Most Republicans, some independents, few democrats, all libertarians and even anti-government activists agree the health care bill is unconstitutional. And when asked how the bill is unconstitutional one of the two most popular answers is given: the government cannot force you to buy a product or it’s not in the constitution. Both answers often leave health care advocates speechless and without recourse. Nevertheless, aside from the rarity of a common creed existing across the political spectrum, are those answers truly irrefutable?
Before the constitutionality or mandate (forced purchase) question can be addressed, the concept of a public health care system must first be examined in context to American history and civilization. Not the public health care system itself, the bill or the service the bill provides, but rather health care the institution in principle. According to Dictionary Online, principle is defined as a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived.
For example, traditional faiths generally advocate one should not steal, however, the holy books from which those teachings are derived makes no mention of taking a look at unsecured files, not belonging to you, over the internet. Though there is no mention of the internet or electronic means of obtaining information in traditional faiths, the principle of taking something that does not belong to you is there; not literally but figuratively.
Throughout American history several social bureaucracies were instituted by our fathers, for reasons deemed important to promoting a healthy society and ensuring the posterity of a more perfect union. Our fathers, in their wisdom, petitioned Congress to institute these social bureaucracies, because their collective experience thought it necessary to provide society with certain endowed public goods, not to be deprived from any person in society.
The wisdom of our fathers created the Food & Drug Administration, which protects food and drugs that are consumed by the public, both foreign and domestic. The institution was largely created because many drugs on the market were pseudo medicines, harmful mixtures, and remedies that included, but not limited to, substances such as cocaine. Furthermore, companies or merchants were not required to fully disclose the ingredients contained in the products they sold. That was left up to the consumer to determine whether the labeling told the truth or possessed the contents it displayed. The Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection now assumes that responsibility.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) was created to provide financial and logistical assistance in times disaster, natural or manmade. The social institution was created because of the knowledge of the widespread, devastating effect on families and businesses disasters can inflict in the absence of a safety net. Government, which is the people, thought the best insurance policy was with the insurance company with the biggest pot and the ability to operate fairly, be financially accountable and transparent in all aspects of operation, at the fairest price. The biggest pot was the public pot; the only company capable delivering public accountability and transparency was a bureaucratic institution controlled by the people, subject to laws, regulation, and the courts.
The Department of Transportation, Department of Education, Social Security Administration, Department of Health and Human Services’ Medicare programs and the Federal Aviation Administration are a few more of the government operated, social institutions that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
Are these institutions then unconstitutional? If so, why should the government provide such a service or be involved? People should have the liberty to choose free enterprise in which all sales are private and not allow government to stand between your farmer and your food or between your doctor and your medicine. But free to purchase medicines without the scrutiny and consent of government; free to produce food and goods to no standard but one’s own; free to fly personal aircrafts where pleased?
The generations before, our fathers, thought it necessary to create social institutions accountable to the people. Our fathers believed, absent these social institutions, in the natural event their civilization grew or suffered a tragedy such as stock market crash, high unemployment, war, disease, or a natural disaster they could not be assured a private company would have the capacity to effectively handle the situation or use these instances of tragedy to profiteer. Thus, the people created a company to meet these challenges and stipulations in which the public is the executive board, management and shareholder.
The people of the United States have the power to setup such a social institution and mandate purchases through the appropriate means which is through Congress. Congress has the power “…to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State … To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof,” Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution.
Furthermore, “…Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration,” as ordained by the 16th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The power to mandate purchases.
Au contraire! Some of the social institutions were legitimate because they are consistent with the role of government; and as stated in the Preamble of the Constitution, government has an obligation to promote the general welfare, provide for the common defense, and insure domestic tranquility.
The health of society is a general welfare; devising a system that adds to the ability of society to guard against sickness and increase access to treatment is providing for the common defense; not having 45 million people potentially one sickness away from bankruptcy or death and preventing thousands more from dying because they lack insurance is insuring domestic tranquility.
Nevertheless even after all that is said, there will still remain those who deny America’s great history of accomplishments and oppose progress toward a more perfect union. But what more can be said, after all, the Constitution never states you have a right to an education.
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