Friday, June 29, 2012

Obama and the Golden Calf: The Affordable Care Act and Privatization

It has been said that there are two sets of laws in the world, the false and the true, and that justice inheres in the movement from the former to the latter.

The commentators apprise us that Moses ascended Mount Sinai and recorded the true law there, transcribing this from the word of god. But when he descended the mountain, with these stone tablets incused with the true law, he beheld at the foot of Sinai a golden calf, a representation of the false law.

The people, impatient and fearful of Moses's prolonged absence and at the point of eruption, at last were only mollified by Aaron, the chief priest, distracting them with a piece of magic. It is not incidental that this calf was made of gold - not only the mere appearance of value, a glittery rock, but the simulation of light and spirit. To be sure, gold is the element of the false law par excellence. Of course, gold is valued for its physical properties. But it is for its metaphysical properties that gold is killed for. The alchemists' dream, the immortal, never-tarnishing metal mimics potentia and bewitches. And bewitched the Israelites were, worshiping this mass of gold illusorily vivified, this false god, false law, and imitation of life.

When Moses descended the mountain, with the true law in his arms, and set his eyes upon this golden calf, he instantly angered and dashed the tablets of stone to the ground, shattering them to oblivion. In time he would again ascend to the top of Sinai and bring down the commandments. However, the commentators apprise us, the commandments were different from the first, destroyed body of law - not the same as the true law that had been smashed to bits, the commandments were a simplification to some degree. The true law could not be fathomed by these worshipers of crude gold.

Following Obama's election, one would see from time to time a picture of the newly elected president beside one of Martin Luther King, Jr. A caption beneath King read: The Dream. Below Obama's picture another caption read: The Dream Fulfilled - a reflection not only of the height of hope, but the height of delusion. Among other things, it was clear that Obama was a dissimulator and a deceiver who had no intent of fulfilling King's dream of justice. To his credit, Obama was always straightforward about his conservative disposition. During the campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, he was consistently to the right of Clinton. In one telling debate, when asked what she would do about the mortgage foreclosure crisis then underway and all the illegal mortgage foreclosures that were being carried out in the confusion. Clinton replied that she would impose a moratorium on home foreclosures. When the question was posed to candidate Obama, he replied that he had faith in the market and would let the market correct itself. Yet it was the market that was responsible for the crisis in the first place. In spite of this stance, however, he led people with his campaign of 'hope' and 'change' and 'yes we can' to think he was some sort of fiery reformer - the way people wanted and hoped we would be. Perhaps it is unfair to write that Obama led people to believe this about him. It would be more fair to write that he misled them. He misrepresented himself. And we should not forget that misrepresentation can be a criminal act. At any event, his presidency ought to have by now dispelled any thoughts of his being a Moses, or a King. Yet the spell seems to be intact. Even with his drone strikes and kill lists, and attacks on whistle blowers, and his persecution of immigrants, and the rest of it, Obama is seen as a Moses, rather than what he really is: a golden calf.

It should come as little surprise that Chief Justice John Roberts not only voted for Obama's health care bill, the Affordable Care Act (which contributes little good aside from preventing some of the worst of the insurance industry's practices), but wrote the majority opinion. It is only surprising that the other conservatives voted against it. This is surprising because the conservatives have always been on the side of business, the hand of which the ACA greatly strengthens. Indeed, Roberts, Alito, and others are of the mind that the New Deal and the regulatory, administrative state following the New Deal is virtually all unconstitutional. And they have been working to roll back all of the New Deal for some time. Not only do they believe that business should not be regulated, they are all strong champions of the forces of privatization. Let us not forget that privatization is what business does, and is part of creating markets. For example, before the Enclosure Acts of the early modern period, many things that are now commodities and can only be obtained in markets were back then not. Before the lands were enclosed, divided into parcels and sold as commodities, they were all known as commons, for all to use. As land had not been privatized, people did not pay rent. Food, for the most part, was made at home in a subsistence economy. Only when the commons, and more and more of daily life, was privatized did people become compelled to go to the market to buy what they needed for subsistence. In turn, they were compelled to sell their labor as well - and never with equal bargaining power - to acquire money to buy that which they once owned. Among other things, they lost a great deal of wealth and independence to business.

Today's privatization - privatizing water supplies, public education, and the rest of what was once held in common - continues this same process. If the business interests had their way, everything - even air - would be for sale and nothing would be free - that is, no one but the rich would be free. Because the conservative wing of the court is very warm to all of this privatizing, it is surprising that they did not vote for a bill that, with its individual mandate, vastly strengthens the hand of business in its privatization schemes. Indeed, with the ACA as a precedent, they might be able to force people to buy a new phone every year, or some other such legislation. As Roberts made sure, this would now be constitutional. At any event, while he will take credit for being a wise judge, Roberts did not vote the way he did to help the golden calf, but to help the owners of gold. And let us not forget that the ACA is designed foremost to help the owners of gold. Improving health care, or health, is secondary. It is a business foremost. Profit, not health, is its object. To be sure, health care would be far more easily supplied without the insurance companies involvement at all. As middlemen their purpose is simply to make money - that is, to take money. And now, as people will have to buy from them, they will take a great deal more. And people continue to worship the golden calf. And, even if many don't worship the golden calf - as many don't - they still worship gold, blinded by its flashing.

And just as the movement from the false law to the true law is the movement of justice, so our movement ever closer to the false law of gold is, in so many respects, a tremendous injustice. For what is the true law? It is the health of the people. And though some may think it will help, the ACA will in no way create the conditions of health needed for actual health. At best it creates the semblance of such conditions, which is just another misrepresentation from the golden calf. 

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