Chief Justice Roberts…and my Dad

In Editorial on July 2, 2012 at 9:59 am

“We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.” – Chief Justice Roberts


Here it is!

I recall one of my first encounters within the realm of establishing “sound policy”. I was, perhaps, nine or ten at the time.

On one of our family vacations, there was a pause in the traditional vacation-time yelling and bickering between my parents long enough for them to accompany me into a local department store. In my now-flaming pocket were the dollar bills representing my net worth.

The spy craze of the early 1960s was beginning in earnest and toys of the era echoed everyone’s (especially boys) fascination with espionage.

My eyes swept across a black, plastic case containing the ultimate spy gun. Toy guns were not yet anathematic to parents.

The price? The tag said, “$10.95 + tax”. The purchase price was about ten-percent of the average weekly wage of an American worker of the day.

As an allowance, I received two bits per week. The toy I was clamoring to buy would cost me almost a year’s worth of dog feeding, dog-poo picking-up, dish washing, dish drying, bed making, and weed pulling.

My father (z”l) looked at the toy and pronounced his judgment: “I dunno. It doesn’t look well made. You could end up spending all of your savings to buy something that probably won’t last the rest of the day. Besides, you’ve only started the trip. What will you do for money if you find something you want later?”

I countered with my finest logic: “It comes with bullets that shoot!” It would be a history-making purchase, considering that my current collection of toy guns only fired anemic-sounding caps.

I gleefully turned the poorly made case over in my hands. The trigger on the plastic gun dangled precariously because one of its internal attachments was already broken.

Dad sighed. “Well, okay. But you’ll get no more allowance until we get home.”

I scampered to the checkout counter with my prize and hauled out the entirety of my monetary worth: $12. That would leave me with…

”Who cares? I’ve got a genuine spy gun!”

It took (seemingly) hours for my mother to pick out a half-dozen post cards to mail to our neighbors back home.

Finally, we were back in the car and resuming our trip. I tore into the package. The dangling trigger was now fully freed from its moorings and it disappeared into the crack between the seat cushions and into a, still undiscovered, black hole. The toy’s “Assortment of genuine cap-firing grenades!” was made wholly useless because the toy gun was needed for all of them. The toy did not, as Dad predicted, “…last the day.”

A dark cloud settled over me. It was futile to ask Dad to take me back to the store. Not only was the spy gun the only one on the shelf, he was in a hurry to reach our destination; if only to give him a respite from my mother’s persistent complaining about virtually everything he had done since the sun rose that morning.

I slid the package to the seat and grimaced. The ever-watchful eye in the back of my father’s head swiveled and focused.

“What’s wrong? How’s the spying business?” he asked gently.

“It’s broke.” I stifled a whimper.

Dad nodded silently, but he did not humiliate me with a deserved, “I told you so.”

My hand drifted toward my pocket. I pulled out the remainder of my savings: Sixty-one cents. The rest of the vacation would consist of pony rides (10-cents), ice-cream bars (10-cents), and comic books (miraculously also 10-cents) for my brother and my cousins. There would be no advance on my allowance, but I could pick which four (or five) of those activities and treats I could enjoy over the next two weeks. I would be dependent upon the mercy of older cousins or I would only watch them as they rode ponies and ate ice cream.

My father had done the best he could. He tried to warn me. He could have forbidden my purchase of the shoddy toy. As a parent, he had a duty to protect me from bad choices.

He did not protect me from the bad choice in toys. His protection had a delayed-action fuse that was far more desirable than “cap-firing grenades”.

Nearly fifty years later, I refused to succumb to a narcissistic desire to “make history” by embracing shoddy health care reform: A reform that shoves (through state force and coercion) people into a broken health care delivery system.

The designers of the “Affordable” Care Act would not have offered the doomed Titanic more lifeboats. They would have sold more tickets for the voyage…at (ironically) gunpoint.

Chief Justice Roberts made a telling statement in his opinion:

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

That will come as a shock to the self-indulgent “history-making” now-bearded and now-breasted children riding in the back of a national car, staring forlornly at their soon-to-be-found-broken toy…and finding they only have only a small amount of pocket-change left for the rest of the trip.


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