Limited government: good in 1787, a fraud today

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the passage of health care reform “not a baby step or half measure,” but “a solid step forward.” The AFL-CIO leader said that the reform measure “survived a $100 million lie and distortion campaign by Big Insurance to kill it, the same kind of scare tactics these groups have aimed at health care proposals for six decades.” While labor saw health reform as a step toward single-payer Medicare for All, the “limited government” Republicans saw it differently. The GOP took to court its arguments that health care legislation 1) is unconstitutional, 2) is too costly, and 3) infringes on our freedoms. Despite the hypocritical “limited government” claims, the lawsuits are not only without merit, but also raised at taxpayer expense.

When the Constitution was written in 1787, the Industrial Revolution had not begun. Corporations were chartered and went out of existence when their assigned tasks were completed. Trade unionism was in its infancy, pollution was unknown, and health care was at a primitive stage. Rather than unemployment, there was a labor shortage. Also, the frontier was still open. As the Industrial Revolution developed, even Thomas Jefferson had to revise his thinking. Jefferson called for a limited government until he saw the harm in failing to restrict, and even eliminate, profit-seeking corporations. In 1816, he wrote about the growth of corporate power in England, “I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

To shield “that aristocracy of monied corporations” from taxes and regulations, today’s ultra-right Republican Party continues to use “limited government” against the nation’s best interests. In particular, since there is no mention of health insurance in the Constitution, the GOP claims health care reform, the public option, and Medicare for All are unconstitutional. Even Medicare would be unconstitutional by current GOP standards. Such claims are historically and morally incorrect. An 1819 Supreme Court decision, authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, defined Congress’s implied powers: That body (Congress) is to “perform the highest duties assigned to it, in the manner most beneficial to the people.” Those words remain law.

Ultra-right Republicans advance a second, also fraudulent, argument for limited government (at taxpayer expense). They claim that the costs of health care and other social programs are too large and increase the federal deficit. What they are not telling us is that corporate waste alone would cover national health care without adding to the deficit, according to numerous government studies. The federal deficit would be eliminated if tax loopholes were eliminated and tax rates were so steeply progressive that Warren Buffett would have a tax rate that is not lower than his secretary’s tax rate, as it is now, but many times higher.

Republican claims that federal programs mean loss of innovation are also hollow. The main researchers and innovators are paid by the federal government. In its 2008 platform the Republican Party admitted the contribution of the federal government: “We support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research. This commitment will maintain America’s global competitiveness, advance innovative science that can lead to medical breakthroughs, and turn the tide against diseases affecting millions of Americans – diseases that account for the majority of our health care costs.”

The third charge that the Republicans are bringing to court (at taxpayer expense) is that health care reform violates our freedoms. The new mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance is “the most egregious, unconstitutional legislation that we can remember,” said South Carolina Republican Attorney General Henry McMaster. He is among more than a dozen state attorneys general who have filed a lawsuit asking the courts to declare the mandate unconstitutional because it is “an unprecedented encroachment” on the rights of individuals and the states by the federal government. However, he failed to mention the Republicans who have proposed health care mandates.

When the Nixon administration called for an employer mandate to provide health coverage for employees, there were no “violation of freedom” cries. In 1993, Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., sponsored a bill that would have required individuals to purchase health insurance. Mitt Romney, the Republican former presidential candidate and governor of Massachusetts, said mandates were in keeping with conservative ideology. Even the Heritage Foundation called individual mandates a “daring free-market reform.”

Despite the bluster, the insurance purchase requirement would be unnecessary under single-payer Medicare for All.

If limited government were in force there would be no child labor laws, no anti-monopoly laws, no labor rights, no civil rights, and no women’s rights – and be no traffic laws. People would be poisoned by contaminated food and unsafe medicine. There would be no environmental protection. The Republican governor of New Jersey cut taxes for the wealthy recently – that will cost the average New Jersey family a $1,700 local tax increase to preserve essential services. A vote for limited government is not a vote “most beneficial to the people.”

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