Birmingham does not have a Speaker´s Corner to let off steam, but I was still faintly aware of some vapor evaporating in the Mountain Brook Starbucks over a couple of recent US Supreme Court decisions. One was on the affordable healthcare act, or Obamacare if you prefer . I even heard my own mother complaining over the phone as the AlaCare nurses were giving her shots, unaware that Mitt Romney supported a similar health care reform policy as Governor of Massachussets. The other decision came down on the Arizona immigration law, a matter of some interest in Alabama, which passed an even stricter law.
It is interesting that so-called conservatives are fuming mad--about the federal health care law being upheld and the state immigration laws being struck down--and out on the trail raising campaign dollars (which is, in a way, exactly what the Supreme Court justices--crazy like foxes?--were telling them to do) to deal with these policies in the political forum. The main irony is, of course, that the justices, in these decisions, did exactly what the people maddest about the decisions always claim they want the Supreme Court to do: show judicial restraint. The justices did not turn themselves into policymakers or economists, or try to meddle in the province, powers, or prerogatives of the President and Congress.
What the Justices effectively said is why did the attorneys general of many states spend millions of dollars on legal fees challenging reform of emergency room health care, and why did state legislatures tackle illegal immigration (which is already just that, illegal, under federal law) essentially to make political points, because it is not the job of the Supreme Court to decide whether Obama´s plan is a good one or apply some creeping socialism meter to it-other than to decide whether its measures are allowed under the US Constitution. Neither did they decide whether the current system of treating indigents in the emergency room, with health care costs being the largest single items in both the GNP and the budget deficit, while people who are sick are denied coverage by insurance companies, really works, either.
Nor did the Court decide whether it was a good idea for a state to lock up visiting executives of its largest foreign manufacturers or drive out an importance source of labor in agriculture and construction..
Can federal law require all citizens to have health insurance the way Alabama requires drivers to carry car insurance? Yes. Can Alabama ignore the supremacy clause and legislate in an area covered by federal law like immigration? No. Case closed until November. On that, everyone seems to agree, even politicians who have changed their stripes.