I have heard many a misguided conservative make the completely unfounded assertion that A single-payer universal healthcare program is somehow magically prohibited by the Constitution, or “illegal.”
Let’s unpack this, and get to the objective facts:
The United States Constitution is merely an operating manual that defines a governmental structure, the parameters of power for each branch, and enumerates certain rights in a non-exhaustive manner.
The United States Constitution neither prescribes nor proscribes MOST FORMS of economic theory or policy.
Here’s what you can’t do: You cannot own people as personal property. You cannot have an economy based on slave labor, nor brand people with the indicia of slavery, as per the 13th Amendment.
Now, that is strictly within the four corners of the Constitution. Court decisions, federal laws, and regulations also prohibit things like child labor and human trafficking.
So, now you cross paths with that one conservative who thinks he’s going to outsmart you. Invariably, cockeyed conservatives ask, “Where in the Constitution does it say anything about the government giving you ‘free’ healthcare?”
Well, nothing is “free.” We are just talking about reprioritizing the way that we spend the revenue that the Treasury and Customs take in. Maybe we no longer want to spend $1.5 trillion on jet fighters that can’t fly in the rain. Maybe we’d rather put that money toward making sure that a mother of three, making $10.00 per hour, gets the chemotherapy and radiotherapy that she needs to overcome breast cancer, without having to go bankrupt or lose her house.
We find the authority to launch and develop programs that are in the public interest in Article I of the Constitution.
ARTICLE I, Sec. 8: Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises to pay the debts and provide for the common defense AND GENERAL WELFARE of the United States … TO MAKE ALL LAWS NECESSARY AND PROPER for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.
The latter part of this quote is known as the “Necessary and Proper Clause.” Congress has both the power to tax AND the power to spend, provided that such expenditure is for the purpose of executing legislation that is for the common good.
And I would argue that keeping the population healthy while maintaining people’s ability to put food on the table, pay rent or mortgage, keep themselves clothed, and see a movie sometime is definitely a common good.
So, YES, Congress does have the ARTICLE I power to establish a single-payer universal healthcare system.
©2017, A.A. SPETT.
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