Lousy Legacy ’23 Part II

And then there was the Friday of the 2023 July 4th weekend when the Supreme Court announced their most controversial decisions of the current term. Just as the justices left town that is.

In Biden v Kansas the Court declared the student loan forgiveness program unconstitutional. Both of Friday’s rulings were 6-3 with all six radical Republican justices (and that is exactly what they are) in the majority. I am one of the few to analyze it this way but to me it was purely political with an aim of harming the economy which, if successful, would hurt Joe Biden’s chances of reelection in 2024 and by extension the chances of many other Democrats.

Among other things saddling millions of Americans (mostly younger people who tend to vote Democratic) with debt vastly diminishes their purchasing power. That in turn weaken the economy. (Remember demand in the American economy is 70% personal consumer demand.) Also, if younger people -who are both less established in showing up to the polls and tend to disproportionally vote for Democrats – fail to show up it makes it easier for Republicans to win.

This was much more a Court looking to hurt Biden than to adjudicate a matter. The main “injured party” (and I use that term very, very loosely) was the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA). It didn’t even show up for the oral arguments. To illustrate how the “fix was in”, Trump Draft Choice ,Amy Coney Barrett, actually questioned that during the oral arguments and still voted against Americans who don’t have the cash on hand to pay for college.

Courts, and the Supreme Court is certainly no exception, look for standing first in an attempt to reject cases without having to rule. Standing in this case is dubious at best. Damages are not only non-existent but MOHELA’s internal documents showed that they would actually be more profitable under the proposed debt relief program.

Final proof of the politics at play may actually be laid at the doorstep of the Biden administration which swiftly announced a workaround program. The timeline is interesting. I assume it too will be challenged in the courts and the earliest the Supreme Court could rule again would be early next summer. That would make it a nice election issue the Biden team could aim at a youthful GOTV program. The parameters of the program itself extend into the late fall, just in time for the home stretch of the 2024 campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely believe that Biden and most Democrats actually want to make education more accessible, however if they can gain a political advantage in the process they will not squander that opportunity.

Now we move on to the more dangerous and radical right wing culture war ruling in 303 Creative L.L.C. v Elenis. In it an individual who had a company that was thinking of expanding into designing web site for weddings claimed their First Amendment rights were abridged by the Colorado law that required they service a gay wedding site request if their business was expanded in that direction and such a request ever materialized. That was a bit of a confusing sentence but it is 100% accurate.

Now let’s get back to the standing and damages “yardstick”. There was certainly no standing; that service was only a pipedream. How many failed, single location, mom and pop operations dreamed of when they would be a chain? If the “transgression” never occurred how could there be damages?

Interestingly, subsequent to filing the case the plaintiff alleged a request from a man named Stuart who inquired about a website for his pending marriage to Mike. Stuart turned out to be a man who has been married to a woman for 15 years and has a child. Mike is an unknown (I’m being kind in my choice of words).

The core of the plaintiff’s argument was on religious grounds. The American right wing loves to talk about religious freedom but if you listen carefully, they are only talking about religious freedom for their approved versions of their approved religion. Do you really want a pure religious state? If so, why not try Afghanistan? Taking it closer to home the recent Dobbs decision actually conflicts with certain Jewish teachings. But then again, Judaism, regardless of how important it is to America, is not the right wing’s preferred religion.

So, the bottom line is that the plaintiff lacked both standing and damages. Why would the Court grant cert? Considering the 6-3 outcome I can only surmise that the agenda was philosophical and the right wing majority was simply looking for an excuse to make a pre-determined ruling.

In previous rulings (primarily, but not limited to, Shelby County) the Roberts Court has all but gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. With this ruling the principle of public accommodation, which is a key to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, appears pierced if not obliterated.

Whatever happened to calling balls and strikes along with the legal principle of stare decisis? And then the Republicans on the Court wonder why the public has lost confidence in it. I don’t!

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