Man, what a few weeks we’ve had, America! There’s so, so, SO much to discuss. I wanted to try to cover as much ground as I could, yet time constraints conspired to limit my options.
Therefore, in the name of killing two timely birds with one scrupulous stone, I decided to tackle the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decisions . . . via an interview with a bath-salt-addicted stranger.
A transcript follows. I think it went pretty well!
The Axis of Ego: Let’s start with the most obvious question. Do you think the Supreme Court reached the correct result in its determination of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act?
Leroy, the Bath Salt Guy: Ohhhhhhhhhh OHHHHHHHHHHHHH I can take a stamp and it tastes good. Tastes like glue but the glue is made from horses, so it’s like eating a—licking a horse and the mail is like a jockey who rides the glue horse!
TAOE: Ok. Well, maybe if we can get a little more specific. Do you think the fact that Chief Justice Roberts upheld the law under a taxation rationale while also refusing to permit the ACA to pass Commerce Clause muster was a shrewd bit of judicial slight-of-hand, or simply a pragmatic position?
BSG: [Gnawing on something] I’m so hungry. And thirsty. But so hungry. I would like to eat a hamburger with tomatoes and lettuce and ketchup and mustard and pickles and pickles [sic] and onions and cheese, except the hamburger should be made out of your face.
TAOE: I see. While many supporters of the president were pleased with the ruling, some on the far left (many of whom see “Obamacare” as an unsatisfactory half-measure at best) are theorizing that, despite the outcome in this instance, Roberts’ formulated his opinion as groundwork for a future continuation of reducing federal power vis a vis the states. Some on the right have suggested as much, saying today’s ruling is, counter-intuitively, a victory for conservatives. Who really won today?
BSG: You judge me because I want to eat people, but you just think that way because society taught you to think that way. It’s just the only way you know. It’s just the only food you know! YOU DON’T AAAAAAAGGGHHHHHAAA!!! AHHHHHHHHHHH! See, if you . . . hamburger . . . if you took one bite . . . if you ate a face just once, you wouldn’t even be arguing, because you’d know how good it is. You’re just . . . locked in . . . prisoner . . . taste . . . horse . . . Scalia . . . bone . . . horse . . .
TAOE: I think I heard you say “Scalia.”
BSG: Scales. Scales. Scales. Scales. Scales. Scales. Tony Scali. The Commish. Horse. Whores. Hoarse. Scales. Vic Mackey. Scales.
TAOE: Ok, moving on . . .
BSG: SCALES, MOTHERF***ER!
TAOE: GOT IT! So . . . let’s take a step back. Do you think that the average American understands that the Supreme Court, at least in theory, isn’t ruling on whether a law should have been passed, but, rather, whether a law may be passed? Or, do you think that your run-of-the-mill voter isn’t nearly sophisticated enough to distinguish between judicial principles and ideology?
BSG: Please, please, please, please, please let me eat your face off.
TAOE: Maybe I should re-phrase. What I’m suggesting is that the vast majority of the American populace is either too uninformed or too cynical to conceive of a Supreme Court case as anything other than a legislative-style debate over the ideological merits of a law, rather than a decision about whether the form or substance of the law runs afoul of our Constitution. To wit, most of the internet chatter today was a re-hash of the debate from the time of the ACA’s passage, which misses the point entirely. Rather than parroting talking points about the individual mandate being comparable to mandatory auto insurance, advocates should have been discussing capitation and Article I powers. The fact that the narrative was still about the “unfairness” of insurers denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and the like just goes to prove for the millionth time that Americans—even lawyers—don’t really grasp conlaw. Is that fair, or too harsh?
BSG: Capitation reminds me that I need to eat your head. I promise I’ll give it back when I’m done. Horse hair! Rubies are fine, but emeralds are finer. Diamonds are a pearl’s best garnet.
TAOE: On the political front, do you think Americans will ever be able to turn down “free stuff” over the long haul? Socialized medicine has been kept at bay for about a century, but is it inevitable? Even if government-run (single-payer) health care could be shown to be a bad idea, will the temptation of “free stuff” be too great for voters to resist—and, perhaps more to the point, for politicians to refrain from promising in exchange for votes?
BSG: Have you ever had a grilled chicken dish in a super-high-end restaurant? Ok, now, take that in your head, and then combine it with heroin. That’s what it’s like to eat face. WHY ARE YOU NOT ON BOARD WITH THIS ALREADY? THIS IS TAKING FOREVER!
TAOE: Do you think this ruling helps President Obama more, since it leaves the legislative centerpiece of his first term intact, or Mitt Romney, since it will energize his base as they lash out against what they may see as a freedom-sapping step toward socialism?
BSG: You know how when you get really hungry and your stomach starts making squishy squishy noises? I can understand what it’s saying. The stomach. I can hear it. I speak stomach. Speak. Speak. My stomach right now is saying, “If you don’t put some face pieces in me soon, I’m going to rip you open and run away.” Come on. How about just the nose? Looks like you have some to spare. Please? PLEASE. PLEASE. TASTES SO GOOD. I’m starting to get itchy now. I need to eat so the itching goes away. Have you ever tried to run up an escalator? If you do, you get stuck, and, like, time stops. But the elevator keeps going. And you keep going. But the clocks don’t move, man. I was in a mall once for three years. Three f***ing years! I mean, it was three years to me, but it was like three seconds to everyone else in the mall. That’s because the caterers brought the flowers with the cakes and the laundry was on top of the [unintelligible]. Milkshake!
TAOE: All right. Final question. The next major reform that Congress attempts to push could very well be mitigating student debt. Support for wiping out the debt outright seems to be gaining momentum. The Occupy Movement has taken up the cause as well, noting the inherent “unfairness” of increasing tuition rates over the last few decades, highlighting the fact that students now must pay back sums much greater than those paid off by earlier generations. One plan out of California would have higher-earning students paying a proportionately greater amount as a way to subsidize students who are less-successful in finding employment after college. In light of all of this, do you advocate using a government bailout (or income redistribution) to forgive student debt?
BSG: [long pause] Maybe. But it’ll take something stronger than bath salts to get me to sign off on that. Now . . . how about an ear? Come on! Just grow your hair out and no one will notice!