Friday, January 1, 2010

Health Care Legislation Unconstitutional?

In today's Cape Cod Times, local Republican politician Jeffrey Perry attacked the proposed -- or, for that matter, any -- health care legislation as being an unconstitutional exercise of power by Congress. He dragged out as evidence the old "enumerated powers" argument that has been the refuge of progress-averse conservatives since the era of the Anti-federalists.

For Perry to cavalierly dismiss the Congress’ authority to legislate for "the general Welfare of the United States” as being "simply a preamble to the Article I section 8 enumerated powers", is to read that article in a manner so jaundiced as to nullify his subsequent conclusions.

Far from being simply a preamble, the opening paragraph of Article I also gives Congress the power "to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, and to provide for the common defense"; powers which Mr. Perry would presumably not venture to deny. It is hardly the superfluous expository preamble that Mr. Perry would have it.

Constitutional promotion of "the general welfare" (a term self-evidently descriptive of universal health care) is, furthermore, a phrase echoed in the document's actual Preamble, a statement of intent so existential to the American ethos that generations have been willing to put their lives at risk to defend it. While there may be valid political reasons for opposing healthcare reform, distorting the Constitution to validate them is not the way to go.

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