Lobbying the High Court to save Obamacare Mar 30, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 28 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
King v. Burwell, on which the Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 4, is the most politically important case on the High Court’s docket this term. If the King petitioners win a decision in their favor, it could explode the massive 2010 federal health care overhaul known as Obamacare, by removing subsidies for Obamacare-compliant health-insurance policies in most states.
And for that reason, King v. Burwell has generated a lobbying blitz in the liberal media of seemingly unprecedented proportions. It began even before the King petitioners asked the Supreme Court last July 31 to review a ruling against them by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is unlikely to stop until the justices issue their own decision, probably at the end of June. Some of the press output touches on the actual issues of statutory interpretation and federalism that the King case raises. But the bulk of the lobbying, in newspapers, magazine articles, websites, and blogs, has consisted of belittling the petitioners, ridiculing the legal theories that their lawyers have put forth, impugning the motives of conservative and libertarian activists involved in the litigation, engaging in argumenta ad misericordiam designed to make the High Court feel sorry for the 8 million people who might not be able to afford Obamacare-mandated health insurance should the King petitioners prevail, and appealing to the amour-propre of various of the nine Supreme Court justices.
Behind all of this is that dreaded health insurance-industry term of art: the “death spiral.” It’s what happens when premiums rise so high that increasing numbers of relatively healthy people choose to go uninsured, but insurance companies are barred—as they are under Obamacare—from denying coverage to people who are already sick. The pool of the insured shrinks, premiums skyrocket (discouraging still more healthy people from buying policies), and, finally, the insurers either go bankrupt or flee, leaving nobody with coverage.
At issue in King are the five words “exchange established by the state” in a provision of the 974-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires the Internal Revenue Service to give tax-credit subsidies to people of modest means to help them pay the sky-high premiums for “comprehensive” coverage mandated elsewhere in the Obamacare law, as long as they buy their policies through an “exchange,” a regulated marketplace where they can comparison-shop. Section 1311 of the Obamacare law allows states to set up their own exchanges—but a surprising number of them, 36, declined to do so, so the federal government set up exchanges in those states under another Obamacare provision, Section 1321. Then, in 2012, the IRS issued a regulation that extends the subsidies to policies purchased from either state or federal exchanges—a regulation that lawyers for the King petitioners insist flies in the face of the statutory words “established by the state.” They and their supporters argue that permitting the IRS regulation to stand means the executive branch of government has the power to override the plain meaning of a law passed by Congress just about whenever it feels like it.
The Fourth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Virginia, home of the four King petitioners and a state that did not set up an exchange, ruled nonetheless last July 22 that, when read in conjunction with other parts of the Obamacare law that seemed to encourage subsidies, the five contested words were more ambiguous than they looked at first glance. The Fourth Circuit upheld the IRS regulation under a principle called “Chevron deference” (the name comes from a landmark Supreme Court ruling). That principle requires courts in most cases to defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of the law, as long as that interpretation is “reasonable.” But that very same day, another federal appeals court, for the D.C. Circuit, ruled 2-1 in another lawsuit challenging the IRS regulation, Halbig v. Burwell, that the five statutory words in question meant exactly what they said.
So—let the lobbying begin! Supreme Court lobbying takes two forms. One is the time-honored practice of filing an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief raising legal issues and policy considerations that might not have been argued in the lower courts by the parties themselves. Both the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court have been flooded with amicus briefs in the King case—according to the Court’s own website, 57 of them have been filed.
Identity politics über allesMar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
Chicago -- It was the skin—smooth and hairless as a newborn’s forearm—that I fastened on when I saw Sara Andrews, the first “transwoman” I had ever met, at the Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club in Boystown, on Chicago’s North Side. The ambiance at the club was glitter balls, silver-leather banquettes, Busby Berkeley dance loops projected onto the walls, and as entertainers a bevy of dressed-to-the-hilt, lip-synching “divas,” as the Kit Kat calls its drag lineup.
At 75, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is less persuasive than everDec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
I read The Grapes of Wrath—this year celebrating the 75th anniversary of its publication in 1939—the summer after I graduated from a Southern California girls’ high school less than a quarter-century after its author, John Steinbeck (1902-1968), had banged out his socialist-realist magnum opus about downtrodden Dust Bowl farmworkers.
The truncated, self-destructive history of Valerie SolanasDec 1, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 12 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
Valerie Solanas (1936-1988) is remembered by most people only as a name—the name of the woman who shot Andy Warhol. On the day of the shooting, June 3, 1968, Warhol was at the pinnacle of his fame, first as a pop artist, and then, as the 1960s progressed, a cinematic auteur.
Understanding—and appreciating—Los Angeles by design. Apr 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 30 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
I’m a Los Angeles girl, born and bred. My hometown is Pasadena, about 12 miles northeast of L.A.’s downtown, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. My husband is another Angeleno, raised in Hawthorne, in far southwest Los Angeles County, on the South Bay flatlands abutting the Pacific Ocean. Hawthorne was then a postwar working-class paradise (the big employer was Northrop Corporation, now Northrop Grumman) that was socioeconomically and geographically diagonal to snooty, old-money Pasadena.
The thriving of the medieval cult of chivalry.Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
The word “chivalry,” associated with the Middle Ages and its knightly ethos of courtesy and dragon-slaying, has a bad rap nowadays. “Chivalrous” refers to the patsy in shining armor who opens doors for women, picks up the tab on dates, and is willing to be there with sensitive sympathy (along with hopes of future romance) when the cad whom his ladylove really loves dumps her.
A soap disturbs the ethnic hornets’ nest. Aug 19, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 46 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
Devious Maids is the Sunday-night soap on Lifetime about five Latina domestic servants who routinely outwit their wealthy, decadent, self-centered, materialistic, and generally evil Anglo employers in the Beverly Hills monster-mansions where the maids have been hired to do the cooking and dusting.
At ‘white privilege’ conferences, a lengthening list of victims issue an ever-more-detailed indictment of Western civilizationMay 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
The moving hand writes, and having written, moves to keyboardingApr 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 31 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
My handwriting is execrable. I routinely desecrate the elegant, engraved stationery that my husband gave me as a birthday present with cramped, misshapen, and only partly legible scrawls. This despite the years I spent in parochial school being drilled by the nuns in the Palmer method, the loopy but highly readable cursive hand developed by Austin Norman Palmer during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
11:02 AM, Sep 7, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Charlotte Allen's story this week documents how many of the country's top universities are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks with postmodern intellectual posturing and Islamic outreach. But we're pleased to note that not all of the nation's universities have lost sight of remembering the fallen and the heroes of 9/11.
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