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COLUMN

Happytown

Photo: Art by Elne, License: N/A

Art by Elne


So, there we were last Wednesday in the throes of tropical depression (Debby did us, see), walking against the slapping squalls of reason and human decency while crafting theories about how this economic slump – and the requisite talks of austerity in the name of entitlements like Medicare and Social Security – was basically about to drive the whole world to suicide. Nobody cares about anybody else anymore, we whimpered. Society is dead! What fucking face are we supposed to wear now!

But then, in the surprise serendipity of a sunny Thursday morning, all of that changed with the drop of a figurative gavel: The Affordable Care Act was upheld (give or take some Medicaid concerns and political "tax" renaming of the mandate), and the deciding vote was from smug know-nothing Chief Justice John Roberts! It was, for some of us anyway, like the perfect cocktail on Christmas morning.

But we weren't, apparently, the only ones drinking. In addition to highly publicized gaffes by CNN, Fox and NPR (among others), all of whom initially misread the ruling as they rushed out bold headlines about Obamacare's failure, the biggest dish of public relations crow was served to none other than Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater (who seems to keep a cache of press releases handy for every time his bowel moves, if you were to ask our inbox). At 10:10 a.m., Atwater smugly praised the "Court's decision to strike down the health care individual mandate" in his subject line, before going on a hyperbolic bender of flag-waving rhetoric.

"The Supreme Court carefully considered the constitutionality and appropriate legal argument associated with this overreaching piece of legislation," his quill nib quivered. "Ultimately, the rejection of the individual mandate is more than a legal determination; it is an upholding of the American way of governing and the ideals of individual freedom and liberty – the fundamental principles that shaped our nation and will continue to guide us into the future."

Oh, how our inbox laughed when a whopping five minutes later, it received another, somewhat dryer statement from Atwater: "Please disregard previous health care statement." Nope. You can't take back an email.

By 11:58 a.m., Atwater had tamped down his enthusiasm with a touch of obfuscation, "applaud"-ing the court's new "tax" designation of the mandate regarding the commerce clause or whatever. Still, his guns were blazing.

"I remain deeply troubled, however, that Congress and the Obama administration would use an issue of such importance to the American people to disguise their intentions to add further tax burdens on our fellow citizens," his rewrite read.

Gov. Rick Scott took a few hours to mull over his reaction, eventually spitting out some nonsense that the decision was "simply disappointing" in a prepared statement, while railing against "uncertainty and doubt" (exactly the same words we use to describe his face). By Friday night, he was telling Fox News that he wasn't going to implement it at all. Then, on Sunday, his office released another statement saying that Florida would join other obstinate states in not implementing "optional" programs like the insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion. However, if the law is not repealed by Jan. 1, 2014, "Florida will implement and comply with required sections of the Affordable Care Act."

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