Constitutional Debate Erupts In Totally Appropriate Venue Of Star Letters Section

theverydebatetakingplaceinthepagesofthestarWhen the framers sat down to form our founding document in 1787, surely they could not have predicted that someday, somewhere, the best legal minds in the country would gather to debate the finer points of what our guiding compact allowed and barred. And who among us would have  guessed that the debate in question would occur right here in Kansas City, and that the participants would include a high school senior, a self-anointed expert on capitalism, and a flotilla of armchair scholars? About time, too — for too long the nation’s loftiest debates have been confined to the ivory towers of Boston and the hallowed halls of D.C. Time for a struggling, deeply divided post-industrial city to weigh in on matters like these! The subject (of course): health care. The venue: the Star‘s letters section. The stakes: everything!

It all started when young Andrew Caldwell, an innocent lad from Prairie Village, wrote a letter wondering why we couldn’t think of health care as a service just like fire departments — a perfectly valid query from a mind that age.

I’m a high school senior. I’m concerned for the future of our nation and don’t understand why so many businesses profit off sick people…

Why shouldn’t health care be provided by the government like public schools, police and fire services, and the military?

Okay. Maybe not the most trenchant commentary in the world, but legitimate questions from young Andrew. Unfortunately, Leawood’s Amy Brown opted to strike down upon him with great vengeance and furious anger.

I think Andrew’s diploma should be withheld until he reads and understands our country’s Constitution. Of the public services he listed, all but one are state or local services, not national, which is what the health care reform debate is about. Only the military is a service that the federal government has power to provide endowed in the Constitution.

Andrew also doesn’t understand capitalism. He writes, “businesses profit off sick people.” That is the way the free market system works. Our businesses profit from hungry people (farmers and grocers), naked people (clothing manufacturers and retailers), tired people (bedding companies), and so on.

Some reading and study are in order here.

My, my. A suggestion for diploma withholding? Surely you jest, madam. Has it never occurred to you that there are in fact a great many government programs that are not explicitly authorized in the Constitution? Say… Medicare? That’s also a pretty heartless defense of capitalism, which is perhaps fending off an unfair number of critics these days. Andrew was clearly discussing the tendency of insurance and health care companies to withhold care and discourage disbursements while accumulating ever-larger profits. A misreading of that sentiment perhaps reflects poorly on your high school skills, namely critical reading.

But fear not: a legion of defenders leapt to Andrew’s side. Here’s Lenexa’s Bill Holzhueter:

Well, in a democratic-republic, we believe in electing officials to the executive and legislative branches of government and, in turn, Supreme Court justices are appointed. If Congress or the president tries to put something into law (by a majority vote of officials that we the people elected) that is arguably unconstitutional then it goes before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided in 1937 that Social Security was constitutional as it met the Article I Section VIII clause that states Congress does have to power to collect taxes to provide for the “general welfare of the United States.”

Since the health of the American people could be seen as synonymous with “general welfare” and the Supreme Court has a precedent with Social Security, then this would be constitutional.

Bravo, Clarence Darrow! You don’t get to invoke the general welfare clause every day, you know? And here’s Baldwin City’s Steve Pierce:

You may not like it, but these programs take our tax dollars and help others. Extending health insurance to all Americans is no different.

America is not capitalism. Capitalism is not America. We have an economic system that is basically capitalistic but is tempered as it must be by socialism. Pure capitalism is as untenable as pure socialism. The government can and should make laws that protect the people. It has mandated universal education and post-retirement income for all, and it can only do good to have universal heath coverage.

Get thee to a nunnery, Amy Brown! Steve has cast doubt on your understanding of the very economic system you claim to love. But the most heartwarming response came from Richmond’s J.G. Brenton:

Mr. Caldwell should be congratulated for posing a legitimate question for public debate: whether health care should be considered a basic entitlement, a public utility or a private economic commodity. This question deserves rigorous, objective analysis, not out-of-hand dismissal.

Indeed, sir. Out-of-hand dismissal is the work of cowards and straw-men advocates. So who emerges victorious from this fray? Surely it is young Andrew Caldwell, whose innocent querying ignited a firestorm of ignorance. The loser? Why, it’s Amy Brown: blind devotee of capitalism and prospective G.E.D. course participant.

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