Supreme Court Politics Painful for the Poor

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supremeThe last vestige for the poor and middle class has become an enemy. Our ‘check and balance’ system has failed. The intent of our forefathers that the Supreme Court not be politicized has been cast aside. Decisions made by the Republican dominated Court have become painful for the poor and working class.

Our nation’s highest court has already upheld voting laws in states which are directly aimed at minorities and the poor. It also sided with laws which virtually eliminate abortions for poor and under-privileged women. Although it previously denied reversal of the Affordable Care Act, it has once again agreed to review a case seeking to eliminate health care for over five million people.

When did decisions made by the Court become dominated by politics? Before 1940, the Court followed its directive; the Constitutionality of cases put before them was its only concern. Decisions were made by the greater majority of Justices, frequently resulting in a unanimous vote. After 1940 there became a larger number of cases resulting in a 5-4 decision. Decisions made by the last two Courts have increased the percentage of this narrow margin. More than 20 percent of these judgments receive a vote directly attributable to party affiliation.

The case the Court has agreed to hear could result in the virtual destruction of the Affordable Care Act. If Republican appointed Justices bow to the will of their party’s leaders and agree with the petitioner, five million people who now have health care would lose their privileges, and it would be a fatal blow to future enrollment.

King v. Burwell challenges subsidies for health care in states which do not have their own system in place. Without the estimated $36 billion in subsidies the health care system would be unable to exist.

Recent polls have demonstrated that American’s lack of trust in their government includes the Supreme Court. They believe that our system no longer works. The framers of our Constitution feared exactly what has occurred. With a Court that has become more involved with political issues than decisions regarding the Constitutionality of legislation, our third branch of government is non-existent.

With the creation of our political system, our forefathers debated giving Congress the ability to override decisions made by the Supreme Court. Some feared that the Court would become too powerful. After much debate the decision was made to separate it from politics and public opinion; its sole purpose was to protect the law of the land. The framers of our nation’s supreme law believed that the Court was necessary as a non-political group which had a solitary purpose.

Possibly the most volatile issue decided by our present Supreme Court was in the debate over ‘Citizens United.’ This case reversed a nearly century old law which prohibited unlimited campaign contributions by a single entity. When the court upheld the petition, it granted corporations and wealthy individuals the right to influence elections through the donation of unlimited capital. Once again, the decision was made in direct relationship to party affiliation.

The injustice of a politicized Supreme Court lands directly on the poor and working class. Sadly, other than vocalizing their displeasure, there is nothing that can be done to rectify the painful consequences of a one-sided decision making body.

By James Turnage


The Hill

Stanford Law Review

The Atlantic

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