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We Must Establish a Constitutional Right to Health Care

The absence of health care as a right is costing taxpayers billions.
 
 
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Today's economic crisis, and the federal government's response, is like putting a finger in the dike to avert a major catastrophe -- possibly even a depression.

 

But as quickly as we plug one leak, another springs forth.

Congress is seeking to avoid deflation by pumping up public confidence and economic demand to encourage consumers who have lost faith and are operating on a psychology of fear. Most immediately and importantly, the credit crunch and consumer withdrawal is affecting the automotive industry. Millions of jobs and thousand of related suppliers are at stake if the auto industry fails, or if Congress fails to act. If this iconic sector collapses it's likely the American people will feel even greater economic pain over a more protracted period of time than is currently anticipated.

The truth is $25 billion may not be enough to save the auto industry. Worse, other troubled economic institutions may soon surface needing help. At some point Congress is going to run out of enough fingers, toes and elbows to plug the holes in our economic dike.

President Barack Obama will soon have to make a judgment to reform the nation's "wall" if he is, as he so often says, to build a more perfect union. The wall I refer to is the U. S. Constitution.

Candidate Obama said he can't bring the change we need on his own. He needs the American people to stay actively involved. At noon on January 20, he will say the following, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." If Barack Obama is going to be a truly transformative President I suggest he also can't bring the change we need, and he wants, with the Constitution as it is.

The Constitution is the wall that surrounds everything within it. The current wall consists of material from two central sources: a supreme law and the free enterprise system. The Constitution gives direction and authority to Congress, the president, federal agencies and to the states (under the Tenth Amendment). It is this sacred document that also grants the free market, our laissez-faire capitalist system, the legal authority to operate.

The First Amendment illustrates the interaction between these two wall-building materials -- the public and the private sides. That familiar amendment states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. That's it! The Constitution doesn't say USA Today, New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Defender, AM, FM, Satellite Radio, Newsweek, Time, Channels 2, 5, 7, or 9, PBS or CNN. Nor does it state cell phones, i-phones, the internet, and on-and-on. So, while it's impossible to truly determine the economic impact of the First Amendment, the Constitution clearly has a major impact to our nation's economic vitality.

Because our current economic crisis is forcing us to think outside the box, one topic worthy of renewed discussion is health care. What if the Constitution said: "All citizens shall enjoy the right to health care of equal high quality and the Congress shall have the power to implement this article by appropriate legislation?"

Beyond the obvious benefits of greater and better health care itself, imagine the economic consequences: thousands of doctors and nurses being trained; new medical colleges established and older ones expanded; increased medical research; a massive preventive health care industry springing up; new hospitals in needy urban and rural areas with the private sector, federal, state, county and local governments all working cooperatively under the authority granted by the Constitution and Congress.

 
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