Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


“An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.”
January 20, 2011 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance – In 1798
posted by cthuljew (48 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
As tempting as it is to throw this vision of the founding fathers crap right back at em, I don't think engaging in "more fundamentalist than though" is a good road to go down.
posted by stbalbach at 8:17 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obviously unamerican traitors.
posted by kafziel at 8:21 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As tempting as it is to throw this vision of the founding fathers crap right back at em, I don't think engaging in "more fundamentalist than though" is a good road to go down.
I don't understand how something like this is being "more fundamentalist than thou".

Do you think it's better to accede to a lie that they're using to attempt to get rid of health care, rather than point out that it's a lie?
posted by Flunkie at 8:21 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


As one of the local commenters observes:

The act was approved by Congress on July 16, 1798. Just TWO DAYS EARLIER, on July 14, that same Congress approved the Alien and Sedition Acts, which Adams likewise accepted and signed. Jefferson–himself not a drafter of the U.S. Constitution but no slouch in the ConLaw department–denounced it as unconstitutional, and used it against Adams to win the Presidency in 1800.

The myth that this bit of history should dispel is not that the Founders would have agreed with the ersatz Tea Partiers of today, but that they couldn’t even reach agreement among the original Tea Partiers as to what the Constitution meant.

posted by kid ichorous at 8:22 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


As tempting as it is to throw this vision of the founding fathers crap right back at em, I don't think engaging in "more fundamentalist than though" is a good road to go down.

I don't understand how you can possible read that article and get that impression of it. The Right says HCR is bad because Congress doesn't have that power. The authors of the Constitution thought that Congress had the power. Therefore, this objection to HCR is BS. Where do you get that there is anything "fundamentalist" about this argument?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:23 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


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.

Actually the text [pdf] reads a a payroll tax, collected by the government and then spent on providing healthcare, which is slightly different than a directive to purchase private health coverage through an established private insurance company.

Although if you think about it, this line of argument pursued by conservatives is deeply counterproductive to their cause of eliminating government provided healthcare. If an individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional, this Seaman Act, Medicare, etc are unquestionable valid exercises of the tax and spend power. All Congress has to do is rephrase the individual mandate as a tax collection earmarked for health costs and boom, problem solved. The most direct way to do that would be single payer expansion of Medicare for all.

Now of course Congress probably wouldn't do that for any number of reasons, at least not any concievable Congress within today's political environment...but logically the Teabagger coalition is tilting at some rather precarious windmills.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:23 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, the law at that time required only merchant sailors to purchase health care coverage. Thus, one could argue that nobody was forcing anyone to become a merchant sailor and, therefore, they were not required to purchase health care coverage unless they chose to pursue a career at sea.

However, this is no different than what we are looking at today.

Each of us has the option to turn down employment that would require us to purchase private health insurance under the health care reform law.

Would that be practical? Of course not – just as it would have been impractical for a man seeking employment as a merchant sailor in 1798 to turn down a job on a ship because he would be required by law to purchase health care coverage.



You won't find a bigger supporter of public health care than me, but this is a big enough logical hole to drive a bus through.
posted by cromagnon at 8:26 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


We'll see in a minute.. ;)
posted by wierdo at 8:26 AM on January 20, 2011


Wow the comments were Godwined withing like 4 posts.
posted by spicynuts at 8:30 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem the Right has with Socialized Medicine is that it's called "socialized" - stop contaminating our argument about words with your "facts" and "logic"! It's socialized and that's bad, because the words the Founding Fathers used is more important than their intent. There's nothing in "An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen" that uses the phrase "socialized medicine", so it must be OK. If Alexander Hamilton had called it 'socialized medicine', well, then the Right might have a complaint.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:32 AM on January 20, 2011


.As tempting as it is to throw this vision of the founding fathers crap right back at em, I don't think engaging in "more fundamentalist than though" is a good road to go down.

It's called precedent.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on January 20, 2011


Why do Americans call it "socialized" healthcare?

Maybe you're trying to take back the word, but it's not working. It just sounds stupid.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 8:40 AM on January 20, 2011


Why do Americans call it "socialized" healthcare?

"We" don't. Opponents to single-payer healthcare use that word because they think it means "evil".
posted by muddgirl at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I agree with cromagnon - the goals are quite different. The 1798 Act was to ensure that the new nation could maintain a merchant fleet to continue trading with the rest of the world. Hamper the fleet, and trade is limited, doing damage to the new nation.

The current health care bill mandates that everyone assist the "insurance pool" to reduce the strain on insurance companies paying to cover individuals when they actually need coverage. This is not for the good of the nation, as it was in 1798, but to lessen the economic burdens on insurance companies. And in 1798, the government was providing health care to privately employed sailors, not paying 3rd parties to insure non-government employees.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's nothing in "An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen" that uses the phrase "socialized medicine", so it must be OK.

There's nothing in PPACA that uses the phrase "socialized medicine," either.
posted by The World Famous at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2011


It's probably time to start calling the opposition to "socialized ___" by its proper name. We're all born innocent babies and have to be told what's right and what's wrong; we have to be socialized. Those who aren't? We rightly call them anti-social.
posted by explosion at 8:42 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


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.

That's absurd. No, he didn't. The only people in the entire world who have a firm grasp of what the framers had in mind are John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, Joe the Plumber, Pamela Geller, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, Michele Bachmann, Victoria Jackson, and the health-care industry lobbyists.
posted by blucevalo at 8:43 AM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why do Americans call it "socialized" healthcare?

Because we're conditioned to call any non-military use of the government "socialism", i.e., "communism", i.e. "Stalinism", i.e., "Nazi Hitler death panels stealing our old people's organs to feed to our Kenyan President."
posted by dirigibleman at 8:46 AM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


The current health care bill mandates that everyone assist the "insurance pool" to reduce the strain on insurance companies paying to cover individuals when they actually need coverage. This is not for the good of the nation, as it was in 1798, but to lessen the economic burdens on insurance companies.

That's the first good reason against the proposals that I've heard. But it also sounds like something that a right-wing powerbase would have got behind. So I'm guessing it's not the whole truth...
posted by londonmark at 8:50 AM on January 20, 2011


Why do Americans call it "socialized" healthcare?

Because our social studies courses are traditionally taught by football coaches, is my theory.
posted by padraigin at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2011 [32 favorites]


There's nothing in PPACA that uses the phrase "socialized medicine," either.

That's not what the angry guy on the radio told me.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:12 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What angry guy on the radio said that the phrase "socialized medicine" appears in the text of the statute? I think you're just making stuff up. There are plenty of legitimate things to criticize right-wing pundits about. You don't have to make up false ones.
posted by The World Famous at 9:16 AM on January 20, 2011


I like that they managed to pass laws back then in 500 words or less.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 9:29 AM on January 20, 2011


I hate it when left-wing rags like Forbes undermine my talking points AND my lawsuits.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:30 AM on January 20, 2011


empath wrote: "It's called precedent."

Precedent is just something made up by activist judges, donchaknow?
posted by wierdo at 9:33 AM on January 20, 2011


The authors of the Constitution thought that Congress had the power.

As kid ichorous points out, some of the authors of the constitution thought that Congress could outlaw "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" against the government.

And in fairness, there were those, such as Jefferson, who believed the Sedition Act unconstitutional. What did they propose to do about it? They thought a state legislature could simply refuse to abide by a federal law which the state deemed unconstitutional.

"If the Founding Fathers did it, it must be constitutional" is a lose-lose argument for the left. Agree with the Federalists, and you give Congress the power to enact restrictions on liberties far worse than anything in the USA PATRIOT Act. Or agree with the Democratic-Republicans, and states that don't like health care reform don't even have to bother with the mess of challenging it in court, they can just vote to ignore it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:35 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is rather insane.

The masters or owners of ships "arriving from a foreign port" are taxed. This is international trade. The regulation of international trade is in the enumerated powers of the Congress.

If the PPACA imposed a tax on people involved in international trade for their relief and for the support of hospitals, he'd have a point. It doesn't and he doesn't.
posted by Jahaza at 9:36 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"This is not for the good of the nation, as it was in 1798, but to lessen the economic burdens on insurance companies."

*cough* Having an insured populace is for the good of the nation, economically, politically and ethically. I'd love single-payer too, but I'd prefer half a sandwich to going hungry.
posted by klangklangston at 9:59 AM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know what the Founding Father's would've done? Repealed the Senate.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2011


Jahaza:

Given that the minimum coverage provision bears a close and substantial relationship to the regulation of the interstate healthcare market, Congress can require minimum coverage pursuant to the Constitution’s Necessary and Proper Clause. In a landmark decision studied by every law student, the Supreme Court in 1819 explained that the Necessary and Proper clause confirmed Congress’s broad authority to enact laws beyond the strict confines of its other enumerated powers: “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end” are lawful, the Court wrote. Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that Congress, in regulating the national marketplace, can reach matters that when viewed in isolation may not seem to affect interstate commerce.

Over 100 Law Professors Agree on Affordable Care Act’s Constitutionality: “…there can be no serious doubt about the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision.”
posted by gerryblog at 10:02 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a big difference though, the premiums were paid to the government, whereas with HCR the premiums go directly to private companies, who can skim up to 20% for "administrative" purposes.
posted by delmoi at 10:06 AM on January 20, 2011


The masters or owners of ships "arriving from a foreign port" are taxed. This is international trade. The regulation of international trade is in the enumerated powers of the Congress.

You seem to have focused on the wrong thing Congress has the right to law all kinds of taxes. The way that it is spent what is interesting here.

...and the president of the United States is hereby authorized, out of the same, to provide for the temporary relief and maintenance of sick, or disabled seamen, in the hospitals or other proper institutions now established in the several ports of the United States, or in ports where no such institutions exist, then in such other manner as he shall direct:Provided, that the moneys collected in any one district, shall be expended within the same.

How is that "regulation of international trade"?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:09 AM on January 20, 2011


Why do Americans call it "socialized" healthcare?

Well, here's the thing about people. The average person has a working vocabulary of something like 1000 words. And a lot of those words are actually groups of words, like "intents and purposes." How often do you use the word intent in the plural? Answer: probably never, except for that one phrase. Generally speaking,* human beings are lazy thinkers and express their scattered thoughts* in strung-together* cliches.

If you can control the language people use, you can shape the thoughts they put together (see also: newspeak). Americans call "it" socialized because that's the term that's used in the TV they watch at night and the radio they listen to on the drive into work and the magazines on the toilet and front-page posts they read here on MeFi.

* See, there's another one.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:11 AM on January 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


How is that "regulation of international trade"?

I don't think it's all that difficult to argue that the individuals characterized as "seamen . . . in the several ports of the United States" are generally part of international trade.
posted by The World Famous at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2011


How is that "regulation of international trade"?

Because the seamen of 3-5 are the same seamen of 1-2. That was my point. It's foreign merchant trade and the people that carry it out which are being affected.

Gerryblog, the letter was just published on the 18th (and is hard to find on their web site). Once it gets pick-up and discussion, I bet you'll be able to find 100 law professors who think it's not constitutional. So far twenty-six state attorneys general have joined the law suit in Florida challenging it.
posted by Jahaza at 10:25 AM on January 20, 2011


Because the seamen of 3-5 are the same seamen of 1-2. That was my point. It's foreign merchant trade and the people that carry it out which are being affected.

So, just because these seamen participated in international trade, that licenses the Congress to pass any law that involves them as regulation of international trade? This is a highly specious argument. I don't see how caring for sick seamen, after they've arrived at port, is regulation of international trade. Tariffs and duties, yes. Import restrictions, yes. But caring for sick sailors? That's a real stretch, I think.

What's interesting about this argument is it seems to lead to the same broad interpretation of the Constitution that conservatives like to avoid. Like, that the commerce clause can justify pretty much anything, because hey, what doesn't affect interstate commerce, right?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:49 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Opinion piece from the NEJM on the constitutionality of Affordable Care Act and thoughts on how the current Supreme Court may interpret it.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:08 AM on January 20, 2011


And a lot of those words are actually groups of words, like "intents and purposes." How often do you use the word intent in the plural?

And even then a lot of average people will probably tell you that phrase is "intensive purposes."
posted by girih knot at 11:11 AM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It was really interesting to listen to the question and answer bit on NPR last night about the repeal vote, and see just how many people are woefully misinformed (often intentionally by their employers) about what the mandate does and does not do. The number of people making moronic arguments about the health care law costing jobs seems insanely high, and I was surprised at the number of putative conservatives who were willing to act against the interests of their business in order to attempt to game the system. (It's like when I hear people saying that they'll lose money by getting a raise into a higher bracket, because they don't understand that income tax is progressive.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:17 AM on January 20, 2011


“An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.”

I thought this was gonna be about funding male infertility research.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:35 AM on January 20, 2011


@Civil_Disobedient: I take a bit of issue with what you said... hearing words in contexts like the ones you listed are how we learn the names of everything and how we learn new words meanings. It really has little to do with newspeak which tried to control thought by controlling language via banning the use of certain words or phrases. "Socialized medicine" is a misnomer to be sure and there is a strong possibility that people who think "socialized" = "evil" and learn the new phrase "socialized medicine" will consider it an evil thing. This is obviously the intended pupose of the phrase but it's no more similar to newspeak as any other misnomer.

/derail
(Apologies for any typos, typed on my phone)
posted by shesdeadimalive at 11:39 AM on January 20, 2011


shesdeadimalive: But a lot of phrases like that are spun deliberately by pundits and politicians to market ideas how they want the public to receive them. Instead of genuinely debating and going deeply into huge political issues, we're encouraged to grasp onto buzzwords with a few talking points attached. It's a disingenuous way to effectively trick people into voting against their own interests.
posted by girih knot at 12:13 PM on January 20, 2011


Here's a fun new conservative anti-health talking point: Michelle Obama is causing more pedestrian deaths by encouraging people to walk more.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:32 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate wrote: "Agree with the Federalists, and you give Congress the power to enact restrictions on liberties far worse than anything in the USA PATRIOT Act. Or agree with the Democratic-Republicans, and states that don't like health care reform don't even have to bother with the mess of challenging it in court, they can just vote to ignore it."

That analysis blatantly ignores more recent amendments to the Constitution.
posted by wierdo at 12:56 PM on January 20, 2011


girih knot: I totally agree. Like I said, it's obviously intended to have that effect on a certain subset of the population. The "socialized" is a buzzword which associates universal healthcare with evil but it does NOT shape the way those people think in that those people are thereby prevented from thinking about universal healthcare. It simply discourages them from thinking any further about what universal healthcare would really be. It is, ostensibly, a lie. It is intentional misinformation, but it isn't a means of controlling our thoughts the way newspeak (fictionally) was. It's spin. It's disingenuous but it's not thought control.

/derail, seriously this time.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 4:02 PM on January 20, 2011


They call it socialized medicine because that's what it has been called in the past. Reagan was trolling around in the '60s, talking to ladies afternoon tea clubs, scaring them about the horrors of socialized medicine. "How would you like it if some bureaucrat in Washington told you that your husband the doctor would have to move to Detroit if he wanted to keep his job? That's what this plan would do!"
posted by gjc at 6:15 PM on January 20, 2011


This bill doesn't seem to mandate health insurance as I read it - it mandates a payroll tax, and mandates how that tax is spent. Kinda like Medicare, or dropping bombs on Whereveristan. Also, I'm not sure I'd present a law passed by the Congress that brought us the Alien and Sedition acts as a useful precedent, even if it had passed a law forcing people to purchase a service.
posted by simms2k at 7:51 PM on January 20, 2011


heh. "Seamen."
posted by grubi at 9:56 AM on January 21, 2011


« Older "There was a night, maybe sometime around 1993, wh...  |  Well, the Poe toaster didn't ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments