January 28, 2011


Newsflash: Founders favored "government run health care"

By Greg Sargent

Forbes writer Rick Ungar is getting some attention for a piece arguing that history shows that John Adams supported a strong Federal role in health care. Ungar argues that Adams even championed an early measure utilizing the concept behind the individual mandate, which Tea Partyers say is unconstitutional.

I just ran this theory past a professor of history who specializes in the early republic, and he said there's actually something to it. Short version: There's no proof from the historical record that Adams would have backed the idea behind the individual mandate in particular. But it is fair to conclude, the professor says, that the founding generation supported the basic idea of government run health care, and the use of mandatory taxation to pay for it.

Here's the background. Ungar points out that in July of 1798, Congress passed "An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seaman," which was signed by President Adams. That law authorized the creation of a government operated system of marine hospitals and mandated that laboring merchant marine sailors pay a tax to support it.

Quite a few Tea Party spokesheads have rather badly misused our Founders in their misdirected effort promoting one pet argument or another (witness Balloon Head Barbie's recent song and dance that even mainstream GOPers seemed to reject.)

While the Ungar piece and Sargent's follow-up perhaps aren't a complete debunk of the anti-healthcare reform argument, it certainly pokes holes. 

Thanks to Valerie!