Health Care

While the Health care debate has been coalescing into something along the lines of a question of our patriotism, our compassion as humans, our survival as a nation even…. it bears some thought as to whether our ideals of morality ought always to be our guiding light as to our consensus on what is legal.

For a long time we have devolved into a morality and legality ruled by majority. We intervene in the law process by majority pressure as the rudder of the mainstream media has propelled it. It is not our system, but has become a competition to our system I think.

So this essay in the “Sense of Events” blog raised what I think are some questions worth pondering in our health care debate.

My question is this: Do the limits of the US Constitution actually mean anything here? Where in the text does it grant the Congress the power to take from you and me and give it, as charity, to others?

This is not a question about Congress’s power to tax. It is about its authority to use taxation for purposes not enumerated in the Constitution.

We already know Democrat Sen. Mark Warner’s answer: the Constitution doesn’t grant Congress the authority to pass the healthcare bill before it, but it doesn’t matter because Congress has trampled on the Constitution so long that there’s no reason to stop now.

I am confident that some persons would answer that the Constitution is a “living document.” As best as I can determine, what that means in practice is that its text and enumeration of powers can be ignored in order for the Congress to do what it wants. Occasionally the federal courts, including SCOTUS, hold this tendency in check, but not very well or often. And at least as often, the courts themselves have taken the “living document” approach rather liberally.

My answer is that the Congress has no such authority granted it. If indeed the state of health care is so dire that public monies must be used to pay directly for medical care of some people (and eventually everyone), then let Congress introduce a proposed amendment to the Constitution so the people and states may grant that authority. That Congress has already been paying for such care for decades doesn’t change the question or the principle at stake.

I might even support such an amendment provided there were appropriate checks and balances built into it. Neither the power granted to Congress nor its authority to tax for this or any other purpose can be unlimited.

Like it not, there is no authority in the Constitution giving Congress the power to spend public monies for charitable purpose

Does Morality Trump Legality?

It is ironic that the right now questions the left on this… albeit with different issues.

2 thoughts on “Health Care”

  1. “For a long time we have devolved into a morality and legality ruled by majority.”

    When I saw this it made me want to cheer out loud and break into applause all alone with my desktop.
    The incongruity of legality and morality has been one of my hobby horses for several years and I couldn’t agree more.
    Reared as a Southern Baptist it always puzzled me how church congregations could in good conscience vote on issues of morality. My reading of the Bible led me to understand that moral issues were to be aligned with God’s plumb line and all the voting in the world could not alter those precepts any more than the law of gravity can be voted away. Even in the Old Testament Meshak, Shadrack and Abednigo were in a minority as were Noah and company. And we know what happened leading up to Easter.

    I then grew up with a healthy respect for the separation of church and state. When I learned that most of the founding fathers were slave holders and that even the Supreme Court upheld racial discrimination by Plessy v Ferguson, I realized that as a man-made creation even the US Constitution was pliable from a moral viewpoint. The Brown decision didn’t come along until sometime in my childhood.

    More recently the abortion issue will be the battleground, so we’ll have to see how that one plays out. (My guess is that when the dust settles we will have Constitutional limits placed on medical procedures after the First Trimester, with an near total ban during the Third, but that’s only a guess on my part.)

    Meantime reforming the disease control industry is on the docket, and the most compelling arguments have little to do with morality and everything to do with money. Universal care bringing forty million new customers into the market have insurance and drug companies salivating. Who cares if it’s paid for by taxes as long as it goes to their profit lines? That’s the real objection behind opposing any government incursions into the sacred private market. We Americans worship at that altar and find anyone threatening our profit lines to be sent by the Devil Himself.

    You know we already have a “public option.” It’s called Madicaid. When Americans finally become poor enough to qualify Medicaid takes over their care, but only if they need it. New Medicaid beneficiaries are coming into the system by the thousands in the wake of an unprecedented number of job losses and bankruptcies, so if we wait long enough the problem of the uninsured may vanish. (The number of uninsured won’t go away, but the problem will, because the rest will be healthy and won’t need insurance.)

  2. Well, I’m none too sure of your “solution”, but the new dialogue on Health Care Reform has certainly led to a new light on legislated morality. If only from a different angle.

    In some sense all law is an expression of our society’s morality, and a law giving rights to abortion is a type of moral statement …just not one I think ought to be made. Just as certain laws (ie Jim Crow) ought not to be made because there is a morality that vouchsafes human dignity and rights that must supercede our cultures temporary opinion. I just think it is time to recognize how very careful we ought to be in making our individual moral opinions our universal moral laws.

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