Resources: Truth and Consequences
July 28, 2010
An Open Letter to President Barack ObamaHealthcare and the Constitution
Dear Mr. President,
On your website I found the following statement: “We must fix a broken health care system . . .” (http://www.barackobama.com/issues/) Regarding this initiative, I am very concerned that you and Congress are overstepping the bounds of your job description as outlined in the Constitution.
When taking the oath of office, you promised to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” There is nothing in the Constitution directing the Federal government to “fix” anything, much less a privately operated and freely chosen system of medical treatment.
This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is a constitutional issue. You are playing fast and loose with the rule of law, the Constitution you promised to uphold.
Defending your actions by appealing to the “general welfare” clause in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is not a legitimate explanation for taking our nation down this road. That phrase was clearly defined by James Madison, who is considered, as you know, the primary architect of the U.S. Constitution and our 4th President. (I state the obvious to make the point that it is Madison, not any current-day politician, who is in the privileged position to define what these words mean.) Madison explains, "With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
Or, maybe you prefer the succinct phrasing of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."
When it comes to interpreting the Constitution, there is one other point that should be kept in mind. Madison made clear, “Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”
The health care bill you signed into law is making a mockery of the Constitution by overreaching its enumerated powers. The constitutional responsibilities of your office do not extend to massive government confiscation of personal property through taxes and redistributing it to others. Your job is to insure the safety and security of our nation, not play nursemaid to every sniffle or scraped knee.
But, further, such a gargantuan government undertaking cannot work since it is based on a wrong view of human nature. You are assuming that all people will do the right thing, much as Karl Marx assumed one hundred and fifty years ago that each person would give according to his ability and take according to his need. But, history teaches us a different story. As Madison insightfully penned, “What is government but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on the government would be necessary.” (see Federalist #51) Or, recall your own admission regarding “human imperfections” in your acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize back in January.
Since men are not angels, the framers designed the Constitution with internal controls on the president and congress by severely limiting their power to do mischief. Encroachment into personal health issues is a mischievous power never intended nor envisioned by those who framed our Republican form of governance. Our Constitution was ratified by the people to ensure maximum liberty for all, not maximum redistribution of the personal wealth of a few into the pockets of others.
Even if your goal is admirable, such as helping provide medical treatment for those who cannot afford it, the quest of attaining what Thomas Sowell calls “cosmic justice” through government mandate clearly does not work. See Sowell’s book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice for why this is the case. But apart from Sowell’s insights, even as a pragmatist, surely you understand socialism’s failed attempts at coercing “equality of outcome.” Think of Cuba, the former U.S.S.R., China, Cambodia, North Korea, and any number of Central and South American nations, as well as the more recent experience of Western Europe. The historical lesson is clear, government intervention in the private affairs of law abiding citizens restricts individual liberties, creates artificial shortages of goods and services, and dramatically degrades the standard of living for everyone. Is this the future you really want for the American people?
But, you say, shouldn’t we help the poor? Of course, but how is it an act of charity for politician Patrick to take from prosperous free-enterprising Peter to pay the medical bills of poor Paul? True charity must be freely given, not coerced through government mandate. Helping the needy rests with personal initiative and private social organizations, not the government. Even Jesus did not direct the Roman authorities to give to the poor, but spoke those commands to his own followers. Simply put, charity is not a task that government is designed to handle. Why force a square government peg into a round charitable hole? It ends up hurting those who most need the help.
I urge you to recall the oath you took to uphold the Constitution and put an end to this illegal and ill-fated rush to bureaucratic medical malpractice.
PS: If you simply must persist with this redistribution scheme, as least have the integrity to put into law that every member of congress as well as the president, vice-president, and every Federally elected or appointed bureaucrat must be enrolled in the very same health care system as the nation’s citizens, with no exceptions and absolutely no additional benefits, using the same doctors and hospitals in the national system, waiting in the same lines, and receiving exactly the same rationed care. If you are honest enough to do that, I will personally vote for you in 2012 and urge all my friends to do the same.