UP NOLAN CREEK: The Supremes
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 by WAYNE CARPENTER
No, I'm not flashing back to the popular sixties singing group that featured Diana Ross, I'm referring to the nine members of the United States Supreme Court, who are suddenly in the spotlight this week as they attempt to unravel the constitutionality of an imperfect attempt to fix America's troubled health care system.
I will not attempt to explain the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare if you prefer, especially since I don't even began to understand its complexities, nor am I convinced anyone else does either.
Despite having the best nurses and doctors in the world, the costs and the inequities in our current hodgepodge system are out of control.
I can only hope that the high court will shine some light on the situation, but I am not optimistic their decision will solve anything, regardless of their ruling.
While the immediate focus of the nation is on how the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the current health care, what I find especially interesting is how little most of us know about the Supreme Court and what scant attention is paid to its important role as one of the three branches of government.
After some reading about the public's knowledge of the high court, I am very concerned.
I wonder what percent of American's even know how many people are on the Court? (The answer is nine, the Chief Justice and eight justices, just like a baseball team.)
A survey done in 2011 found that only 15 percent of those surveyed knew the name of the current Chief Justice (John Roberts), which was about half the number that knew the names of the judges on the American Idol television program.
As an old government teacher, I am confident that if one of my former students was surveyed, they would be among the knowledgeable fifteen percent; if not, please don't tell me!
Regardless of the surveys, I don't think it bodes well for the future of our Republic that the Chief Justice of the United States of America is less well known than some character named Snooki from Jersey Shore.
Even more distressing, most of the respondents in the survey didn't knew little regarding the functions of the Supreme Court. Of those surveyed, 45 percent were unaware that the United States Supreme Court had the power to declare a law unconstitutional. This basic precedent called judicial review was affirmed in a court case titled Marbury v. Madison. The case took place back in 1803 during the tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall, the longest serving chief justice in our history. The ruling in that case basically affirmed once and for all the concept of judicial review, where the court does not make law but determines if laws passed by the Legislative branch, or the actions of the President (head of the executive branch) conflict with the United States Constitution. The case really cemented the Supreme Court's standing as the critical third branch of government, whose role is to balance the executive and legislative branches. This system of checks and balances has served us well for over two hundred years.
However, even in our system of checks and balances, the Supreme Court is not immune to political pressure. Numerous court decisions basically have fallen along party lines reflecting which President from which political party appointed which justice. The current makeup of the high court is generally viewed as a more conservative group than those in the past few decades, and it will be fascinating to see how they handle this particular hot potato. Current opinion polls show most Americans are confused about the health care issue, no surprise there, and the majority are opposed to the portion of the health care act that mandates purchase of health insurance. I predict the court ruling will reflect that view. As a result, the people on the losing side will rant and rave about the inequity of the decision, and the Supreme Court will be a topic of public attention for a few days. Regardless of the outcome, the health care system will still be a mess, and then the general public will resume watching American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.