Wealth and Universal Health Coverage

In a recent trip to South Dakota, Senator Tim Johnson made the following statement:

That is a shame and a shock that this country, as rich as it is, does not have universal health coverage.

Let’s take it apart and put it back together as a standard syllogism.

  1. Rich countries should provide universal health coverage.
  2. The United States of America is a rich country.
  3. The United States of America should provide universal health care coverage.

That first line presupposes that material wealth brings with it a responsibility. I would agree that those who have money have a responsibility to use it wisely and yes, lovingly to the betterment of their fellow human beings. People who have money–not governments.

The second line in this syllogism displays a lack of understanding of riches/wealth and who holds it. We are not a classic monarchy of the European sort which held that the king really owned everything and just let the people use it for specified reasons. Were we a country where the government owned everything (such as under communism in the old Soviet Union), it could perhaps be said that we are a rich country. Here’s the thing, we as a country do have incredible wealth in comparison to many other countries the world round. But that wealth is held by individuals, not the country/government itself.

In fact, when we look at the liquid wealth which is held by the government, it is negative. At the national level, it is negative to the tune of 12 to 13 trillion dollars. Add in the state governments and that number grows by hundreds of billions of dollars. Yes, the various governments “own” land, buildings, etc which might offset those values. The problem is that those things are held in trust for the citizens and do not exactly work out as disposable assets–as they would in the case of a corporation. Many different levels of government don’t like this fact, but under a Republic it is the way things are.

It just may be that we are quickly falling out of the second line in that syllogism, as well.

Now, we are down to the final line of the syllogism. Even if the first and second lines were to be true, there is something which would preclude the last line from following the others in a logical progression: the rule of law.

Our federal and state governments are to follow their several constitutions. Though I am not familiar with all of the state constitutions in detail, I do know that the national one must be seriously contorted to wrest from it any mandate for universal health coverage. Of course, our elected officials are so far from worrying about such matters that:

When CNSNews.com asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday where the Constitution authorized Congress to order Americans to buy health insurance–a mandate included in both the House and Senate versions of the health care bill–Pelosi dismissed the question by saying: “Are you serious? Are you serious?”

Yes ma’am, we are serious. Further, we see no requirement in the Constitution that anyone be provided health coverage by dipping into the national coffers (or forcing any one of us to break our own piggy banks).

Senator Johnson, it is a shame and a shock, sir, that you do not understand that the basis for the bills you vote to pass should not be your feelings, emotions, pressure brought to bear by your fellows in the Senate, or even what other countries do. No, sir, the basis for the bills you vote into law should be no less than our Constitution and the principles of governance set forth therein.