FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Trojan Horse and the Golden Calf

by ELLIOT SPERBER

The prevailing opinion concerning the release of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the constitutionality of Obama’s health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, was that the court’s upholding of the law would amount to a powerful victory for Obama. The reasoning was that the legislation is a centerpiece of Obama’s first term and striking it down would make him look ineffectual, while upholding it wouldl make him look like he’d accomplished something for his all-important legacy. This type of reasoning altogether neglects, of course, to consider whether the issues involved, in particular the issue of the individual mandate legalizing coercing people to buy private health insurance, are in anyone’s interest aside from big business.

Indeed, the case brings to mind that seminal case of United States constitutional law, Marbury v. Madison. The issue in Marbury v. Madison was a relatively minor one involving the executive’s appointment power. Thomas Jefferson, who was president at the time, had a strong interest in the court’s deciding for his position. And while the court did decide in Jefferson’s favor, pleasing Jefferson and leaving him unwilling to contest the decision, the court outmaneuvered Jefferson in a significant manner. In addition to ruling for Jefferson, the chief justice John Marshall managed to insert the court’s power of Judicial Review into their decision. This was a new power for the court. No such power to void legislation was given to the court in the constitution, it came out of chief justice John Marshall’s opinion. So, though Jefferson appeared to win the case, the result was a monumental aggrandizement of power which completely changed the balance of powers in the new republic. A similar maneuver appears to have played out in the instant case. Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a peculiar type of Trojan Horse, allowing the court to create new powers Unlike in Marbury, though, the powers aren’t for the court; but  aggrandize the powers of the business class to an unprecedented degree. And unlike Marshall, Chief Justice John Roberts won’t just make up these powers; they are already present in Obama’s law as the ‘individual mandate.’

By passing Obama’s health care law the court wins on all counts. Seen as so partisan as to be virtually illegitimate since Bush v. Gore, a decision for Obama may lead some to think that the court is actually a fair judge. While the liberals on the bench voted for the law in support of Obama, Roberts let them have their victory in order to use the powerful precedent in support of further legislation down the line – imagine a law forcing people to buy a new cell phone every year, or something of the sort. To be sure, Roberts, Alito and the other so-called conservatives hold to an extremist ideology that sees the New Deal and all ensuing legislation regulating business as unconstitutional. Passing Obama’s law will allow them to pursue their privatizing agenda with greater effectiveness. Such a thought could not have been too far from Roberts’ mind.

Before the Enclosure Acts, the market was peripheral, not central, to economic life. Basic necessities like food staples were outside of the market in a subsistence economy, and land and labor were not commodities to be bought and sold. The markets meanwhile handled mostly surpluses and luxury goods. But after the Enclosure Acts and the privatization of the commons, along with the rise of capitalism, what was formerly property held in common became privatized/commodified, and a compulsion to go to the market came into being. Alienated from their ancestral lands and their traditional means of subsistence, people had no choice but to go to and get those things required for their subsistence from the market. If they had nothing to sell, they sold their labor.

Privatization, of course, continues. And these days public education, publicly owned water supplies, and anything else one can think of is being privatized and sold. This is what Roberts, Alito, et al want – including Obama himself. The individual mandate in Obama’s health care reform law will intensify this privatization and compulsion to deal in the market as never before. So, while it might appear at first to be a big win for Obama, the real winner here is big business – and Roberts is very warm to that notion. Indeed, rather than any meaningful extension of peoples’ rights, this legislation will usher in unprecedented economic tyranny. So why wouldn’t Roberts and his ilk vote in favor of it without reservation? The only surprise here is that he was alone in his foresight.

Though it may not seem to be the case, the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act and Obama’s “victory” demonstrate something all too clearly. Rather than being some sort of Moses leading anyone out of bondage and introducing a new law to the people, Obama , with his drone strikes, kill lists, and now this health care law to add to his other disappointments, more than ever resembles the golden calf.

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and contributor to hygiecracy.blogspot.com. He can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com

 

Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail