This is going to be a very good week for teaching some very bitter historical ironies. A long, long time ago, and seemingly far far away, a right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation, trying to fight Hillary Clinton’s (now our Secretary of State) health care plan, came up with an idea: instead of a government-run health insurance system, we need a national individual mandate that would make it illegal not to have health care insurance. If you couldn’t afford it, the government would help.
It was a nutty idea but the right successfully defeated national health care in the U.S., (again) or perhaps the Democrats shot themselves in the foot and defeated their own bill, and the individual mandate remained Republican party dogma until President Obama decided to use it as a way to create a workable compromise with his opponents. It worked, at least to some extent, and at the heart of the Affordable Care Act is an individual mandate, now considered the work of the devil by the same right that created it.
Meanwhile President Bush packed the Supreme Court with a gaggle of ideologues– the ones who unleashed Citizens United. These ideologues will decide, this week, in a bizarrely twisted irony, if the individual mandate is constitutional. (It didn’t seem to matter over the last 20 years). And, of course, at least one of the ideologues, Clarence Thomas, has direct personal links to the Heritage Foundation (his wife, Virginia Thomas, herself so ideological slouch, works for them, sort of, now and again).
This matters to everyone– every year without national health care is a year all but the super rich grow poorer– but it has a particular poignancy to those of us trying to make a living piecing together some sort of life by picking up online classes wherever we can. The for-profit health care system makes this process horribly difficult (unless you have a spouse with a traditional job and benefits). Maybe the last historical irony is be that losing the mandate will be the fist step towards national health care.