It’s hard to escape the conclusion that this election is quite literally a matter of life and death.
It’s not even remotely about issues or policies. It’s about who dies from civil failure. From the abandonment of our people by our government. From the tearing up of a contract we took for granted, mistakenly assuming it was our government’s duty to protect us.
There are aspects of this that we can change in November, though it won’t be an overnight thing — and who knows what damage these assholes might do on their way out the door.
But barring some structural change in the system, the judicial disaster will be with us for a long time. Mitch McConnell’s vile remaking of the judiciary will see its crowning moment when Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, which we have to assume is a done deal.
So let’s think through what that means. What are the consequences of a six-three SCOTUS? What happens if six of our nine justices are all unapologetic ideologues, happy to bend the law in any way that benefits a tiny handful of oligarchs who have no interest in us whatsoever? What happens if every decision handed down makes it easier for that tiny handful? If it gives them even more power to grab much too much, leaving far too little for everyone else?
What happens if they do the things we fully expect them to do?
This is not about Roe v. Wade, though I suppose we can kiss that goodbye. It’s more about much deeper atrocities, including ones that don’t get the headlines. Most of all, it’s about life and death.
Putting Covid to one side — no easy task — let’s take a moment to savor four under-the-radar ways a six-three SCOTUS will elevate the risk of your dying prematurely.
One of the less-chronicled aspects of Obamacare is the revolution it created in our healthcare system. In the ten years of its existence, enormous investments have been made in hospitals, clinics, equipment, and medical practice restructurings, all of which have sprung up to meet the demand of the massive influx of newly insured.
The urgent care clinic down the street. Those specialty care facilities that line every boulevard. Those new hospitals in rural and underserved areas. If Obamacare is pulled out from under us, these will all be at the mercy of a collapsing healthcare market, and many will collapse with it. This will leave many millions unable to access life-saving services, even if they can afford it, which looks increasingly unlikely.
So beyond the 20 million thrown off their health insurance, beyond the loss of coverage for pre-existing conditions, beyond the reinstatement of lifetime caps, beyond all of that, the loss of those 20 million paying customers will put our entire healthcare infrastructure in jeopardy. Which compounds the healthcare “problem” — writ large — by an order of magnitude. During a pandemic. It doesn’t get more life-or-death.
The Parade of Deregulation
There’s a lot of regulation we take for granted. The USDA, for instance. We have no cultural memory of tainted meat. The staggering abuses of the meat-packing industry — which led to its being regulated in the first place — are barely worth a mention in the history textbooks. And that’s just one of many food-related agencies we rely on — without really knowing it — to keep us from being poisoned.
And food is just one area being targeted for deregulation. How about drug safety? How about air travel? Toxic waste? Fracking? Workplace safety? Take away the regulatory framework behind any of these things, and corners will be cut. Death loves cut corners. So do these justices.
Climate Change vs. Insurance Industry
You have to wonder if even a six-three court will be able to keep its finger in the dike of global warming. But if their masters at Koch Industries have their way, climate denial will enjoy fierce advocacy well into the future.
The thing is, it’s not just ordinary people at risk from environmental deterioration. It’s businesses as well. Including big businesses. Including Koch Industries. Including the entire insurance industry, which is now on a collision course with climate change.
Let’s stipulate that without a robust insurance industry, we’re all in trouble. Insurance companies underwrite the risk underlying virtually every product and service we make or consume. Without it, we’d have a very different world.
But as the rate of catastrophe keeps escalating—which it’s certainly doing—the pace, frequency, and sheer size of the claims insurers have to pay out will accelerate out of control. This is not sustainable. As insurers go under, insurance prices will skyrocket.
The time may be coming when insurance for our homes, cars, businesses, and health will be luxury purchases. So if the less ambiguous climate threat of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, or tornadoes doesn’t kill you, your inability to pick up the pieces afterward just might.
The ongoing evisceration of labor rights, including the basic right to organize, will get a warm reception from a six-three court. As our lives are increasingly dominated by oligopolies like Walmart, Home Depot, Amazon, and other globalized, labor-intensive megaliths, we’ll need to come to terms with the fact that the people who bring us those low prices can barely live on what they earn.
The oligarchs can afford to absorb far more labor costs than they do, with plenty left over to watch over the welfare of their workers. But they won’t do any of it until they’re forced to. They’d rather exploit.
That’s where unions come in. When unions thrive, everyone benefits. Even the oligarchs, though they’d never admit it. But when unions disappear, we all suffer. Some of us die. SCOTUS won’t care.
There’s been a lot of talk about changing the composition of the Supreme Court — about compensating for the heinous illegitimacy of the last three appointments. This would undoubtedly be a huge and risky step, not to be taken lightly. But it’s really hard to see any way around it.
Because left to its own devices, a six-three court won’t just be unjust. It’ll be deadly.