Monday, October 21, 2013

Luke, I Am Your Founding Father (Liberty and Healthcare)

The founding fathers of the United States were an amazing group of people. Many of them were wealthy, yet were willing to lay all on the line to extricate themselves from the tyranny of the British crown. (In many ways they are like Luke, Han, Leia, and others trying to rid themselves of the empire.) As they said in the Declaration of Independence: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

These men had a love of liberty and a deep distrust of government. This distrust came about from personal experience. But they still understood that some level of government was necessary in order to insure freedom. Without a proper level of government oversight, society would descend into chaos and anarchy. They believed there had to be an ultimate authority to protect the country as a whole, create law, try and punish criminals, and act as a final arbiter for settling disputes.

The founders did three major things in an attempt to prevent government from growing too powerful. First, they set in place the idea that the country ultimately belonged to all citizens and that the government only operated at their behest. They backed up this idea by creating a Constitution starting with the words "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." The Articles following these words describe and delimit the powers of the Federal Government.

Second, still being distrustful, they created the Bill of Rights to further define the rights of individuals that could not be taken away by government. The Bill of Rights preamble says, "The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added." And to put a stop to the notion that somehow all of the rights of man had been thought of and included in the Bill of Rights, they said this in the ninth amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

Third, they left it for the states and the people themselves to handle any issues that the Federal Government was not authorized to handle. This was stated clearly in the tenth amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

All of these safeguards took foresight. But, after all, it was Thomas Jefferson himself that said in 1788, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground." Yet, the Constitution served the citizens well for many years. But somewhere along the line the politicians came to understand the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." In other words, until the day Congress discovers that it can take money away from its citizens by force and then buy their votes by offering some of that money back to them in the form of giveaways and programs.

Today, de Tocqueville's words line the walls of Congress. Not as a reminder of the impending loss of our Republic, but as a reminder of how to get reelected. For many years now, Congress has violated its trust with the public by taking the public's money via taxes, levies, fees, or whatever, and giving it back to certain people in order to assure their votes. This is what I call the politicization of America. But this has happened with the approval of the White House, the Supreme Court, and the citizens themselves in direct opposition to the Constitution. Why? Because we citizens as a whole have bought into the politicians' bribes.

Today, the elephant in the room is national healthcare. It is presently being implemented in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This is better know as ObamaCare. Bear in mind that PPACA is not a government run healthcare system. It is rather a mandated healthcare system. Private insurers still sell the insurance, but with certain mandates associated with it. Yet, it is still a government controlled healthcare system. So, why be concerned? Two reasons. One is philosophical, the other practical.

Philosophically, we should be concerned with the government controlling anything that is not permitted under the Constitution because that means we the citizens did not authorize it. But didn't the Supreme Court rule that PPACA was Constitutional? Indeed they did. But, I believe they did so using tortured logic, just as they have done with many other government programs over the years. There is no clause in the Constitution or its Amendments that authorizes the Federal Government to be involved in healthcare in any way. The only way you can get that out of it is to greatly stretch the meaning of other clauses. Three commonly stretched clauses are the "general welfare", "regulate commerce", and "lay and collect taxes" clauses. But it seems clear to me that if those clauses can be stretched as far as they have, then there is essentially no need for the Constitution. Just let Congress do what they want. But, as you may have observed, politicians still like having that ole Constitution around. They like to use it to hammer opponents wanting something opposed to it and conveniently ignore it when they want something opposed to it.

Practically, I am skeptical of the long term success of the PPACA. Why? Because of how other government controlled systems have fared over the years. Look at Social Security and Medicare. Both are on the brink of failure. Why? Because, as usual, politicians have overpromised, expanding these programs in order to get elected. In other words, the programs have become politicized. Social Security was put into place at a time when most people didn't even live to see any money out of the system. Yet, even as lifespans increased and the number of children being born decreased, more benefits were added to the Social Security program. Medicare suffers from something similar. As people live longer and new technology keeps adding more medical costs to an aging person's life, fewer children are coming along to pay for it.

So, unless some radical changes are made to SS and Medicare, they will become unsustainable in a few years. Yet, the politicians keep talking about how successful these programs have been. Well, yes, perhaps for a while. But the politicians' meddling and unwillingness to change these systems in crisis will ultimately lead to their failure. What makes us think that the government will handle national healthcare any differently, whether it be government run or just government controlled?

On the other hand, perhaps there is no reason for concern. If we can just jury rig all these government programs so they last until after we die, who cares? We can benefit from these programs during our life and let our children worry about the fallout. Yeah, that's the ticket. Stick it to the younger generation! Well, that's tempting, but I don't roll that way. I believe that each generation should live within its own means and pass on a country that is better than the one it inherited. Call me old fashioned, but that's me.

So, based on the wisdom of the founding fathers and my knowledge of history and how governments operate, I believe that, over the long haul, liberty and charity work much better than all inclusive government programs.

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