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Despite Court's rulings, individuals need to change

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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Last week, the Supreme Court issued some of the more important and controversial decisions of our time. Americans will see changes in health care and immigration, as the court upheld most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and struck down Arizona's SB 1070.

Though these decisions are big, they pale compared with what Americans must themselves do to make positive change.

"Obamacare" mandates that every American has health insurance. The court upheld this as Constitutional because Congress has the right to tax. The majority essentially ruled that if the penalty for those refusing insurance looks like a tax, is collected like a tax, it's a tax. They also ruled that expanding Medicaid was Constitutional but states may decline to abide by the expansion. Thus "Obamacare" remains healthy.

The popular aspects of the law include the ban of "lifetime limits" on insurance plans, allowing kids to stay on parents' plans until they are 26, and ensuring that everyone can have access to insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions. Those things have bipartisan support.

Although the court has now justified the controversial aspects, the decision did not answer all our questions.

For example, the individual mandate — which pays for the good stuff — has people questioning if the government can control any market just by taxing people to mandate buying anything the government wants us to buy. We wonder whether costs will rise if states do opt out of expanded Medicaid, as the decision now allows.

All we do know is that Congress can still tax us and the federal government can change insurance companies to treat consumers better.

In the end, the Supreme Court does not guarantee that Americans will be healthier; only that they will have better insurance.

Americans will need to own up to their contribution to the problem and actively promote healthier living in their communities. Until that happens, we'll continue to see health costs rise along with the number on the scale — regardless of what the court, Congress, and presidents do.

Furthermore, earlier in the week, the court decisively took side with the federal government in striking down three parts of a highly controversial Arizona anti-immigration law known as SB 1070.

In fact, the court left only one provision — for the time being — which allows police officers to check the status of possible aliens during the course of an arrest and report back to the (federal agency responsible for deportations).

The trouble with this "papers please" provision is that once the local law enforcement has recognized that the person in custody is in the States illegally, that's the end of the story. The court struck down the other three provisions that would allow the states to actually do anything about it.

The court decided that federal goals trump states' rights because immigration policy affects the entire nation. "Trade, investment, tourism, diplomatic relations … and expectations of aliens in this country" are all interests of the federal government, and if a state law blocks those interests, it must be struck down, according to Justice Anthony Kennedy's written decision.

If states really want to change immigration policy, then people will have to elect federal representatives who will either enforce current laws or alter the policies altogether. The way it stands, unless a person is convicted of a felony, the feds probably won't deport.

The Supreme Court limited states' rights and made it clear states must follow federal immigration law and that state laws enacted beyond the federal laws would be closely scrutinized. If Americans want real immigration reform, they need to participate actively themselves in the political process and demand change from their U.S. representatives and senators. If Americans want to stop the drug smuggling at the border, Americans must participate in promoting drug-free communities.

The Supreme Court was particularly active this week issuing those two landmark cases, but the nine justices appointed to lifetime positions as national deciders also rendered other decisions that will undoubtedly have great impacts on American people.


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