If you follow my writing, you are well aware that I am no fan of most of what government does. No, I am not an anarchist, at least, not any more than Jefferson, Franklin, or Washington. We do need a federal government. Our early years under the Articles of Confederation verified that fact. However, as we read any of the anti-federalist papers, we can see their concerns were certainly real and have been proven prescient.
I have likened the federal government to the monster given life in a bizarre experiment by Dr. Frankenstein. The huge, ugly, awkward and frightful monster threatened those who gave it life, and they altered their lives and decisions out of fear. Just as in the original story, the monster cannot live with or without us.
Our founders, of course, did not create a monster. The creature we see today is the result of multiple experiments to “fix” the monster or make it better. I recall a story from the life of Col David (Davy) Crockett. The full story is available here, but let me give a brief synopsis.
Early in Crockett’s career as a congressman, there was a fire in Georgetown. “Compassionate” Congressmen immediately passed an appropriation to give $20,000 in relief aid to the families. Crockett voted for the measure. The following summer, Crockett was campaigning back home in Tennessee. He happened upon a man plowing his field and approached him to visit. As he began to introduce himself, the man cut him off, telling him he well knew who he was and would not vote for him again.
A shocked Crockett asked, “why?”
The man reminded Crockett about the fire and resulting payment and asked if he’d voted for the bill. “Of course I did, and you’d have done the same to relieve the suffering of women and children!”
The man said, “I have a different understanding of the Constitution than you. Those serving in Congress are free to offer their own funds as are any of the wealthy living in the Washington area.” Crockett suggested the government could easily afford to help; it was only $20,000. The man replied that the amount was not the factor, it was the act.
The man went on to explain how the Constitution did not give the government authority to give charity, and that giving help to those in need was the responsibility of the people. He did not use the term “Pandora’s Box,” but he did educate Crockett that once done, there would be no end to who might receive or how much. “It’s not yours to give.”
Crockett apologized and promised to never do it again, and he never did. After returning to Washington when there was a vote to give benefits to a widow, he stood and told this story. That bill did not pass due to Crockett’s speech, but Congress did not change their ways.
In 1835, Crockett famously left Washington and their lust for power and excess, saying, “Y’all can go to hell, I’m going to Texas.”
Understand this- Crockett was leaving his country over his principles.
Imagine what he’d think today!
Crockett joined 187 other men in March of 1836 in defense of the Alamo. Over a period of 11 days, they held off the Mexican Army killing over two thousand troops. In the end, they were overrun, and no one lived to tell the tale. Crockett dedicated his life to justice, truth and liberty. He gave his life in defense of the Texian people and the Republic of Texas – not the State of Texas nor the US Government.
So, what does this have to do with And now to the point- Obamacare!
Whether is was Chief Justice Marshall’s court, Congress, or Presidents, all had a hand in adding to the size, power, and oppressive nature of government. And as that Congress voting to help the poor women and children in Georgetown, frequently it was done with good intentions. And we know which road is paved with good intentions…
Prior to WWII, most Americans paid for their own healthcare. They either paid their provider directly or through the Blue Cross nonprofit health insurance entities that guaranteed service for a fixed fee. Insurance was not for all care, only major things requiring hospitalization. People purchased their own coverage just like auto, home, and life insurance.
© 2010 Fibonacci Blue, Flickr | CC-BY
Our government had witnessed the massive inflation in the Weimar Republic, post-WWI Germany. Congress and FDR imposed wage and price controls during WWII to try and prevent the same thing during and after the war. In an effort to grant a concession to the labor unions without appearing to violate the controls, the federal government exempted employer-paid health benefits from wage controls and income tax. This essentially paved the way for wage increases in the form of non-taxable, employee-sponsored health benefits.
This unreported personal income in the form of health benefits created an enormous demand for employer-sponsored group benefits over individual health insurance policies and incidental medical expenses purchased with the employee’s own after-tax dollars. Employers received a 100% federal, state, and local deduction for the cost of the health benefits received by the employees who were exempt from individual federal, state, and local taxes.
Remember that fire in Georgetown? Of course, this is another unintended (or intended?) consequence of an individual income tax our founders found to be an anathema.
By the mid-60s, employer supplied health insurance was pretty much universal, and in reality, it worked fairly well, as long as employees stayed with the same company for their entire career. However, as costs increased and employees began to change employers regularly, the system began to fall apart starting with the small employers. People never want to go “backward.” Within a few decades, health insurance went from an item people purchased as they saw the need, to a “freebie” for a select few, to an expected perk as part of income, to today’s view of healthcare as a “right.”
© 2010 Fibonacci Blue, Flickr | CC-BY
Excuse my cynicism, but I do not believe, for one second, that the Republicans will repeal Obamacare and simply allow the free market to settle in.
I believe that Obamacare was designed to be so entrenched in the government and our lives, that Congress will never be willing to do the extensive “surgery” that will be required to remove it. It would be like a brain surgeon trying to remove a tumor with tentacles wrapped around the different lobes and brainstem. The media and Democrats will paint Republicans as pushing little old ladies over cliffs. Ultimately, they will decide it will be too dangerous and painful to fully remove the cancer, i.e. Obamacare.
If we expect a majority of Congress to suddenly make a move returning to constitutional governance, we will be prime candidates to buy ocean front property in Nebraska. Our healthcare situation is a consequence of government intervention in the free market, and more government intervention will only make it worse.
Obamacare is not the problem- it is a symptom of the problem. Until we the people wake up, stop worrying about what government can do for us, we will forever be voting for politicians to do our job, and we will forever be disappointed.
John F Kennedy stated, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”