Commentary: Vote No on Proposition C
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 25, 2010 - In 1789, the people of the United States of America proclaimed:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
With that, we the people formed the federal government to promote the general welfare of the people.
On March 23 of this year, Congress and the president enacted a law that may eventually require some people to buy health insurance and some employers to pay for health insurance for their employees, or pay a fine.
Congress and the president jointly decided that law will promote the general welfare. They may be wrong. That will be decided by the courts. But if they are right, then the health-care law is the law of the nation.
Meanwhile the Missouri Legislature proposed a referendum - Proposition C - that will be on the August ballot. Proposition C would act as if it is repealing the new federal health care law.
I say it is ""acting as if" it is repealing that law, because the Constitution - supported by victory in the Civil War and 200 years of precedent - says that the states may not repeal a federal law.
The Missouri legislators know that a Missouri referendum cannot repeal the federal health care law. Do they want to abolish our system of government? Do they, as the governor of Texas has suggested, want Missouri to cede from the Union? Or are they just grandstanding, appealing to the basest emotions of people who disagree with Congress and the president all the while knowing that this referendum is a vacuous exercise?
I think the latter. And I think that basest of emotion appealed to is greed.
Some 30-year-olds today reject buying health insurance to have more money now. They ignore the fact that in the future they may need health care that they will not be able to afford on their own. They want to be what the economists call "free riders" - do not pay for health insurance now and get health care in 30 years without paying the full cost then.
When we said in the Preamble to the Constitution that we organized our government to "promote the general welfare," we recognized that all citizens of a nation must share with one another. Greed is not a policy option.
In my work, I see many people with disabilities who are doing their best to become productive, wage earning citizens. But many have to rely on Medicaid because they cannot get private insurance. But to get Medicaid they have to remain poor. So they cannot become successful wage earners.
Sometimes Medicaid requirements become so stringent that people like this have to move into nursing homes to assure their care. That makes for a ghastly irony. Their lives can lose all meaning, and the state pays even more than it would if they lived independently.
When the new health care law does away with financial penalties for people with "pre-existing conditions," many more people with disabilities will have a chance to become productive citizens. Many other aspects of the new law will support that same result. The new health care law promotes the general welfare.
True, "general welfare" is a broad concept. What it means in one generation is different from another. There was no concept of sharing the cost of health care in 1789, but then, there was no effective health care in 1789.
To be true to our national spirit, we should reject Proposition C.
David Newburger is commissioner of the disabled for St. Louis.