August 21, 2013
By Michael Maynard
“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
James Madison – The Federalist Papers # 51
“In the course of the preceding papers I have endeavored, my fellow-citizens, to place before you in a clear and convincing light the importance of Union to your political safety and happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together to be severed or dissolved by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation.”
Alexander Hamilton – The Federalist Papers #15
From time to time, I go back and reread sections of The Federalist Papers, if only to be impressed by the level of thinking, debate and discourse that went on between John Adams, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton about the intent and goals of the new form of national government they were developing before developing the particulars of how the national government was to operate to support those intent and goals. They were heavily influenced by the natural law philosophical works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke. Even though, the Founding Fathers did not want to intermix religion and government, the pursuit of happiness was, in part, based upon the Biblical idea of Unassailable Rights of the individual.
Of particular interest to me was the discussions behind the choice of “ life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. In earlier drafts, the term used was “life, liberty and property”. These discussions were heavily influenced by what they had gone through to free themselves from the oppressive rule of King George William Frederick. They reasoned that no central government could or should guarantee happiness to its citizens and it was more important to pursue happiness than own property, though the two are mutually reinforcing. Given the diversity of the populace and occurrence of events over time, guaranteeing happiness would be an impossible goal and one that would require constant rethinking and revision. However, the individual states formed at that time were going in different directions and were developing their own contradictory laws, despite the stated goals of previously drafted The Articles of Confederation and Union. Therefore, there would the critical need of a strong central government, with its system of checks and balances, setting overall direction and policy to be implemented by the state and local governments, in order to promote and protect the common weal – the citizen’s pursuit of happiness.
That the ideas and words of these men over 230 years ago still apply today is remarkable. I’m revisiting this concept today in light of the Republican Party’s adamant opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which baffles me. Other than the GOP’s pique that the ACA was passed in the term of President Barack Obama, there is no other apparent reason for this furious opposition to this legislation. When pressed to present their own plan, the House Republicans, thus far, have not presented one. Most (but not all) Presidents since the Republican President Teddy Roosevelt have discussed the need for “universal health care” in some form, and in 1915, the first legislation was introduced. The American Medical Association, at the time, was a major supporter of this legislation.
The current ACA was modeled after the health care plan in my home state of Massachusetts, that was signed into law by Republican Governor and Recent Republican Presidential Candidate Willard M. Romney. The ACA legislation is based upon ideas and concepts promulgated by the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation. Even before being fully implemented, two of the major goals of the ACA, provide affordable care and access to purchase health insurance for all adults and reduce the annual double digit health care inflation rate that was beginning to bankrupt the national economy. 26 states have implemented or are in the process of implementing the ACA’s health care insurance exchanges. 4 states are considering doing so. 13 states, mostly Southern states, are not going to implement ACA , at this time. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, without ACA, 40-42 million adults would not have health insurance. By 2019, the foundation estimates that and additional 29 million gain health care insurance coverage. The current annual rate of health care inflation is 4%.
So if the current Republican Party is not going to produce their own plan, then why not support the conservative think thank developed one being implemented? We know the primary reason why, which I consider to be treasonous, racial animus towards the first Afro-American President. They view the President’s success as diminishing their own more than doing what they were voted in office to do, promote the common good., their constituent’s pursuit of happiness.
I have a chronic immune system illness, not life threatening, but life limiting. If I had to apply for health insurance today, at my age, without Massachusetts’s version of ACA, I would be denied for having a pre-existing condition or the premium charged would be prohibitive. My current coverage is good, but not the best. The premiums I pay are not inexpensive, but are affordable for my income. But without this coverage, what would I do? I couldn’t afford all of my drug and medical care expenses out of pocket, so I’d have a choice of what to cut out that would cause the least damage to my health. If I developed a major illness, I couldn’t afford to pay the expenses. Inability to pay health care expenses are the biggest cause of personal bankruptcy.
All of the above would greatly affect my pursuit of happiness. Try pursuing happiness if you are not at least moderately healthy. You lose your job, your source of income in addition to the physical and mental distress. You lose your home and most of all, you lose your sense of dignity Access to quality healthcare is an inalienable right..
The ACA is not perfect, but no legislation, especially of this scope, ever is. As more experience is gained from the implementation of the states, there will need to be changes and tweaks, but that’s also expected, too. I can imagine Adams and Hamilton looking down on what’s going on with the obstructionism in Congress and shaking their heads in disbelief. It was a similar form of tyranny that propelled them to escape their homeland, in order form their own more perfect union.