The Health Care ruling isn’t really about Health Care

The things I would do to Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Unless it delays until next term (which I’m secretly rooting for), tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern Time the U.S. Supreme Court is going to announce its ruling on the Affordable Care Act (colloquially Obamacare).

Regardless of what the Court decides – I’m thinking it’ll be upheld 6-3, which seems to be a figure that’s been thrown around lately – not much will change. The more I read about the Health Care bill and the Supreme Court case that followed (and I’ve read a lot lately: Ezra Klein’s blog on the Washington Post has probably posted around 50 articles in the past 10 days on the issue), the clearer it is to me that the case isn’t really about health care in America. It’s about the state of politics in America today.

Let’s look at this way: even for those arguing for and against the ACA bill, health care isn’t the problem. For one, most Americans dislike the current health care system in America, but they also dislike any health care reform that’s currently on the table. So it doesn’t really matter what happens with health care, whether the Court rules in favor of the ACA or not, people are still going to be pissed.

Even the politicians debating the bill don’t care about health care. It doesn’t matter what the ACA actually does, only who proposed it and which side is going to win the battle. If you break down the bill part by part, it becomes obvious the majority of Republicans – of which the entire party seems to be ardently against “Obamacare” – support most of what the ACA does. That is baffling. I won’t even get into how the bill is essentially the same one proposed by the GOP two decades earlier – the only thing that’s changed is the name on the front. So why are they so vehemently against it if they support most of what it does? Is it the mandate?

First off, the individual mandate is, again, a Republican idea. Second, the whole “if the government can make you purchase health insurance, it can make you do anything” is utter bullshit. Because the government can make you do a lot of things – a lot – already. It can tax you as much as it wants, even 100% if it so chose, but it doesn’t. Because the government knows it is responsible to the people (at least that’s supposed to be the idea) and so if it does something preposterous, it’s not going to stand for very long. Just because the government is going to require you to purchase health insurance (which it will provide you a subsidy for), it’s not going to all of a sudden force you to buy broccoli. And haven’t we heard of the fucking draft, people? Conscription? How is forcing someone to purchase insurance any worse than making them go to war?

OK, so say the ACA is upheld tomorrow and the mandate goes into effect. Is it a big deal? Does all hell break loose? Absolutely not. If you don’t purchase health insurance under the mandate and need medical treatment, estimates have the “fine” associated with the ACA at about $700. That’s cheaper than what most health insurance policies will cost you. So in the end, the mandate doesn’t actually do much. All this brouhaha over it is wasted air.

Which is why the whole health care debacle lately is not about the issue of health care. Because when it comes down to it, at the micro/individual level, most political decisions today are inconsequential. If the ACA passes or not, it won’t affect you or me all that much – only in the sense that it’ll be topic of conversation through till November.

I no longer look to the government for any indication of how it will affect me, benefit me, or harm me. I look at it for entertainment. American politics today is closer to a sporting event than an actual government trying to provide for the welfare of its citizens. I’m interested in politics not because I expect something out of it – I realized long ago it doesn’t matter who’s in charge, things will stay the status quo – but because it’s entertaining, interesting, and it gets me riled up.

American politics is not even about political beliefs anymore – only who wins, not what they’re trying to win. The Republicans are damning to hell a bill that they mostly support, that they came up with, that before two years ago had no question of constitutionality. Democrats are putting everything they’ve got (though not nearly enough, in my opinion) behind a bill that is fundamentally a Republican policy, that is a concession to GOP politics in more ways than one, and that is a far cry from what they should be going after – and what I see as the only solution to health care in America – a single payer system. The two parties don’t actually care what is in the bill, what it does, or how it’s going to affect the American people. They only want to win.

And frankly, I don’t really care either. As I said earlier, the ACA won’t affect me much. But I sure as hell want the bill to be upheld, simply because I want the Democrats to win. Look, politics is a crapshoot. My view on politics today is this: when I turned 18, I had to pick a team, and I chose the Democrats. Not because I agree with their policies and ideologies (though they are far closer to me than Republicans, so that definitely played a part), but because it’s more fun to root for the losers. Outside of around a six-month window from fall 2008 to spring 2009, the Democrats have been the losers of American politics for the majority of my conscious life. And they will be for a while, because they’re self-defeaters, the inherently never happy with the way things are going (because they’re a progressive party, or at least supposed to be), and the “aw shucks” personality just fits them. Plus, it’s much more fun to root for the losers when you don’t care about the actual politics because it’s much easier to complain about the system when you’re losing – and that’s what politics is all about.

What I’m trying to say is that the outcome of tomorrow’s Court ruling doesn’t matter. It’s very interesting – I’m going to be refreshing my browser every fifteen seconds from 9:59 tomorrow morning – but it won’t change much. Politics today isn’t about change; it’s about winning, not doing. I’m a little sad the Court got dragged down into all of this, it was the one branch of government I thought still had a little integrity, but such is life.

So root for the home team tomorrow, and let’s hope the Court pulls through with a 6-3 decision to uphold. Because the Obama administration could use a boost to their spirits after a few months of rough jobs numbers, a crashing Europe, and whatever the GOP tries to throw at it this summer.

But either way, there’s going to be something to talk about tomorrow. And that’s all I care about.

-Ben Cosman