While liberals are still basking in the glow of Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, I’ve been busy examining pictures of Chief Justice John Roberts. Has the leopard changed his spots? Nope. They’re still in the same places. John Roberts is still the same corporate shill he’s always been.
Until Thursday, this year’s Roberts court appeared to act as a subsidiary of the US Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose name sounds homespun and small townie, until you realize that the bulk of their funding comes from multinational corporations with allegiances to, frankly, any country they want. Their interests are often diametrically opposed to the interests of actual local Chambers of Commerce. The US Chamber of Commerce is about establishing and maintaining monopolies. Local chambers are about helping small, local businesses.
The Supreme Court rulings of this SCOTUS term have fallen right in line with the corporate agenda. The court ruled that Citizens United was bigger than states’ rights. They ruled that citizens can sign away their access to the justice system by agreeing to mandatory arbitration (Which is part of nearly all consumer contracts and the arbitrator is typically an employee of the corporation). They unanimously ruled with the meat industry. They ruled against unions. They ruled with financial institutions. Roberts always ruled in favor of corporations. What changed Thursday? What made Roberts rule against the Chamber of Commerce?
On the surface, Roberts’ ruling on the Affordable Care Act may look inconsistent with his previous rulings. Some have even speculated that he did it for the greater good of the court and maybe there was an element of truth to that, but Chief Justice John Roberts was and still is a corporatist. That has not changed. While I agree with parts of his decision and the ultimate fact that he upheld the Affordable Care Act, his round about way of getting there could end up doing us a lot of harm.
By agreeing with the law’s opponents and asserting that Congress’ authority was not under the Commerce Clause, but instead under its right to tax and spend, he potentially weakened the Commerce Clause. Ultimately, this could be a dream come true for multinational corporations, who would love nothing better than to be allowed to operate without pesky things like federal laws hanging over their heads.
Even more significantly, the Commerce Clause is the backbone of civil rights laws. The ruling has been that if any of a business’s operations cross state lines, even something as small as a napkin stocked in a local cafe, the federal government has the right to enforce non-discrimination. When libertarians, federalists and corporations talk about states’ rights, they are typically talking about the fact that they feel that the Commerce Clause has been interpreted too broadly. Roberts has been a member of the Federalist Society.
Clearly, the argument that Congress has the authority to force citizens to buy something from corporations is different from the argument that they can force Walmart or the corner diner to not discriminate, but look for a flood of Commerce Clause arguments over the next few years.
But let’s forget about the legal minutia for a minute. John Roberts is still a corporatist and nothing has changed. Here’s why:
- While he arguably handed Obama a victory, he still made insurance company customers of millions of young, healthy Americans.
- In the very same week he allowed ‘Obamacare’ to pass, he helped expand Citizens United, a decision that I believe will be his court’s legacy.
- He still has an almost perfect record with the US Chamber of Commerce.
- He attends GOP fundraisers.