To the editor:
If mandatory health insurance is unconstitutional, as the Republicans hope the Supreme Court will rule, what about Social Security and Medicare? They’re compulsory also. The health plan is different only in allowing some consumer choice. You’d think the Republicans ought to be in favor of that.
Their hypocrisy makes sense, though, as a cover for their ulterior objectives. The first is to defeat President Obama by wrecking his proudest achievement. Ultimately, they would repeal even Social Security and Medicare.
Their disguise has evaporated with Rick Perry’s meteoric popularity in the Republican presidential polls. The Texas governor, so reactionary as to make the late Barry Goldwater look like a Socialist, openly doubts the constitutionality of Social Security.
And that’s not all. Perry would also repeal the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, which authorized the income tax and provided for the people rather than the state legislatures to elect U.S. senators. This strange politician mistrusts not only government, but the voters too.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1937, amidst the Great Depression, that Social Security was constitutional under Congress’ power to promote the general welfare. “The hope behind this statute,” wrote Justice Benjamin Cardozo, “is to save men and women from the rigors of the poor house, as well as from the haunting fear that such a lot awaits them when journey’s end is near.” The states individually, he said, could not manage a problem that “is plainly national in area and dimensions.”
The same surely is true, 74 years later, of the fact that more than 40 million Americans lack health insurance.
But the current Supreme Court no longer pays even lip service to precedent. However it rules on the Affordable Health Care Act, it will likely be by a vote of five to four. Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife has campaigned ardently against the legislation, would be eager to write an opinion undercutting Social Security and Medicare as well as the issue at hand.
If they survive, it would be by only a thread — one that the next president might cut with his first appointment to the court. If you want to undo a century of progress, Perry’s your man.
Martin A. Dyckman