Founding Fathers side with Roberts on mandatory health insurance
Here is a Fourth of July trivia question for history buffs, and legal eagles: Name something presidents George Washington, John Adams and Barack Obama have in common.
Answer: Legislation mandating the purchase of health insurance.
Harvard Law School professor Einer Elhauge explains that some people “argue that the Constitution’s framers could not possibly have envisioned a congressional power to force purchases. However, in 1790, the first Congress ... required all ship owners to provide medical insurance for seamen; in 1798, Congress also required seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves.”
The first bill was signed by President George Washington, the second by President John Adams. President Barack Obama was the third American president to sign a bill mandating individuals to purchase health insurance.
“In 1792, Congress enacted a law mandating that all able-bodied citizens obtain a firearm,” and the accoutrements of a militiaman, Elhauge wrote. Despite loud complaints about the cost from those affected, Washington signed the bill.
Congresses that passed these bills included many of the original framers of the Constitution. Large majorities of them voted for the bills.
“This history negates any claim that forcing the purchase of insurance or other products is unprecedented or contrary to any possible intention of the framers,” Elhauge concluded.
Contacted by Rhode Island PolitiFact (providencejournal.com) for elaboration, the professor explained, “I don’t think anyone objected to any of these laws on constitutional grounds, which presumably someone would have if it was obvious that the original understanding was that such an obligation would be unconstitutional.”
With a thumb-of-the-nose to Justice Antonin Scalia, Elhauge titled his article “The Irrelevance of the Broccoli Argument against the Insurance Mandate.” It appeared in the January issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. PolitiFact Rhode Island verified the facts.
Though these cases have no direct relevance to the Affordable Care Act decision, they should resonate with the right-wing folks who idolize the mythic Founding Fathers, from whom all conservative values flow.
Their patriotic ire aroused by the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act, tea party radicals feel betrayed by Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion.
To hear some tea party leaders tell it, we should not be celebrating America’s independence this Fourth of July, but the death of “America as we know it.”
“When a gang of criminals subvert legitimate government offices and seize all power to themselves without the real consent of the governed,” railed Roy Nicholson, Chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, “their every act and edict is of itself illegal and is outside the bounds of the Rule of Law. In such cases submission is treason ... To resist by all means that are right in the eyes of God is not rebellion or insurrection, it is patriotic resistance to invasion.”
Sarah Palin thanked the Supreme Court for its ruling. “This Obamacare ruling,” she posted on her Facebook page, “fires up the troops as America’s eyes are opened. Thank God.”
Some Republican leaders seem to be in competition for the greatest Obamacare hyperbole. The most outrageous comparison came from Indiana GOP Rep. Mike Pence who compared the Roberts decision to the national tragedy of 9/11/2001.
Republican columnist and blogger Ben Shapiro wrote, “This is the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No Exaggeration.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul opined, “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional.”
Topping them all, Representative Paul Ryan said, “Obamacare’ should be repealed because the rights of individuals come from God.”
Most Americans will celebrate the 236th birthday of the nation with ceremonies affirming the promise of a better future for the nation’s people—including affordable health care for all. Tea party radicals will hold a wake for an America that never was and a future that will never come.
Which Independence Day party will you attend?