Huckabee (Intentionally?) Missing the Argument on Healthcare
Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are already going at each other’s throats over healthcare in what will probably be a very nasty 2012 Republican Primary. Huckabee is doing everything in his power to link Romney’s State-level Massachusetts healthcare law to the Federal Healthcare law (aka “Obamacare”), but he’s missing a critical point: this is the purview of the States to do such a think. If Massachusetts wants to have a State run health care program, they are completely within their bounds to do it. Now former Gov. Huckabee is quite within the realm of logic and argument if he wants to have a discussion about the role of government at the State level, but the main challenge to the Federal health care bill is a different beast. These arguments are that Federal Healthcare is outside of the enumerated powers of the Constitution and that it is not covered by the “general welfare” or commerce clauses.
In regards to those who support the general welfare argument as grounds to support Federalized healthcare, I would like to point out President James Madison’s (then a Congressman from Virginia’s 5th District) commentary in 1792 about New England’s Cod fisheries and their desire for what amounted to a bailout :
If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the “general welfare,” and are the sole and supreme judges of the “general welfare,” then they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish and pay them out of the public treasury, they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the United States; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, everything from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police would be thrown under the power of Congress, for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the “general welfare”1>
This from the father of the Constitution, one of the primary authors of the Federalist papers, in support of a strong Federal government. There was never an intent for the Federal Government to grow to this size.
The second argument has been one that says the commerce clause covers healthcare because it deals with interstate issues. This has been a slippery slope since 1789 and has been used to extend the enumerated powers much in the same way that the general welfare clause has. Basically, anything that can be counted under interstate commerce becomes the purview of the Federal Government, extending into areas it deems it needs to but then telling the states that they have sovereignty when it comes to their own financial problems (which is another issue for another time).
Gov. Huckabee needs to frame his argument in the right view, but I feel he’s more about the subversion of Gov. Romney’s 2012 campaign than actually discussing the merits of State-sponsored health care.
1 Jonathan Elliott, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Washington, 1936), Vol. 4, pp 429, James Madison on “The Cod Fishery Bill,” February 7, 1792.