Monday, July 7, 2014

Why the Supreme Court's Ruling About Hobby Lobby Scares the Shit Out of Me

This is sort of old news by now, but in the days following the Supreme Court's ruling, thinking about it made me too sick to my stomach to form coherent, blog-worthy thoughts.  It's taken a while for all of it to really sink in, for my impulsive anger to reside enough that I could explain in plain English why exactly this ruling is so fucking terrifying. 

So in case you've been under a rock, here's the deal.  Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to offer insurance coverage to their employees.  That coverage has to meet certain basic guidelines to ensure that everyone gets the same quality of coverage.  And part of what's covered by that insurance mandate is several forms of birth control, including Plan B, Ella and two types of IUD.  With me so far? 

Okay.  So Hobby Lobby -- a store founded on Christian values -- objected to being forced to pay for this coverage because these forms of birth control violate their pro-life stance.  To clarify, the contraceptives covered by ACA insurance are not abortion pills, by the medical definition of abortion.  An abortion is medically defined as the destruction of a fertilized egg that has already attached to the uterine wall.  None of the birth control methods mentioned above do that.  Instead, in some way or another, all of them prevent eggs from being fertilized in the first place, or prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. 

All the same, the Supreme Court ruled that it was against the law to require businesses to offer contraceptive coverage that went against the owner's religious beliefs. 

As you might expect, a lot of people have a lot of opinions about this, on all sides -- questions about religious freedom, reproductive rights, and whether your employer should have a say in your healthcare.  I'm not going to get into that here, because I think there's a bigger issue that we need to examine.  Because I don't think this case was about religion at all. 

Corporations Are Not People

....but the Supreme Court seems to think they are. 

Thanks to Corporate Personhood, businesses have the same rights as individuals.  And apparently, if the precedent set by this most recent landmark case is anything to go off of, a corporation's rights can supersede the rights of its employees. 

Make no mistake.  Hobby Lobby doesn't give a shit about birth control.  If it did, it would not have invested so much of its money into the pharmaceutical companies that create the very products it refuses to cover through insurance.  The issue isn't about the corporation's values -- it's an issue of money, power and control. 

Granting corporations so many rights is dangerous, in part because corporations have a whole lot more power than individuals.  Part of the reason that individuals have rights in the first place is to protect the weak from the strong.  Without some sort of protection, there is nothing to stop those with power and authority from enslaving or otherwise abusing those who can't fight back. 

Corporations have more money than individuals.  They have more power.  And thanks to the Super-Pacs, they have immense political pull. 

Ushering in a New Age of Feudalism

Wealth inequality is a major problem in our country.  Today, I read a brilliant blog post from "ultra-rich man" Nick Hanauer that said exactly what I've been thinking for years:  If we don't do something to stop it, we will enter another feudal era. 

If you're not familiar with feudalism, here's the way it's basically laid out: At the top, you have a monarch.  Below him are a cluster of noblemen.  These people would be granted ownership of land within the kingdom, in exchange for them providing soldiers to the king's army.  The lands owned by the noblemen would be populated by nobles and knights, certainly, but there'd be a much higher percentage of peasants.  These peasants would live on these lands, but they would have no rights to them.  They would grow crops, but most of what they grew would be the property of the nobleman whose lands they tilled.  There was no upward mobility.  There was only long, arduous hours of back-breaking labor in exchange for a subsistence lifestyle and the persistent threat of abuse from noblemen. 

It seems to me that corporations are the new noblemen.  They're the Lords and Ladies of the modern age.  

The so-called "working poor" (which, in these times of the vanishing middle class, means most of us) are share-croppers, peasants tilling the land of the big corporations.  Except instead of growing sheep and turnips, we're growing cash.  We keep just enough of it to survive, and the rest goes up to those landowners -- who in turn give some of their money to the government in exchange for the freedom to keep doing what they're doing. 

Think on it.  Read Nick Hanauer's article.  Consider it long and hard and tell me honestly if that's a reality you want to see come to pass.  If not, you and I and everyone else needs to start making some noise.  We need to become champions for our own rights while we still have the chance, before things get nasty enough for a full-blown revolution.

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