As I watched the C-SPAN health-care summit charade Thursday, what disturbed me most was not the typical partisan rancor, but why the federal government was even dealing with this issue at all.
It isn’t that I’m unsympathetic to the plight of the needy. It isn’t that I don’t think our health-care system needs some serious overhaul. I just believe our founders had it right when they laid down the constitutional laws restricting the feds from meddling into the lives of ordinary American citizens.
Not surprisingly, a brand new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday revealed 56 percent of Americans think the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to their rights and freedoms.
Particularly apropos here is the feds’ health-care violation of the 10th Amendment, which is part of our Bill of Rights and was ratified on Dec. 15, 1791: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Of course, the feds’ rebuttal to anything that constitutionally prohibits their agenda is: “That doesn’t apply here.” They are not alone. Many today say that the 10th Amendment is irrelevant and nothing more than an implied suggestion or general rule of practice. Often cited is United States v. Darby (312 U.S. 100, 124 – 1941), which reads: “The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and state governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers. …”
But I believe Thomas Jefferson would have had a word for the wise here – and Washington, too. Just a couple years before his death on June 12, 1823, roughly 15 years after his presidency, Thomas Jefferson wrote about constitutional interpretation to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson: “On every question of construction, (we must) carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
So returning to 1791, the year the 10th Amendment was ratified, Thomas Jefferson declared, “I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people’ (10th Amendment). To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”
Of course, Jefferson’s concern against an overreaching federal government was representative of most of the framers. That is why the 10th Amendment exists. A decade later, during his presidency in 1802, Jefferson still shared about his earlier passion to inhibit an overreaching federal government: “I was in Europe when the Constitution was planned, and never saw it till after it was established. On receiving it, I wrote strongly to Mr. Madison, urging the want of provision for … an express reservation to the States of all rights not specifically granted to the Union.”
The point is, based upon the 10th Amendment, when it comes to legislating and controlling our health care, the federal government doesn’t have a constitutional leg to stand on. And even its past violations of the 10th Amendment by implementing government health-care services have proven to break more national legs than mend them. The proof is in the pudding. How many times does it have to be pointed out to Washington? Medicare is going bankrupt. Medicaid is going bankrupt. Case closed. The government is inept in running America’s health-care system. And now it wants to expand its programs (its health-care business) to oversee what equates to one-sixth of the Gross National Product? What rational board anywhere in the world would rightly appoint a CEO who had a string of miserable business failures and major corporate bankruptcies in his dossier?
Thomas Jefferson simply and forthrightly declared, “Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force” (Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:380). “Undelegated powers” obviously refers to those powers not granted by the Constitution. Health-care laws for all Americans are “undelegated powers.” And such acts therefore would be “unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”
The feds have no more right to govern your health care than Chinese officials. But, then again, with the feds taking over health care’s one-sixth of the GDP, and China still reigning as the top foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities and debts, don’t count out Chinese governance as a possible future health-care alternative!
No doubt American health-care problems exist and seem to be metastasizing on the horizon. Namely, that the number of people in the U.S. ages 65 and older is expected to double by 2030, and so is the amount expected to fund their retirement and health care in their twilight years, which relatively few are prepared to handle themselves.
But does the impending increase of health-care needs infer that we automatically turn to the federal government to solve our aging and ailing woes? Are most of us really drinking that often from the federal trough of Kool-Aid that “only government” can reverse and fix America’s downfall and demise?
I agree with Dr. Scott W. Atlas, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at Stanford University Medical Center, and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who put it best in their article a few months back, “Alternatives to government health takeover.” They said this: “We think it’s critical that power shifts to the American consumer and away from government, employers and insurers, as evidence shows medical care prices come down when patients pay directly. Government should offer tax relief, such as refundable tax credits, to encourage private health insurance purchasing – especially for low-income families. Similar ideas, like those in the Patients’ Choice Act … are important for Americans to consider. We would do well also to consider creative ideas such as changing federal payments to state-based Medicaid plans to individual vouchers or expanding health savings accounts, as has been done in South Carolina.”
Sound state-based solutions like those make sense, and simultaneously don’t violate the Constitution. In fact, they explicitly follow the 10th Amendment. Returning the onus of solving health-care issues to families, local communities and states would not only return a balance of power to our federal government but help with America’s economic recovery and build up communities at the same time.
The abuse of federal political power to intervene in areas such as Americans’ private health care could exist only in a nation which no longer holds its leaders accountable to its Constitution, and a leadership that regards itself as above its people and its Constitution. Sadly, I was listening to an interview the other day in which President Obama described the Constitution as “an imperfect document … a document that reflects some deep flaws … an enormous blind spot … and that the framers had that same blind spot.” In so doing, the president established a rationale and justification for disregarding, disavowing and disposing the Constitution from oversight and interplay in his administration and decisions. Even worse, he placed himself above the Constitution and those “blind framers” who just couldn’t see the big picture as he does today. After all, he’s the constitutional scholar and the framers were just, well, the creators of the document!
Our 44th president would do well to learn from America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, himself a source greater than any living constitutional lawyer. In fact, it would seem that Jefferson was speaking directly to Washington today when he wrote these following words at roughly 80 years of age in 1823 to Supreme Court Judge William Johnson. I believe his statements could even have served as his thoughts at Thursday’s health-care summit.
Imagine Jefferson sitting there, a ripe old and wise sage, in the very middle seat between all Democrats and Republicans. He listens to all the proceedings without uttering a word. And then right near the end, he respectfully calls upon the president and others gathered, and politely but sternly utters these words: “The States supposed that by their 10th Amendment, they had secured themselves against constructive powers. They (did not learn from the past), nor (were) aware of the slipperiness of the eels of the law. I ask for no straining of words against the General Government, nor yet against the States. I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the Constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market.”
It couldn’t be any clearer than that.
I would encourage you to go to the Tenth Amendment Center and learn more about your 10th Amendment rights, and then fight for those rights by holding all your representatives accountable to them.
(For more on how to reawaken America to our founders’ vision and plans for this country, which includes entire copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, check out Chuck Norris’ brand new – January 2010 – expanded paperback version of his New York Times best-seller, “Black Belt Patriotism.”)