The world and the nation are in the midst of a summer of great expectations and grave concerns.
By June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce three far-reaching decisions. The court has a habit of holding such decisions until the end of its official term, keeping people in suspense, although the court likely reached its decision weeks ago.
First, there will be a decision on whether the Affordable Care Act, popularly called "Obamacare," permits the federal government to pay healthcare subsidies to some 7 million Americans who do not receive the subsidy through governments of the states in which they live. The health care bill as written states that the subsidies should be paid through a state exchange, but in states - including Georgia - which declined to establish health-care exchanges, the federal government has been paying the subsidies.
If the court rules that such subsidies are illegal, there will be considerable turmoil in the health care industry. Not only will the nearly 8 million Americans covered by such subsidies see their health care costs go up, but the healthcare industry stands to lose many new customers the government has subsidized and hospitals and doctors will lose thousands of paying patients.
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Admittedly, the health care bill is complex and unruly, but none of the catastrophes its opponents predicted have come to pass. Health insurance companies are still very profitable, and doctors, who are the most valuable professionals in the nation, are still well rewarded. And, of course, millions of Americans have a degree of health care coverage who previously had none.
Seven words out of the many thousands of words in the health care bill are at issue before the court. Those words state the subsidies will be paid through state exchanges but the bill does not stipulate the alternative. Thus, the federal government is paying the subsidy in the 18 states that have not established health agencies.
My guess is that the court will uphold the government's position, by a 5-4 decision with Chief Justice Roberts casting the decisive vote, as he did three years ago and upholding the law against the earlier challenge.
A second crucial ruling this month will be whether to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the nation. Currently a number of states have legalized same-sex marriage, but it has not been established that bans of same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Marriage, of course, is both a private and public practice. For centuries, it had been assumed in most societies that legal marriage is union between a male and a female. In the United States, there are certain tax advantages and other legal advantages for married couples and those advantages are probably the driving force behind the same-sex marriage movement which has become so strong in the past few years. The court is not immune to public opinion, but the legal issues of same-sex marriage promise years of court cases and litigation.
The court must also deal with whether several executive decisions by President Obama were legal, including on immigration and also the health care law.
As a rule, the Court supports presidential decisions, and four of the five justices were appointed by Democratic presidents. Justices Roberts and Kennedy, appointed by Republicans, are likely to provide a majority for presidential actions.
The critical decisions on global matters will come in the last week of June, when the U.S. and six other major nations accept or reject an agreement with Iran on its nuclear programs and other issues which have divided the U.S. and Iran for nearly 40 years.
Agreement is reportedly close, although extremists in Iran apparently oppose any agreement, as do the Republican majority in the U.S. Congress and Israel's premier.
It will be a tragic lost opportunity for the cause of peace in the entire Middle East if the negotiations end in failure. A plan that brings Iran into the group of nations that includes the U.S. and the six other powers could vanquish the terrible threat of uncontrolled terrorism in Syria, Iraq and other areas. It could stabilize the economy in those nations, promising durable and lower oil prices for the U.S. and Europe, and establish stronger governments which may not be Jeffersonian democracies but will keep the general peace and end the barbaric wars that have ravaged the Middle East for decades.
Not incidentally, the agreement would delay nuclear development indefinitely in Iran, whereas currently Iran is on a path that could produce nuclear weapons within a few years.
Most importantly, an agreement would be a step toward peace, and prosperity that makes the possible use of such weapons more unlikely since there would be less benefit for any of the nations that already have them.
So it's a summer of great expectation that can result in stronger certainties, less strife, fewer refugees, less suffering. We should eagerly seize the opportunities.
It is not for nothing that Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Children of God."
Millard Grimes, editor of the Columbus Enquirer from 1961-69 and founder of the Phenix Citizen. is author of "The Last Linotype: The Story of Georgia and Its Newspapers Since World War II." A profile of Grimes can be found in the Georgia Encyclopedia, www.georgiaencyclopedia.org.