Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, which concerns a challenge to a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone around health clinics. The Court upheld at least one form of buffer zone in the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado. But as the Prospect's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux noted in her comprehensive preview of the case, personnel changes to the Court put the buffer zone on much thinner ice. Two members of the 2000 majority (O'Connor and Rehnquist) have been replaced by justices much more likely to be hostile to the law (Alito and Roberts.) The oral argument generally support this head-counting—the question appears to be not whether Massachusetts will lose but how bad the loss will be.
Late last year, Tim Marchman of the muckraking sports site Deadspin announced a plan to "buy" the baseball Hall of Fame vote of a sportswriter. The logic of Deadspin's stunt was clear enough. For the first 15 years of a player's eligibility, the Hall of Fame vote is controlled by the increasingly small spectrum of the media represented by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The BBWAA's votes, wrote Marchman, had become "a way for an electorate dominated by neo-Puritan scolds, milquetoast handwringers, and straight-out dimwits to show how high its standards are" by rejecting recently retired players who vastly exceed historical standards for induction.
The filmmaker Michael Moore has, through his fine documentary Sicko and other public arguments, done a great deal to bring attention to the deficiencies of the American health-care system. His New York Times op-ed on the occasion of the first day of the Affordable Care Act's exchanges repeats some of these important points. However, his essay also repeats a pernicious lie: the idea that the Affordable Care Act is essentially a Republican plan based on a Heritage Foundation blueprint. This argument is very wrong. It is both unfair to the ACA and far too fair to American conservatives.
Before explaining why a central premise of Moore's argument is wrong, let me emphasize our points of agreement. It is true that the health-care system established by the ACA remains inequitable and extremely inefficient compared to the health-care systems of every other comparable liberal democracy. Moore, unlike some critics of the ACA from the left, is also careful to note that the ACA is a substantial improvement on the status quo ante: if it's "awful" compared to the French or Canadian or British models, it's a "godsend" for many Americans. Moore also has some sensible suggestions for improving the ACA in the short term—most notably, a public option and state-level experiments in more public health care where it's politically viable.