in particular, a limited availability of Spanish-speaking DMV clerks—when they help them get state IDs. Not to mention, there’s limited access to the DMV offices around the state since most of them are open only on weekdays and close at 4:30 p.m. Anytime voters have to take time off from work or school to haggle with DMV operators, especially those who don’t speak their language, that is a cost voters have to bare.
Attorney General Kawski called these plaintiffs’ experiences ”uncommon, bizarre and one-of-a-kind exceptions”—again, only bizarre to those who are privileged enough to not have to deal with the every day struggles of people of color and low income.
I encountered this same dynamic last year while covering the Pennsylvania court trial over its voter ID law, where poor people of color had to prove that they even existed, ID or not. Over two dozen witnesses, mostly black and Latino, provided account after account about how difficult it is for them to transact with the government over ID while state officials responded on the stand by placing those life stories in doubt. That case is still unresolved, pending a judge’s ruling
More stories about the costs and burdens of Wisconsin residents who lack ID are bound to surface. The Wisconsin state supreme court this week decided to hear two other challenges to the voter ID law filed by local NAACP and League of Women Voter chapters. Other Voter ID law challenges are waiting for their day in court in North Carolina and Texas—the latter of which is a protracted court battle that rivals only Wisconsin in terms of time elapsed without resolving the voter ID controversy. Texas’s law was stopped last year in federal court under a Voting Rights Act Section 5 challenge. When the Supreme Court invalidated Section Five’s coverage formula, Texas immediately reinstated the law, which ranks at the top of the nation with Wisconsin in terms of its voter restrictions. It is headed back to federal court, this time under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The stakes for all of these voter ID trials are not only who may or may not show up to vote in 2014 and 2016, but also whether government officials will finally recognize the true costs and burdens of being poor, black and brown in America as illustrated in these court testimonies. It’s not that they don’t care about voting; it’s that too many obstructions have been placed in their way.
By: Brentin Mock, The American Prospect, November 25, 2013
“A Nuclear End To Republican Denial”: Seeing The World As It Is Rather Than Pining For A World That No Longer Exists
Those who lament the Senate Democrats’ vote to end filibusters for presidential nominations say the move will escalate partisan warfare and destroy what comity is left in Congress. Some also charge hypocrisy, since Democrats once opposed the very step they took last week.
In fact, seeing the world as it is rather than pining for a world that no longer exists is a condition for reducing polarization down the road. With their dramatic decision, Senate Democrats have frankly acknowledged that the power struggle over the judiciary has reached a crisis point and that the nature of conservative opposition to President Obama is genuinely without precedent.
What happened on Nuclear Thursday has more to do with the rise of an activist conservative judiciary than with the norms of the Senate. From the moment that five conservative justices issued their ruling in Bush v. Gore, liberals and Democrats realized they were up against forces willing to achieve their purposes by using power at every level of government. When the Bush v. Gore majority insisted that the principles invoked to decide the 2000 election in George W. Bush’s favor could not be used in any other case, they effectively admitted their opportunism. Dec. 12, 2000, led inexorably to Nov. 21, 2013.
Bush v. Gore set in motion what liberals see as a pernicious feedback loop. By giving the presidency to a conservative, the five right-of-center justices guaranteed that for at least four years (and what turned out to be eight), the judiciary would be tilted even further in a conservative direction.
Bush was highly disciplined in naming as many conservative judges as he could. His appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito bolstered the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. The court later rendered such decisions as Citizens United, which tore down barriers to big money in politics, and Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Both, in turn, had the effect of strengthening the electoral hand of conservatives and Republicans.
With the conservatives’ offensive as the backdrop, Senate Democrats and liberals on the outside revolted in 2005 against the Republican threat to use the nuclear option when the GOP controlled the Senate. Progressives felt they had no choice but to throw sand into the gears of a juggernaut.
Liberals said things eight years ago that are being used by conservatives to accuse them of hypocrisy now. I didn’t have to look far for an example of what they’re talking about.
In a column in March 2005, I called the GOP’s effort to speed the confirmation of conservative judges “a blatant effort to twist the rules” that ignored “the traditions of the Senate.” I might take back the “traditions of the Senate” line, a rhetorical attempt to call conservatism’s bluff. But what animated my argument then is the same concern I have now: This era’s conservatives will use any means at their disposal to win control of the courts. Their goal is to do all they can to limit Congress’s ability to enact social reforms. At the same time, they are pushing for measures — notably restrictions on the right to vote — that alter the electoral terrain in their favor.
And it is simply undeniable that in the Obama years, conservatives have abused the filibuster in ways that liberals never dreamed of. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cited the Congressional Research Service’s (CRS) finding that in our history, there have been 168 cloture motions filed on presidential nominations. Nearly half of them — 82 — happened under Obama. According to CRS, of the 67 cloture motions on judicial nominees since 1967, 31 occurred under Obama. Faced with this escalation, senators long opposed to going nuclear, among them Reid and California’s Dianne Feinstein, concluded it was the only alternative to surrender.
Republicans gave the game away when all but a few of them opposed Obama’s three most recent appointments to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit not on the merits but by accusing the president of trying to “pack the court.” In fact, Obama was simply making appointments he was constitutionally and legislatively authorized to make. His nominees were being filibustered because they might alter the circuit court’s philosophical balance. The GOP thus demonstrated beyond any doubt that it cares far more about maintaining conservative influence on the nation’s second most important judicial body than in observing the rules and customs of the Senate.
This is why the Senate Democrats’ action will, in the end, be constructive. The first step toward resolving a power struggle is to recognize it for what it is. The era of denial is finally over.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 24, 2013