The Morning Bell
FRIDAY, AUG 14, 2009
Is Obamacare Consistent With Our First Principles?
During one of Sen. Arlen Specter's (D-PA) early health care townhalls in Lebanon, Pennsylvania; mother of two Katy Abrams told the audience: "I don't believe this is just about health care. It's not about TARP. It's not about left and right. This is about the systematic dismantling of this country. I'm only 35 years-old. I've never been interested in politics. You have awakened the sleeping giant." Abrams is dead on. Our federal government has, unfortunately, long been drifting away from the limited government principles first envisioned by our founders. But over the past eleven months, that drift has turned into an all out sprint towards an undemocratic, technocratic, leviathan state . a type of government that our Constitution was specifically designed to prevent.
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As Abrams points out, both political parties have been complicit in the rapid deterioration of our founding principles. It was after all President Bush who pushed for and signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which created the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). When the Bush administration submitted their legislation to Congress we warned: "From a constitutional standpoint, the current versions of the legislation are different in scope, and especially in kind, from almost any federal legislation that has come before." Specifically we identified: (1) Congress's enumerated power-or lack thereof-to intervene with private markets in the manner contemplated, (2) the lack of meaningful standards to guide the extremely broad grant of discretion to the Treasury secretary (the "legislative delegation" problem), (3) limitations on judicial review over the exercise of that almost limitless discretion, and (4) related separation of powers concerns.
The only thing that truly surprised us after the legislation's passage was just how quickly our worst fears were realized. The TARP plan, as sold to Congress, was never even implemented and, instead, it quickly devolved into a political slush fund. Because of the broad delegations of authority in the bill, the American people were left with no real avenue to check the federal government's unprecedented interference in the U.S. economy. When Members of Congress voted for the bill in October 2008, could any of them honestly say they thought they had just voted to bailout General Motors and Chrysler?
The proposed health care legislation is just as bad, if not worse, than TARP. Sec. 142 of H.R. 3200 grants the new Orwellian titled "Health Choices Commissioner" broad lawmaking authority including the power to set standards for every Americans health insurance plan, to determine which of your current insurance plans do or do not meet that standard, and then to punish plans that do not meet that standard. Even worse is what is not yet in the bill, but is desperately wanted by the Obama administration. A super-empowered Medicare Payment Advisory Commission that is specifically designed to "save money in an apolitical, technocratic way." The entire purpose of this part of Obamacare would be to take medical decisions away from patients and vest it in a panel of experts specifically designed to be completely unaccountable to the American people. Is this what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind?
When the Constitution was being ratified, James Madison, writing as Publius, sought to allay fears that the new national government would turn into a Leviathan. In the 45th Federalist Paper he emphasized that adoption of the Constitution would create a government of enumerated, and therefore strictly limited, powers. Madison said: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. [and] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.." Federal tax collectors, Madison assured everyone, "will be principally on the seacoast, and not very numerous." Exactly six months after publication of this essay, New York became the 11th state to ratify the Constitution. Is turning over one-sixth of our nation's economy over to Obama's super-MedPAC panel in any way consistent with this vision?
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What is so special about America's first principles? They included slavery.
yes, and some of the founders made children with some of those slaves...like everyone else the founders were imperfect, but like everyone else (you and I or any other Hubber) they were capable of doing and saying great things.
It is sad if you can't see what is special about America's first principles
Plants and oils, I noticed you're from England. I'm guessing that's what explains your not understanding why so many Americans value the principles on which the country was founded. Like ALL nations (and I do mean ALL), the United States has its shameful things that took place in a time when people, in general, were far more ignorant than they are today. You got me on a day when I have some extra time - so here goes. (Obviously, anyone who doesn't want to read a long post can skip this one.)
The nation, however, was founded on the idea that people should be free to live their lives without too much involvement of the government, and that government would be "of the people, by the people, and for the people" (in other words, kings and queens wouldn't be running the show). The aim was to assure a specific set of rights deemed to be "inalienable" be preserved for all citizens. The idea was, as I'm guessing you probably know, that all people were created equal; and that each citizen should have a voice without regard for social standing or anything else that has the potential of dividing people. It was a time when social classes played a big role in other nations. It was a time when kings had the power to impose whatever rules/taxes they wanted to, regardless of the consequences to those on whom those rules/taxes were imposed. The new American government was one that wasn't tied to any church, which was unique as well. The idea of freedom from oppressive government (as well as other freedoms) and equality for all were unique at the time.
The principles were an ideal, but they were what guided the laws and philosophies of the nation. It was called "an experiment", and there had never been another nation like it. Since then other civilized nations have, to one degree or another, adopted similar beliefs (at least in a lot of ways); but at the time America was a one-and-only nation founded on these ideals. The people who fought for these freedoms did so at great risk to themselves (being beheaded or disemboweled or having your family's home burned down is never pleasant, to say the least); so Americans have been raised not to ever take for granted the freedoms that so many others in the world (even today) don't have. I'm guessing that people who lived in England when Hitler was trying to take it over would understand how "special" freedom is, and how "special" it is to live in a country where no one group of people is seen as not worth living; but maybe you're too young to recall that time in your own country's history.
Nations have existed in this world for a very long time; and yet a mere 233 years ago, the ideal and philosophy that "all men are created equal" and are endowed with inalienable rights" was revolutionary. The Founding Fathers laid a foundation that would serve the country as it grew. The ideas/ideals of freedom and equality for all people is special no matter what country embraces those ideas. The idea that no one person or branch of the government would have the chance to have too much power is still a good one. The idea that a nation could have the type of government the Founding Fathers established and have that work was a new one. Since then at least some people in other countries have seen that it can work.
The principles on which America was founded haven't just been proven to be solid ones. They've changed a whole lot in the world since they were first established. Today, whether everyone approves or not, it is still those principles that are at the root of a lot of what the US does as a nation. As far as slavery goes, it may have taken a sickeningly long time; but it was those principles that eventually ended it, as well as the century's worth of inequality and injustice for African-Americans that followed. 233 years isn't very long within the context of a nation's lifetime; and considering what the US has become in a relatively few years, I'd think that, in itself, would show how special those founding principles were.
I understand that - there are many good things about the declaration of independence. But the founders didn't believe all citizens were equal (women didn't vote) and they didn't think all men were created equal, either (black men and Indian men weren't equal).
And certainly, at the time, Kings did not just have a right to impose taxes / rules as they felt like it in all countries. Certainly not in the UK. The concept of the King-in-Parliament, and the King only being able to raise taxes with the consent of Parliament pre-dates COlumbus by a long time.
While recognising that there were many valuable things about the founding ideas, I don't see why it's not also recognised that things change. Both in relation to slavery and women, but also in relation to other things. I don't think a particular time should be set in amber, forever.
The Constitution was designed in a way that would allow for growth of the country and changing times.
The fact that there was ignorance with regard to women, slavery, and any number of other things doesn't take away the value of what WAS solid and good in those principles. The country may not have met those ideals at that time, but they were in place; and it was they that eventually made the changes for women and African-Americans possible.
If I wrote an excellent, scientifically sound (based in excellent research - not my opinions), book about the best ways to take care of our health it could be an great book. If it happened that I had some health problem (or even if I didn't follow the ideas in my own book) that wouldn't take away from the accuracy and excellence of the hypothetical book (which I'm not going to be writing, by the way). The hypothetical, excellent, book could become "The Bible" on taking care of health for the rest of all time. Whether I had a health problem, or didn't follow the book's sound advice, would just be a separate thing. The other thing is if I had wacky ideas about how to build a house they wouldn't take away from the excellence of the book either.
The other side to fact that the principles were designed to last and serve future generations well is that they were also supposed to remain the foundation on which everything else was to be built.
The principles on which the country was founded are basic enough that they can remain in place whether things change or not. Nobody would want to alter the "freedom and equality" thing. As for the "limited government" thing, the Founding Fathers understood human nature. Much of the time oppression comes from people who mean well, think they know better, and decide it's important to make laws that "keep people in line" (often "for the good of everyone"). It's pretty common to run into "control thinking" in places as simple as the workplace. There are a whole lot of people who may mean well but who will over-step their bounds if given the opportunity. The Founding Fathers knew human nature and gave the new nation a way to keep people from robbing others of their freedoms. Times and things can change, but human nature is always going to be human nature. Abandoning even some of those founding principles in order to accommodate changes in attitudes or circumstances would mean abandoning the very things that have preserved freedoms since the beginning. Most people don't want to see those freedoms eroded or taken away.
So then we'll have to ditch social security and Medicare, since they are both socialist programs. Even people on the left admit this.
I'm sure the kindly free market will step in and take care of grandma. Or her kids will do it (even though half of them just got laid off). Or we'll just give her a tin cup and be done with it. She should have saved enough to take care of herself after all. Personal responsibility and so forth and so on.
What's really important is that we not start to resemble oppressive socialist regimes like Britain, Sweden, France, Canada...
If these nations want to help us fight our wars with their money though, we'll let them do that, even though they are oppressive monster socialist nations. They can die in our wars.
??? I don't the reasoning here. Social Security and Medicare are all in, and I don't think anyone wants to "ditch" them. If people call them "socialist" programs that's what some people are calling them; but there's a difference between a program that exists without drastically altering and/or eliminating something else in that's in the place. Programs like Social Security and Medicare are more "in addition to" than "instead of". I'd compare it to offering someone a mint for dessert after dinner versus taking away their dinner and offering them the mint instead.
As many others have said (although apparently fewer on this site than in the offline world), most people want poor people and elderly people getting their health care. In fact, a lot of people opposing the particular proposed changes want equal health care and treatment for "Grandma", rather than having the fact that she's 70 make it impossible for her to get the treatment she and her family want.
I, personally, don't call any of the nations mentioned "oppressive". The issue for me (and a lot of others) is that we don't want this particular nation to adopt the forms of government of other countries (no matter how "lovely" those other countries may be - and I'm not being sarcastic at all with that remark). Saying that I don't want to move my family from my suburban home (where I think it's a great lifestyle for kids) and into, say, your perfectly fine home in the wildnerness somewhere is not saying you don't have a nice place to live. It's saying I happen to think my neighborhood makes a better placle for me to raise my own kids.
I, personally, have never said anything about other nations. It's just making it up to say people think they're "monsters". What they do is their business, but what's right for them is not necessarily right for us. I'm not even addressing the war thing, in view of the fact that I've never said anything bad about the countries you mentioned.
The belief that people who don't like the present, proposed, plan don't want poor people to get help is just wrong. None of us (myself included) have before us all the massive amounts of "reality" on paper that would allow any us to study it all long enough to truly understand all the different options as far as potential (and different) approaches to reform go. All we can go on is our own philosophies and leanings and beliefs. I'd like to see all the massive, sickening, mind-boggling, unnecessary waste of tax dollars that goes on in the Federal and State governments to be rooted out by people who were intelligent to know where to find it. That would go a long way toward simply providing people who need help with insurance (even completely or partially, temporarily or permanently). Since it's unlikely all that waste is ever going to be eliminated (and people don't even know where it is), I'd even be glad to see the government just help people who need health insurance get it.
I (and a lot of others who share my beliefs) don't belief it's necessary or desirable to dismantle "the works" in order to provide health care to relatively small percentage of Americans who need help with it. A lot of the "rest of it" (in the proposed plan) isn't about getting health care for those who need it. It's about stopping the increasing costs of health care that will make even fewer people be able to afford it in the future. That's a separate problem that I think could be solved in some way other than that proposed.
Pam, you're a well respected writer here, and I'm among the many Hubbers who share that respect for you. Although I don't know you, I have no reason to think you're not a caring, decent, kind, individual. On this particular post, though, you've essentially attributed beliefs and words to "the other side" that, in general, are not accurate. (Sure, you may have heard some extreme people make remarks that created the impression that's the way all "other-side" people think/talk; but it just doesn't reflect the beliefs of most "other-side" people.)
Believing masses of individuals who happen to oppose the present, proposed, plan all think the way you've portrayed; and then essentially attacking them for it (or at least making snide remarks directed at them for it) is essentially aiming your argument at what isn't real. I hope you know that the following remark is made in a good natured, friendly, way (and writing doesn't always convey tone, as we all know); but I don't know what on Earth you think Republicans are (real ones, not the few high-profile ones that don't particularly reflect the majority of "regular people"). We're not all rich. We're not all thrilled with a lot that went on with the recent administration (which is one of the reasons Obama was elected), and we're not all Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, or whatever other Republicans there are who aren't well liked by all. Also, not everyone who opposes the present, proposed, plan is Republican. Some are Independents and Democrats.
here is a link to information asking about whether government takeover of healthcare is constitutional.
Lisa HW, even programs like social security are "instead of" rather than "in addition to" for people whose income is low. Social security taxes take a big chunk out of the earnings of people who could use every dollar. This makes it impossible for low wage earners to save.
Aya, you may have misinterpreted what I meant by "instead of" and "in addition to". Before the Social Security program was around there was nothing. It was an "added thing" to "the whole picture" of what was "out there".
With the health-care thing there is something "out there", and the new proposed thing would be an "instead of".
Lisa, yes, I misunderstood. So what you mean by "out there" is just in terms of government programs "out there".
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