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Our Founding Fathers Were Socialists?

“In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed – “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and MANDATED [emphasis mine] that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance?”

Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance -In 1798 – Rick Ungar – The Policy Page – Forbes.

Well, who knew…we have precedent for mandated health care all the way back in 1798. This article rased a lot of Discussion when it came out earlier last year, and generated a very good follow up article at the Washington Post.

The health care reform debate has the potential to once again become one of the decisive political issue in the presidential election this year because of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear arguments in the case and the schedule of their ruling for sometime this summer, just months before the election.

In that article, Adam Rothman, a history professor at Georgetown University, point out “It’s a good example that the post-revolutionary generation clearly thought that the national government had a role in subsidizing health care.”

Does this provide support for the notion that the health care mandate (which is the only provision of the ACA that a majority of Americans oppose IS, in fact, constitutional?  Does it at least suggest that it is difficult to legislate from a perspective where we must interpret exactly what the Founding Fathers “wanted” in writing the Constitution?  The underlying question here is was the Constitution meant to be rigid, unmovable, or was it intended to be flexible and responsive?  What do you think?

4 comments on “Our Founding Fathers Were Socialists?

  1. Ciara
    January 12, 2012

    I believe that the constitution is a great foundation on information for the rights of human beings. However, I do feel like it was made to be rigid. Over time with the new areas growing in society I began to feel that some things can be changed, or if decided on, things should be able to be improved. Requiring that individuals purchase healthcare I began to get the feel that it is unconstitutional. The only thing is it may leave a leak in people doing the right things if something involving healthcare happened. For instance, becoming sick or some injury you will have to pay for that. In addition, not only is this for the individuals themselves, but they may cause injury on someone else, or have family who will not be able to provide for themselves. Requiring that people pay for health care is clever act, but also opened to be wronged. It is somewhat wrong to make other’s pay Medicare for someone else’s use. I look at it as those who are working should pay that portion into their own healthcare, and the money that is being taxed federal, and on the state level should be disbursed to those in need. Those who cannot help themselves are the federal and states problem not each individual.Can Congress really require that every person purchase health insurance from a private company or face a penalty? The answer lies in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” Historically, insurance contracts were not considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise. That’s why insurance has traditionally been regulated by states. But the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of “economic” activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce. The key is that those activities substantially affect interstate commerce, and that’s how the court would probably view the regulation of health insurance.But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause’s power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying “cash for clunkers” is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.If you choose to drive a car, then maybe you can be made to buy insurance against the possibility of inflicting harm on others. But making you buy insurance merely because you are alive is a claim of power from which many Americans instinctively shrink. Senate Republicans made this objection, and it was defeated on a party-line vote, but it will return.

  2. RobinLTB
    January 12, 2012

    We all know that when America was first formed, the Constitution was created as a starting point, NOTE! Starting POINT! to help the founding fathers make sure that the nation’s wants and needs were fulfilled and America became a success. Thus the Founding Fathers were definitely onto something when they mandated that the sailors receive public and federal funded health care. As Greg Sargent hinted to in his article in the Washington post, these sailors were part of the life line that was making America succeed in the 1700s. Hence their actions were indeed constitutional, because it provided a stepping stone to the goal of a successful country. And can still be considered constitutional if the goal of the current Healthcare Debates, is to ensure that America continues to be successful. Now weather or not the constitution allows for the flexibility to put the healthcare bill into place is still under debate As mentioned in Forbes the supreme court will answer the question in the spring about this debate. Personally i feel the the constitution was and is still a starting point for America and we can only move forward into a successful future by ratifying and amending the constitution for what seems to be the best for America in this moment in time.

  3. Wendi Godard
    January 15, 2012

    I think the Constitution was intended to be flexible and responsive as do most people in America. However there is a certain procedure that has to be followed to amend the constitution. It is not always an easy task, but it is possible. When the Founding Fathers wrote the constitution it was in a different time in history and they did not have all the issues that we do today. Many areas of the Constitution have been amended over the years and will probably continue to be in years to come. I think the Founding Fathers wrote the original constitution as a guideline and that they probably anticipated that it would one day have to be
    amended for various reasons.

    Article V: Amending the Constitution

  4. Lara
    January 17, 2012

    The US Constitution was meant to be flexible and responsive, hence why there have been ratifications through amendments. Within the Preamble, to “promote general welfare”, implies the support through the Constitution to mandate health care. Granted the initial mandated health care for the seamen proved to be in the best interest for the foreign trade market rather than just for the wellbeing of the seamen, our founding fathers were addressing an issue we still battle today. I see in no way how the Affordable Care Act would harm anyone’s current health care, but rather improve it and provide those without health care a viable option. Already approximately 1 million young adults in 2010 obtained health insurance through the act from being able to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. The act also bans the discrimination of pre-existing conditions, giving those with possibly terminal illnesses a chance at survival. The nation has spent about $43 billion on people without insurance who obtained health care they cannot afford. Why not try to offset that loss with a plan to lower the deficit and provide health care to our fellow citizens who aren’t privileged enough to receive it through their employers?

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This entry was posted on January 11, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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