January 16, 2010

Grainne's Lunch-Break Political Roundup

This day in the Judiciary:
There is a case currently being argued before the U.S Supreme Court, brought against the NFL by American Needle, an Illinois maker of souvenir caps that is pissed about what it alleges is a violation of the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act- this because the NFL sold a 10-year monopoly license for making souvenir caps (for all teams except the Dallas Cowboys, who opted out of the license, choosing to continue to license their logo separately) to Reebok. The oral arguments that took place before the court on Wednesday turned out to be pretty funny, and actually made me sort of regret that I didn’t go to law school a few years ago when I almost went to law school. The tangle everyone kept getting into was to what degree individual teams should be viewed as separate entities, and to what degree the existence of the League as a collective body that has common commercial interests (and commonly held responsibilities to set game rules and playoff schedules etc.) trumps the actual (and legal) identity of individual franchises as competitors of one another. The lawyer for the NFL argues that NFL souvenirs and the licensing for the production of them could not be considered as ordinary products subject to competition laws (and thus, anti-trust suits) because they are a promotional product for a sport, rather than an independent source of profit for any one franchise. The license to Reebok was granted by the league, and thus, by an embodiment of the sport of Football, furthering it's own footbally interests in the name of football. So far this argument had held up well in the lower courts. It ended up at SCOTUS after being handed up without a trial after multiple appeals from American Needle.
The Justices of our highest court seemed to be quite enjoying this case. Justice Stevens wondered aloud about a hypothetical situation in which the NFL decided to sell houses instead of small merchandise. Justice Roberts added “he is just saying that selling logos is closer to selling houses than it is to playing football”, and suggested that a trial was the place to sort out the facts. Justice Breyer however, made possibly the most relevant point when he noted, quote: “Okay. I don’t know a Red Sox fan who would take a Yankees sweatshirt if you gave it away”.

This day in the Legislature (and the Executive too, kinda):

Guess what? We might actually get health care reform legislation signed into law before the State of the Union! Apparently, Pelosi, Reid, and their attendant mafias are working so hard on coming up with a joint bill for Obama (who also apparently spent a good deal of time in attendance at these meetings) to sign that “Lawmakers shed their cell phones and blackberries” (quote from the Bay Area News Group’s Morning Report) while meeting to hash out the legislation- and we all know about Congress and their crackberries. They’re always tweeting instead of listening to each other spew bullcrap from the podium. The thought of Congress-people actually leaving their ‘devices’ off, or outside of the room they’re occupying does lend a note of gravity to the proceedings. It’s almost like they’re actually working.
It is quite interesting what they’re getting hung up on, though, at this stage in the game. Abortion coverage in Federally subsidized health care programs? Nope. Expansion of Medicare and Medicaid? Nope. A ‘Public Option?’- Nope. Many of these things that were included in the House bill and scrapped from the Senate bill will, in my opinion, never find their way onto the President’s desk. The big hangup in crafting a joint bill is a tax that Obama himself has asked for on high-cost private insurance plans. House Democrats don’t have a reputation for being particularly centrist, and are most certainly beholden to certain interests, such as….hmmm…who could be behind wanting to block this tax? That’s right, it’s Organized Labor. We’re talking serious muscle old-line huge labor unions. AFL-CIO, UAW….those dinosaurs of labor. Why? Because the rank and file of these Unions gets the best fucking health insurance out there, and they don’t want their Union Members to pay a tax on their sweet insurance coverage. Problem is, those old-time Union members with the 50 dollar and up an hour jobs and the swell pensions and the A-plus benefits are a dying breed, and a growing number of us are part of the next paradigm of proletariat- the paradigm that currently is underpaid, unorganized (in many cases unorganizable) and without any benefits (health, retirement, anything) at all. And we need the re-structuring of our healthcare system (and government subsidies for the health coverage of a huge number of previously vulnerable people) to be Financially viable. The tax on high-cost private health insurance plans that Obama wants is one way of taking from those who are currently making out like bandits because they’ve basically been grandfathered out of the current ‘fuck the worker’ labor market, and making the future for all of us more than a totally untenable idea written in a book that can never be balanced. So, Old Line Labor Unions and your big muscly lobbies, I love ya, I mourn your demise, and I do hope you can negotiate this tax down from the 40% Obama is proposing to something more reasonable like a 15% or 10% tax (probably what Obama was expecting and why he aimed high in the first place) but for christ’s sake, get on board, think about the world after and outside of you and open your minds to the possibility of a world in which we need good healthcare for everyone, not just amazing healthcare for a few.
A note about the health care bill that is almost certainly going to be signed into law within the next couple of weeks:
The left is pissed about it, I know. Many have called for this bill to die rather than pass. Though this bill is far from ideal, I am not among them. First of all, this bill is not the end-game. It is the toehold, and much progress should come incrementally in it's wake. This bill is not going to include lots of nice things that would make me stop being jealous of Dutch people. Yes, it is retarded that this country will never have a single-payer system because a majority of Americans will never agree to pay the taxes needed to make such a system possible. However, this bill is going to make it illegal for the Health Insurance industry to fuck us all in the ass like it has been doing, totally unchecked, for all of my lifetime and back into the days when I was just a twinkle in my mother’s eye. Artificial price-gouging, excluding people from coverage because of pre-existing conditions, dropping people right when they need coverage or rejecting claims for laughable and unfair reasons (“we won’t pay for your Chemo because you had Acne when you were 15”), these will all be straight up illegal. And regulated. Which they currently are not at all. To me, new regulation and new laws governing the practices of the private health insurance industry alone is enough of a reason why it would be tragic for this bill to have died in either chamber of Congress. This is an industry that has criminally abused the American People for decades and which desperately needs to be smacked back into line. The political moment to smack them is upon us and almost past. I am sure that the pending legislation will do much (if perhaps not enough-remains to be seen) smacking of those who should be smacked. I’ll keep it at that for now, but I plan on saying more about this whenever the joint bill becomes available on these interwebs and I can get a look at it.

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