Political Football

By Gil Roth | July 18, 2012

Inactivist courts?

Back in 2009, I wrote Healthcare Deform, in which I tried my darnedest to stay out of the Obamacare debate. I decried the partisan rancor of Congress (as is my wont), noted that the Democratic party would lose its majority by 2012 (I was half-right), remarked, “The goal in Washington isn't passage of a bill, no matter how ‘crucial to our nation's future.’ The goal is to hold onto power,” and hoped for “a polygraph moment with each of our representatives and senators — on both sides — to ask them the following question: ‘If you could pass/scuttle healthcare reform, but you knew with 100% certainty that you would be voted out of office if you did so, would you still do it?’” (Hint: no).
The Affordable Care Act was (largely) upheld by the Supreme Court in a weirdly split decision this summer in which the chief justice apparently changed his mind and decided to vote in favor of the Act. Speculation has run rampant about the motive for Chief Justice Roberts’ shift, and it’s led to a rare case of leaks and innuendo coming out of the court, which makes them sound less like the Supreme Court and more like The Supremes (Mary Wilson era).
The partisan rancor hasn’t died down; Congress recently engaged in its 31st (!) vote to repeal or de-fund the ACA. After the election this November, maybe they’ll get back to doing important work, like grilling baseball players about steroids, holding votes to reaffirm that “In God We Trust”  remains the U.S. motto, or arguing about a college football championship playoff system.

My office wasn’t as closely watched as the Supreme Court building on June 28th, but co-workers did come by to ask me what I thought of the ruling and what it means for this magazine. I talked about the previous administration’s idea of a healthcare fix — the unfunded, multi-trillion-dollar Medicare Part D bill — and the pharma industry’s writing-on-the-wall willingness to negotiate with the White House and support ACA. I started to wax rhapsodic about the unsustainability of the pre-ACA environment and the need for some kind of reform (as well as the unsustainability of the ACA and most other plans that have been floated).
I said that it did my libertarian-leaning heart good to see someone start to reel in the out-of-control use of the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause, and how I’ll be interested to see if our Congress is willing to vote for bills that are more explicitly creating new taxes, rather than “mandates” (Hint: no).
Then I realized they were just waiting for a one-liner. 
So I said, “I’m happy the ACA was upheld, because it means I wasn’t wasting all that time when I wrote the big Biosimilars article in our May issue.” (Lousy inseverability clauses . . .)

Gil Roth
Editor • gil@rodpub.com / twitter.com/contractpharma

P.S.: Later on, after reading the Court’s majority opinion, I also appreciated the following comment by Chief Justice Roberts, “Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

What I’m Reading

Top Companies issue means I spend most of June reading financial filings, annual reports, analyst coverage and transcripts of earnings calls. But you know me: I still make time for extracurricular reading.
Lessons for a new Medicinal Chemist
Derek Lowe, In the Pipeline – bit.ly/OWlhpe
Comment: A blog post from our Lowe Down columnist about what 20-plus years in MedChem has taught him. Some lessons are industry-specific, but others are applicable to life outside the lab.
Take Time for Paradise
A. Bartlett Giamatti – amzn.to/M0pXtr
Comment: This slim book by the commissioner of baseball and president of Yale came out just after his untimely death in 1989. It’s a very compelling approach to understanding the significance of sport and play in day-to-day life. The first two sections are a bit stiff and analytical, but the final part, “Baseball as Narrative” is a wonderful, nearly mystical contemplation of America’s pastime.
What are you reading?
Let me know — at gil@rodpub.com, www.goodreads.com/groth, www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1775433 or www.facebook.com/contractpharma — and the first respondent wins a prize!