Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Supreme Court Circus

Every country gets the circus it deserves.

Erica Jong (born 1942). American novelist

Three years ago I wrote a blog about the Supreme Court circus coming to Washington, D.C. to decide the constitutionality of ObamaCare. I reproduce a portion of it now because arguments before the Supreme Court on the legality of federal subsidies in 37 states begin tomorrow.

The blog began:

“Hear Ye! Hear Ye!The circus is coming to town. It starts today. It ends in three days. Get your tickets now while they're hot!

The circus has everything. It has men in dark suits bearing 136 briefs, six men in black robes, three ladies in black gowns, arch conservatives, leaning liberals, a swinging judge, juggling lawyers, legal beagles, a posse of pundits, braying donkeys, dancing elephants, googling journalists, four hundred rapt politicians in the tent goggling the greatest show on earth, busloads of people from afar milling outside, protesters jeering and cheerleaders cheering, and a vast outside world awaiting news and wondering what’s going on inside.”

This Year's Circus

This year’s circus is bigger, longer, and more exciting. It involves the survival of ObamaCare and the legacy of President Obama. It will last nearly 4 months, until late June, when the Court announces its decision and leaves town.

Its ringmaster will be Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. He is widely expected to be the swing vote in a 5-4 decision whether federal subsidies are legal in 37 states.

Ostensibly the circus focus will be narrow – if the health law phrase “established by the state” applies only to state health care subsidies or to federal subsidies as well. But the practical and political implications of an adverse ruling are huge- Can the government withdraw subsidies from 7 million people who depend on those subsidies for health insurance? Is it humane to leave those people out in the health care cold? What’s more important - the law or the people who wrote the law or the people impacted by the law? How do you prepare to deal with the effects of the law, if it is no longer the law?

Beyond those questions is the big one - Who will be blamed if the law goes down, Democrats who designed, wrote, and enforced it? Or Republicans who have opposed it every step of the way for 5 frustrating years?

This year’s circus will have an enormous audience - the American people who will have to bear the burden of increased premiums and other health costs, state governments who may have to pay exorbitantly to set up state exchanges and support expanded Medicaid programs, and the politicians who will suffer its consequences.

The media, liberal and conservative, can think, write, and pontificate about little else other than the circus. The stakes are beyond belief. The President’s legacy may go down in flames. The 2016 elections may depend on the outcome. The media’s liberal wing says the circus is about social justice and man’s inhumanity to man. It’s a step forward for mankind. Conservatives stoutly maintain it’s about the Rule of Law, not the Rule of Man. It’s a power grab.

All eyes are on the ringmaster. Is he concerned strictly about those 4 words in the text of the law “established by the state? What is his position on federalism and the relative power of the states vis a vis the federal government? Is the law unambiguous or open to interpretation? What are the practical effects of the decision? Do the 4 plaintiffs who brought the case to the high court have legal standing, i.e., were they harmed by the law?

Who knows? Only he and the other justices know, and they have yet to read all the briefs and hear all the arguments.

In the meantime, I leave you with this version of my poem, which followed my original blog.

Here they come
The circus is back in town.
It’s the greatest show around
Yessir! The circus is coming to town.

There are jugglers, lawyers, too
The judges have much to see and do
Now that the circus is back in town.

Donkeys will prance, elephants will dance
Nothing could ever be so grand!

Don’t be left behind
They’re starting today right on time
Cause the circus is back in town
Only four hundred get tickets to see it
Because the circus is back in town.

Here they come
They’re back in town
It’s the greatest show around
Because the circus is back in town.

They are men in gowns, ladies in robes too
The judges have so much to hear and to do
Now that the circus is back in town.

The libs will roar, the Tea's will party,
Nothing could ever be so grand!

The left won’t be left behind
The right will start right on time,
Because the circus is back in town.

In and out, around the circus ring they'll go
Where they'll stop everyone wants to know,
Everyone's on the high wire getting emotional,
To their causes everyone is devotional.

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