Misjudging John Roberts' Supreme Vote

Let us all now bow before Lord Roberts and shout hosannas in acknowledgment of his Supreme excellency as a wise jurist and noble statesman.

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Misjudging John Roberts' Supreme Vote
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Let us all now bow before Lord Roberts and shout hosannas in acknowledgment of his Supreme excellency as a wise jurist and noble statesman.

That would be Chief Justice John Roberts of the Supreme Court, who is presently basking in political and media adulation for his deciding vote to uphold Barack Obama’s health care reforms. An act of “exquisite delicacy” gushed the New York Times, and various commentators hailed his “shocking” vote as proof that he is not simply “a conservative ideologue.”

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Good grief, what a crock! I’m certainly pleased that this important law passed muster before Roberts and the Court’s 5-4 majority, but get a grip. The rash of public puffery for this one vote misjudges both who Roberts is and what the reform does. First, he’s never been a “conservative ideologue” – he’s a corporate ideologue. Big difference. As a lawyer, member of a Washington lobbying firm, and a jurist, he has consistently pushed corporate interests over small business, local communities, states’ rights, personal liberties, and other causes that conservatives hold dear.

Second, while Obama’s law is a big boost for the health care needs of ordinary Americans, it also hands a huge win to the insurance giants. Rather than restructuring the system (as should’ve been done), the reform keeps those profiteers right smack in the center of U.S. health care. Indeed, the core provision in the law that Roberts’ ruling sustained is its requirement that everyone must now buy health insurance. Hello – this new mandate delivers 18 million more paying customers into the clutches of big insurance corporations. They love that! And they love John Roberts because he always comes through for them.

This law contains much good for many, many people. But for Roberts, that’s an unintended consequence of what was just another effort to enhance corporate wealth and power.

“Roberts’s Delicate Twist,” New York Times, June 29, 2012.

“Roberts chief surprise in ruling,” Austin American Statesman, June 29, 2012.

I’m making moves!

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