This morning I woke up wondering how on earth the Social Security Act could have come about without an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Wikipedia provides the answer – FDR, packing of the Supreme Court, and “the switch in time that saved nine.” Wonderful. So essentially it’s not constitutional, but the Supreme Court was forced under duress to proclaim it so. This got me thinking, if the democrats are convinced the federal government must provide healthcare for the masses through a government funded single-payer system, do they intend on passing an amendment? I did a little reading on Kerry’s plan – part of which was to expand Federal Employees Health Care Benefits program, and part was to expand Medicaid. Since Medicaid was ruled constitutional by way of the SSA ruling, he might be able to squeak that one through. But expanding FEHCB? I would guess the Supreme Court would ultimately rule it as unconstitutional, and rightly so.
“The United States, in their united or collective capacity, are the OBJECT to which all general provisions in the Constitution must necessarily be construed to refer.” [Emphasis not added]
The general welfare clause, being but a part of a general provision of the Constitution, applies solely to the States “in their united or collective capacity.” If the Constitution had established a social compact or union between the American people, and they were the object of the general powers delegated to the federal government, then it would have been an absurdity to reference the States, in their united capacity, as the object of the general welfare phrase. In addition, if the Constitution had been established for the well being of the American people, then that same people would have been the “whole group” referenced in the general welfare phrase.
Based on the above definitions, Social Security should have been struck down because Congress used a provision of the Constitution that applied to the States, in their united capacity, and unconstitutionally applied it to the people. When Congress inserted the words “[a]n Act to Provide for the General Welfare” at the beginning of the Social Security Act, that body took a clause that granted Congress the power “[t]o lay and collect Taxes… to provide for the… group well being of all the United States” and twisted it into a power that granted Congress the power to tax and appropriate money for the general welfare generally. This was a gross usurpation of power.
I’ve been doing a little more reading on on the 1937 Helvering v. Davis decision. I imagine the proponents of federally sponsored healthcare will attempt to use the same flawed Welfare Clause argument FDR used in justifying a program like this, which is concerning. If passed, the question then becomes will the program be challenged, and if so, will the Supreme Court revisit the original 1937 ruling? It seems there’s a consensus that the ruling was made under duress and was not well founded, which makes me wonder how the Court would rule today. One concern that could surface if Helvering v. Davis is overturned – Social Security could seriously be threatended, which might give the Court pause. I guess it just goes to show how much damage one very overzealous President with very little respect for the Constitution can do.