In the past decade, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has handed down some truly mind-boggling decisions. Three stand out.
In their 2005 decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, the court’s majority ruled that eminent domain can be used to seize the homes and property of private individuals on behalf of for-profit private corporations.
And y’all are worried about your guns, which, by the way, are a far greater danger to the health and safety of Americans than all the terrorists of the world. Combined. Worry about your homes instead; I spent 14 months homeless and I don’t recommend it.
What was most jaw-dropping about the Kelo case was that it was the liberal wing of the court which delivered the majority decision and the people of the United States into the mercy of Corporate America, the fourth branch of government.
Much better known thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement is the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in 2010. The plaintiff, Citizens United, is a pseudo-grassroots movement organized and financed by and for the benefit of the Brothers Koch. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, together the third richest family in America next to the Gates and the Walton families, coopted what began originally as a true grassroots movement and steered it in the exact opposite direction it real founders wanted.
The majority in this case ruled that corporations are people with the same rights as actual human beings. They also ruled that money equals speech and that therefore Congress has no right to limit its use in elections because it would be a violation of the First Amendment.
I have not seen any comment to this effect in anything I’ve read, but the most pernicious decision of the last ten years has been that in 2012 in the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. The NIFB, a Nashville-based outfit, was suing to block and possibly overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The majority decision affirmed the right of the federal government to require individual citizens to purchase health insurance, doubtlessly a boon to that branch of Corporate America. However, it rejected the effort of the law to induce states to broaden their Medicaid coverage and allowed states to choose whether or not to follow that provision.
In other words, according to the justices who took part in the majority, it’s okay to lay down burdens on individual citizens as long as those burdens benefit corporations but not to lay burdens on states that will benefit a sizable group of citizens.
I bet you’re thinking right now that this sounds like another reprehensible example of right-wing heartlessness. Wrong. It’s the liberal wing again, joined by Chief Justice Roberts. Yes, it was the liberal justices who voted that states don’t have to provide better healthcare to poor people.
Of course, among the States most eager to jump both feet-first on the band wagon for denying expanded health to the poor were Tennessee and Georgia, both entirely dominated by the Republican Party’s right wing, also known as the Tea Party, or, since its cooption by the Brother Koch and wedding to the Christian Right, as the American Taliban.
The most dangerous part of the NFIB decision, an aspect of it of which no one, as far as I know, has written is that by allowing states to pick and choose whether or not to obey a certain section of a federal law, these five justices have, in effect, overturned the results of the Civil War and the Reconstruction which followed.
Why is this, you ask? The Civil War decided once and for all that individual states of the Union are not sovereign entities. If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, the cry of “state’s rights” is certainly his or her first.
Most recently, “states’ rights” was the slogan of the white supremacist resistance to the civil rights movement. Before that, it was the slogan for Jim Crow. Before that, for the defeated former Confederate states. Before that, for the anti-abolition movement that led to the organization of the Confederacy.
The truth of the matter is that “states’ rights” as sovereign entities died in 1789 with the ratification of the Constitution. Whereas the Declaration of Independence was signed by the “United Colonies” and the Articles of Confederation were signed by the “State in Congress assembled”, the U.S. Constitution was signed in the name not of the states, but by the People of the United States.
After looking at the decision this way and realizing that SCOTUS had, in effect, overruled the victory of the Union over the Confederacy, several other questions came to mind.
When is SCOTUS going to rule that states don't have to abide by the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
When is SCOTUS going to rule that states don't have to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
When is SCOTUS going to overturn Brown v. Board of Education?
When is SCOTUS going to reaffirm Plessy v. Ferguson?
When is SCOTUS going to rule that states don't have to abide by the 15th Amendment?
When is SCOTUS going to rule that states don't have to abide by the 14th Amendment?
When is SCOTUS going to rule that states don't have to abide by the 13th Amendment?
When is SCOTUS going to reaffirm the decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford?
When is SCOTUS going to rule that states don't have to abide by the Bill of Rights?
When is SCOTUS going to declare that the Union is dissolved?