David Hoppe

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:: We are still Americans

by David Hoppe

It seems we are one nation, indivisible, after all.

This is the message, call it a reminder if you like, from the Supreme Court of the United States — emphasis on the United States.

In voting, first, not to let what amounted to a grouchy copy editor stand in the way of making health insurance affordable for millions of Americans, and then for the nationalization of gay marriage, majorities on the Supreme Court reaffirmed an idea that’s been under assault lately: Being an American citizen actually means something.

Lately, though, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Many Republicans, especially those who favor the Tea Party, are no longer content to bash “Big Government.” Now they seem offended by federalism itself. And so we have states (like Indiana) threatening to simply ignore new federal regulations regarding emissions from coal-burning power plants. Or failing to pass comprehensive civil rights legislation guaranteeing statewide protections for all citizens (Indiana again).

In Texas, supposedly a land of super patriots, the governor recently raised a ruckus by suggesting that U.S. military exercises scheduled there might in fact disguise an attempt to take over the state government. The governor had apparently forgotten that in 2014, businesses in his state received 24,657 defense contracts (http://www.governmentcontractswon.com/department/defense/texas_counties.asp).

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," wrote SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts in his majority opinion upholding federal subsidies enabling citizens to afford health insurance in all 50 states.

Republicans in states (like Indiana) that neglected to set up their own insurance exchanges tried to sabotage Obamacare by claiming the law, as written, prohibited these subsidies. That would have made insurance unaffordable and, as Roberts rightly noted, would have amounted to planting a time bomb in a law intended to make health insurance more, not less, accessible.

This, predictably, frustrated a states-righter like Gov. Mike Pence, who still wants Obamacare repealed. “States,” he said, “must be given the flexibility to craft market-based solutions focused on lowering the cost of health care rather than growing the size of government.”

As if Indiana has such a great record along these lines.

Is Obamacare flawed? Gapingly — and with no thanks to Republicans who have yet to propose genuine improvements. Is it truly “affordable?” No, the very need for subsidies proves that.

But these issues do not negate the law’s basic premise that health care is a right, not a privilege, and that this right should extend equally to all Americans.

The same thing applies to marriage. Rather than a crazy quilt of conflicting laws in various states across the country, the Supreme Court finally made it clear that our national understanding of marriage must be inclusive and consistent. ““Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, for the majority. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Whatever our state, we are still Americans.