Constitutional health care
By Richard E. Ralston
The writers of the U.S. Constitution were very much aware of the need to set firm and specific limits on the powers of government. Hundreds of years of the British Monarchy, and study of the failures of republican forms of government as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, informed their mature understanding of the perils of government power. They were convinced that, unless government was restricted to only those few functions that government alone can perform, its powers would inexorably grow until it controlled everything in America. They were right.
In the recent debates that led to the passage of ObamaCare, there was almost no reference to the existence of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights. One exception was in the claim of constitutional authorization by reversing the clear meaning of promoting the "general welfare." The usual method of this reversal was to quote that one clause while ignoring the context of the rest of the document. Thusly, a constitutionally non-existent "right" to health care was asserted, which destroys the evident rights of physicians to manage their own practices, of patients to make their own health-care and insurance decisions, and of individuals to preserve or spend their own money.
Another common claim, and inversion in meaning and intent, referred to the government's power to regulate commerce, i.e., to prevent internal trade barriers. That clause is taken out of context to permit the government to rule virtually every individual and business decision. While government denies Americans interstate commerce by prohibiting the purchase of health insurance across state lines, ObamaCare forces them to buy the insurance it requires in their own state.
The provisions for government to promote the general welfare and regulate commerce do not include "irrespective of any other provision of this Constitution." They do not supersede the Bill of Rights, which later amended the Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution allows the Congress and President to impose taxes to raise revenue, but not to use taxes to punish individuals. The power to punish belongs to the judiciary in response to crime.
The government cannot properly tax someone to punish them for not buying cigarettes or alcohol, or for not buying health insurance. For that matter, the government cannot tax someone's income--including insurance benefits--when he is not a member of a labor union, if there is to be equal protection under the law.
All delegated powers are in the context of the entire Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The government may not house a soldier in your home to make sure you buy insurance (3rd Amendment). It may not prohibit you from speaking or publishing what you want because you do not buy insurance (1st Amendment). It may not seize your property without compensation because you do not buy insurance (5th Amendment).
The obvious subterfuge of claiming no one is mandated (i.e., forced) to buy insurance because they are not fined but only "taxed" if they don't, ignores the fact that the power to tax is the power to destroy. If the government can impose a tax of $750 for not buying insurance, it can impose a tax of $1,000,000 for not buying insurance. That is what happens if tax becomes non-judicial punishment.
The federal government cannot force states to establish, fund and manage insurance exchanges. The Bill of Rights gives the federal government no powers in health care at all (10th Amendment).
Most importantly, it must be remembered that the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were not written and ratified by the states for the purpose of allowing congressmen free rein to control every aspect of our daily lives. They were written for the opposite purpose of leaving Americans free. ObamaCare flagrantly violates that principle. It must not be allowed to stand.
Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, Newport Beach, California. Copyright © 2010 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.