Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bachmann, Hannity, The US Constitution And The Federalist Papers

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann charges that:
"It is not within our power as members of Congress, it’s not within the enumerated powers of the Constitution, for us to design and create a national takeover of health care. Nor is it within our ability to be able to delegate that responsibility to the executive."

Bachmann is wrong about the congressional authority. What can promote the general welfare of the people more than health care. Article I section 8 if the US Constitution says:

"Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States"

That seems vaguely clear enough to me. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress clears it up really well:

"Bachmann, however, is wrong about both the contents of the health care plan and the requirements of the Constitution. There is nothing in any of the health care bills under consideration which resembles a 'national takeover of health care.' Conservatives like to use this language when referring to the public health option. Like other insurers, the public option would collect premiums from people who choose to buy into it, and then spend those premiums to insure these participants.

Had Bachmann bothered to read Article I of the Constitution before going on Fox, she would have learned that Congress has the power to 'lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises" and to 'provide for….the general welfare of the United States.' Rather than itemizing specific subject matters, such as health care, which Congress is allowed to spend money on, the framers chose instead to give Congress a broad mandate to spend money in ways that promote the 'general welfare.'"

On another issue of our form of government. In the video Sean Hannity says a congressman will vote for health care reform even if some of his constituents don't want him to. Hannity goes to say that he always thought that the job of a congressman was to represent his district. I know that this is a common thought and an understandable one, but it is not true by the constitution or by other founding documents.

Article I does not go into detail that a representative is simply a proxy for his constituents or what method should be utilized for deciding how to vote on legislation.

James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 10
was concerned with the power of factions to influence laws and how to control for faction whether they be a majority faction of minority faction. Madison understands that the problem of faction can not be removed for society. He writes:
"CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS"
He continued:
"The effect of the first difference is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people. The question resulting is, whether small or extensive republics are more favorable to the election of proper guardians of the public weal; and it is clearly decided in favor of the latter by two obvious considerations:

In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.

In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.

Madison believes that the representatives are not the proxies for the people but a filter for the public's views that may be more consonant "to the public good" than the voice of the people themselves. It can debated whether the current health care proposals are for the public good but it is does not debatable that congress can pass reform legislation even if a faction of constituents are against it.

The constitution limits the power of the branches of government to the delimited areas but doe it also limit the power of the populous in the process of legislating? It seems that the founders wanted it that way. Maybe Hannity should get a copies of both documents and share them with Representative Bachmann.

A digression:

In going back to the Federalist Paper #10 this evening I came across this line:
"No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time; yet what are many of the most important acts of legislation, but so many judicial determinations, not indeed concerning the rights of single persons, but concerning the rights of large bodies of citizens?"
Is Madison against lobbying? I think so.
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Slotcarbob said...

Congress IS obligated to provide health care. Please read Article 1 Section 6 paragraph 1:
"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;". Now, look up the word "welfare". Voila!

Slotcarbob said...

Excuse me, that was Article 8

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