During the oral arguments about the Affordable Care Act, Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia expressed concern about how the court’s actions might affect the bottom line of health insurance companies. They didn’t talk about how striking all or part of the law would hurt the millions of people already receiving life-changing benefits. This was typical from a court with a disturbingly partisan pattern of putting corporate interests ahead of the 99%.
Most recently and famously, the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts gave us Citizens United, an appalling ruling that allows corporations to buy our elections with unlimited secret political contributions. There are several other less known but important decisions where the court took away the rights of workers and consumers to hold corporations accountable, notes Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress.
Among the chief beneficiaries of Citizens United are the billionaire Koch Brothers, who have been using their massive wealth and influence to undermine the economic security of America’s middle class. They fund front groups like Americans for Prosperity that fight to strip workers of their right to bargain for a better life, undermine the ability of seniors and people of color to vote and destroy programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. In addition to giving money, the Koch Brothers organize other members of the 1% to follow suit at their infamous secret meetings of fellow millionaires and billionaires.
Justice Clarence Thomas, arguably the most radical right-wing ideologue on the court, was a featured speaker at one of the Koch Brothers’ strategy conferences. While he never asks questions during oral arguments, he doesn’t mind talking to fellow radical right Republican activists. This is one of many reasons why progressive groups, including Health Care for America Now, The Other 98% and AFSCME, commemorated the second anniversary of Citizens United in January by unfurling a banner on the steps of the Supreme Court that said simply: “U.S. Supreme Koch.”
When you consider the history of pro-corporate decisions (see this report by People for the American Way), it looks like the Kochs and the big corporations all but control the Supreme Court. And the ultra-conservative members don’t seem to care if it looks that way. Unbelievably, on the very same day in November that the high court agreed to take up the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Thomas and Scalia were honored at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that would argue the case for the plaintiffs before the Court.
But the arguments to overturn the law have not been strong enough to persuade respected Republican conservatives like Senior Judge Lawrence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, who upheld the law, former Reagan Solicitor General Charles Fried and many others. So the fate of our health care is in the hands of the most partisan, pro-corporate court in a generation. Let’s hope Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy buck the corporations and the Republican Party and side with the Constitution instead.
Ethan Rome served as deputy campaign manager in HCAN’s 2009 successful campaign to win comprehensive health care reform. He has been a grassroots organizer, political activist, and strategic communicator for progressive issue and electoral campaigns for more than 20 years. From 2002until 2009, Mr. Rome directed public affairs for the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He managed national communications and media relations for International President Gerald W. McEntee and the union’s priority organizing, legislative and political campaigns. Prior to joining AFSCME in 1999, Rome was chief policy and political adviser to the speaker of the Connecticut House.
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This piece is republished from The Huffington Post.