What to Expect after the Hobby Lobby Decision

If one wants to know what to expect after the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case, one need only to look at what has followed two other recent and controversial decisions by the Roberts Court.

In April, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan ban on affirmative action. Justice Roberts famously asserted that we are now living “in a post-racial world” in which racial preferences no longer serve any clear and overarching purpose.

That decision was followed by the release of Danette Gerald and Kati Haycock’s report, Engines of Inequality: Diminishing Equity in the Nation’s Premier Public University. Funded in part with a grant from the Lumina Foundation, the report provides extensive statistical evidence that the percentage of students of color at the flagship public universities in each of the fifty states has been dramatically declining, especially since the Great Recession. As state support has dropped an almost insignificant percentage of the flagship universities’ budgets and as those institutions have become much more reliant on tuition and other sources of revenue, they have begun targeting students from affluent backgrounds in much the same way that the elite private universities have long focused primarily on recruiting those students. Even very high-achieving students of color from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are finding it increasingly difficult to gain admission to and to then complete degrees at the most presitgious public universities in their states. The complete report by Gerald and Haycock is available at: http://www.edtrust.org/sites/edtrust.org/files/publications/files/EnginesofInequality.pdf

The evidence that conservative justices on the Roberts Court are living in a world of their own ideological fancy that bears little actual resemblance to current realities is even more evident in what has followed their June 2013 decision invalidating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Again, Chief Justice Roberts also asserted then that we are now living in a very different type of nation than that in which the Voting Rights Act was passed and was necessary.

Almost as if to prove him wrong with the greatest possible alacrity, over this past year, eight of the fifteen states previously covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act have passed legislation that has been very clearly intended to suppress the vote in minority communities that tend to vote Democratic. In three of those eight states, voter-suppression legislation was introduced the day after the Supreme Court decision was announced. To put what has occurred in perspective, over this past year, voter-suppression measures were introduced in only three of the other thirty-five states. The voter-suppression efforts that have followed the Supreme Court decision are chronicled in the article “The Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act. What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You,” written by Dana Liebelson for Mother Jones. The full text of the article is available at: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/republican-voting-rights-supreme-court-id.

So now the conservative majority on the Supreme Court has assured us that its decision in the Hobby Lobby case is quite narrow in its application and will not open the door to a myriad of other arbitrary corporate decisions about what will and will not be covered in the healthcare plans that those businesses provide to their employees. So, we should probably expect absolute chaos. Either that chaos may make the escalating costs and diminishing availability that preceded the passage of the Affordable Care Act seem like a panacea, or, irony of ironies, it may move us more quickly to a single-provider health-insurance system.


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