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New ObamaCare meme: "Congress passed socialized medicine in 1798!!"


A blog post by Rick Ungar at Forbes.com has been getting a lot of attention in the leftwingosphere:

In July of 1798, Congress passed - and President John Adams signed - "An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen." The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it's safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.

Here's how it happened.

... The problem was that a merchant mariner's job was a difficult and dangerous undertaking in those days. Sailors were constantly hurting themselves, picking up weird tropical diseases, etc.

The troublesome reductions in manpower caused by back strains, twisted ankles and strange diseases often left a ship's captain without enough sailors to get underway - a problem both bad for business and a strain on the nation's economy.

But those were the days when members of Congress still used their collective heads to solve problems - not create them.

Realizing that a healthy maritime workforce was essential to the ability of our private merchant ships to engage in foreign trade, Congress and the President resolved to do something about it.

The law itself is very interesting, and since it is only five paragraphs long (as opposed to 2,400 pages) it is worth your time to read.  It establishes a payroll tax on merchant sailors, with the provision that merchant ships will not have their licenses renewed without an accounting of the tax that was collected.  The money would be used for the treatment of merchant sailors at established hospitals, and money collected in each port district could only be used in that district.  Any surplus monies were to be held by the US government and used to expand existing facilities or build new hospitals.  And all decisions involving the appropriation of the collected revenues were to be made personally by the President.

However, a true modern analog to this law would probably be our current occupational health and safety system (i.e. OSHA), and not ObamaCare.  The government has been enforcing workplace practices that limit exposure to health and safety hazards for forty years, and few would argue that workplace safety is tantamount to socialism.  A healthy workforce certainly enhances the "general welfare" of the nation, which is clearly a responsibility of our government and certainly what Congress and President Adams had in mind back in 1798.

The fact still remains -- if the Founding Fathers had wanted medical care for every resident of the United States to be an enumerated power of the Federal government, they would have included it in the Constitution.

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Comments (10)

Not to mention that regulat... (Below threshold)
James H:

Not to mention that regulation of the merchant marine more closely ties to federal responsibilities than Obamacare does.

"And all decisions involvin... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

"And all decisions involving the appropriation of the collected revenues were to be made personally by the President."

So their saying Barry is going to spend all his time on this?

The unspoken assumption bei... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

The unspoken assumption being that government control of our health care is going to improve things. A shaky assumption indeed. Liberals never want to look at the disastrous state models that have already failed. (Thanks so much, Ned McWherter.)

Obamacare 1798 Version: Bl... (Below threshold)

Obamacare 1798 Version: Bloodletting by your barber for everyone!

Obamacare 2011: Wallet-letting for everyone

James H is correct. It is m... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

James H is correct. It is more in line with Veterans Hospitals. Service your country honorably and be taken care of health wise if you so need it. So again Obama is talking out of his arse to the stupid amongst us. ww

When I read this article I ... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

When I read this article I gather that any merchant mariner received the quality of treatment for that era. I don't see any evidence of an intervening board or panel that was regulating treatment decisions by doctors treating the merchant mariner in the designated hospital. It was a nice try on the part of this writer and he probably considers himself clever for even bringing it up. Unfortunately, I don't think John Adams would have ever signed Obamacare. I am sure he would have said 'that a piece of legislation longer that the Constitution is not worth my time' but that's just a guess.

I wasn't thinking of VA hos... (Below threshold)
James H:

I wasn't thinking of VA hospitals. I was thinking more of the fact that merchant marine operates on interstate waterways, giving the federal government a clearer jurisdiction.

The government has been ... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

The government has been enforcing workplace practices that limit exposure to health and safety hazards for forty years, and few would argue that workplace safety is tantamount to socialism.

Maybe it is and maybe it isn't ... but show me where it's authorized in the Constitution. Several of the enumerated powers could indeed be seen as 'socialist,' but that's really not relevant because they are enumerated powers, explicitly granted to Congress. Even the program you're talking about here, though a bit of a stretch, can be seen as within Congress's purview under Article I Section 8 (clauses 3 and 10, if you're curious). But OSHA? Uh-uh. Show me the reasoning.

A healthy workforce certainly enhances the "general welfare" of the nation, which is clearly a responsibility of our government and certainly what Congress and President Adams had in mind back in 1798.

Congratulations, you just handed Barry Lackwit a great argument for LackwitCare's constitutionality. It is, after all, meant to create and support "a healthy workforce," by ensuring that everyone can get medical care when they need it at little or no cost to them.

And when the Bill came t... (Below threshold)
Murgatroyd:

And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it's safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.

Oh? And next year ... will the Obama Administration try to rationalize imposing press censorship and prison time for political opposition on the grounds that President John Adams signed the Sedition Act of 1798, so therefore it must be Constitutional if a Founding Father thought it was a good idea?

Another day, another tool t... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Another day, another tool trying to compare in incomparable. What? Did they finally figure out the car insurance analogy doesn't work?

"And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it's safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind."

Unfortunately it's not at all safe to assume that the current President who signed "ObamaCare" has a grasp on what the framers had in mind, or even what was in the bill. And don't try to tell me he does because there are still far too many blanks to be filled in as the "Secretary deems" necessary.

2400 pages and STILL incomplete.




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