M. Tetenman: Not in the Constitution

The Sun Journal editorial of Jan. 15, "Founders began the first national health-care plan," misses the point regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate of the health care reform bill.

Nowhere in the Constitution is the authority given to the federal government to compel citizens to purchase a product or service from another person or business.

Congress has the ability and authority to levy taxes on the citizens and, if they so choose, to create a program for health care funded by those taxes. That is not the route they chose to take.

As to the intent of the Founders, it is obvious to any literate person who has read the Constitution that the intent of the Founders was to limit the authority of the federal government.

If you believe, as has been argued by some, that the "common welfare" clause of the Constitution gives the government the right to compel individuals to enter into involuntary transactions with other persons or businesses for any reason, then, logically, there would be no limit to what the federal government could compel us to do.

The Founders also made it clear that they in no way felt the Constitution was a perfect or complete document and left the amendment process to allow changes to the law as times and culture changed. The process is difficult by design to make it difficult to give the federal government more authority and to make sure that we, as a society, agree that the degree of change is of such necessity to change the law of the land.

You need not be a lawyer or constitutional scholar to understand the Constitution. You don't need to "interpret" the Constitution. It says what it says and if you don't like what it says, by all means begin the process clearly laid out in the document to initiate the changes you seek.

Do it the right way and you will have a lot more support from people of all walks of life, not just those who consider saying something because it is politically to their benefit.

Marc Tetenman, Wilson, Wyo.

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Jason Theriault's picture

Wrong Marc.

First off, the founders, much like us, were divided about the power of Government. Federalist, like George Washington and John Adams, wanted a powerful Federal Government. This was because the government under the Articles of Confederation was so weak that it was useless. However, democrats like Jefferson were worried about excessive power, and wanted defined limits placed on Government.

Secondly, re-read the Constitution. It grants powers, but DOESN'T limit the Government's power. The limits come from the Amendments. That is where Jefferson made his mark.

Third, the government isn't forcing you to own insurance. You just have to pay a fine if your don't. The government doesn't make you buy clothes, but will fine/arrest you for being out in public without them.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

And the fine becomes just

And the fine becomes just another means of confiscatory taxation.CMP is not forcing people to accept smart meters; they only extort you with exhorbitant fees if you don't. Liberalism is eroding the very foundations of freedom.

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .Thanks , Jason 12.01.20

. .Thanks , Jason 12.01.20 ? 12:45 Ma'ui time
Many people who talk about Constitutions have never read or tried to draft one . i have . b t w - an interesting aspect of good Constitutions is the ability of most any legitimate population to call for Constitutional conventions ( a " ConCon ") on most any level , be it local , town , city , county , state or on the federal level to review , revisit , redraft that particular Constitution , e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Russia#History
/s, Steve Dosh

 's picture

A national con-con in the USA ...

... would result in a piece of garbage like the EU constitution - about the size of the Manhattan phonebook and a lot less readable. Note that I did not spell that word with a capital "C". It doesn't deserve the honor.

Dosh, aside from the strength of tissue paper, what other aspects make a "good" constitution?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

The U.S. Constitution is not

The U.S. Constitution is not intended to be redrafted like a letter to the editor. That's what constitutional amendments are for.

 's picture

The amendments clearly say ...

... that any right not explicitly enumerated to the federal government is reserved to the states or the people. It's an ongoing discussion on limits of those enumerated rights.

If you don't buy the insurance, you pay a fine in the form of a tax. If it didn't have this obfuscation and it was paid for through taxes, we wouldn't have this Constitutional debate blurring the real issues.

Joe Morin's picture

Keep going with it Jason.

The government isn't forcing you to own they will just fine you. If you do not pay the fine for not having health insurance they will incarcerate you. So... you are right. You don't have to purchase it but you do if you want to be a free person.

 's picture

And that amounts to extortion

You don't have to pay the mob guy that comes to collect "protection" money, unless you want your legs broken.


A tax?

Call it whatever you want, everybody who has health insurance or gets medical care is already paying this tax. Whenever someone goes to the hospital or the doctor and has no ability to pay it gets added to everybody's health care costs and insurance premiums. The only thing the law does is make the tax equitable and brings accountability to health care costs. We have the most expensive health care in the civilized world and not the best by far. Since I am already forced to pay for this tar baby, I think the government has a duty to bring costs under control and insuring everyone is the only viable answer. People can either pay for it out of their salary or out of their taxes either way everyone needs to pay their fair share.

Joe Morin's picture

In theory Claire

it MIGHT work but the catch to you logic is that 48% of households in the U.S. are a net loss for the Federal income tax revenues. Meaning that they receive more from the government is tax breaks and subsidies than they pay in. Under the same type of governance those people would be exempt from the cost and would have government subsideized healthcare. Ohhhh....well, it has to be paid for right?? Either, yes in the form of a tax, fee, penalty, charge ( Washington has all kinds of synonyms for the word tax) or not pay for it at all and catapult our deficit spending.


Deficit spending

I am very sure that all the economists who have studied the health care law as it is written have said that it will not add to the deficit. If you eliminate the individual mandate, however, then the costs are huge. I'm sure that's what all the hue and cry about the constitutionality of it is all about. If you can show the so called "Obamacare law" creates a deficit then you can get rid of it and the health care industry can go back to its profligate ways with no controls on cost or quality. Solving the problem of the uninsured is only a small part of the whole rotten mess we call our health care system. There will also need to be tort reform, and the cost of educating a doctor will have to be addressed and the question of elective procedures and of course the big one, women's health needs. A lot of folks have a finger in this pie so it will be contentious for a long time. As far as I'm concerned it's only a first step. That's what is really scaring people.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"I am very sure that all the

"I am very sure that all the economists who have studied the health care law as it is written have said that it will not add to the deficit." And, "nuclear power will be so inexpensive, it will be almost too cheap to meter". Remember that one?

Joe Morin's picture


If you believe all that Claire. Then research CBO score. It excludes the $115 billion needed to implement the law ... double-counts $521 billion in Social Security payroll taxes, CLASS Act premiums, and Medicare cuts ... strips a costly doc-fix provision that was included in initial score ... measures 10 years of revenues to offset 6 years of new spending ... chief actuary of the Medicare program who is supposed to provide the official health-care cost projections for the administration has contradicted the CBO assertion.
They need the individual mandate because part of their projections are based around forcing young, healthy, unwilling citizens into healthcare programs. Tort reform is a good idea and so is allowing more healthcare providers to compete across state borders. For instance, here in Maine we have what? 2-3 private healthcare options, while New Hampshire they have near a dozen? If I had private health insurance in N.H. I would pay less than half the premiums. Ironic that it's the commerce clause regualting inter-state commerce that supposedly justifies Obamacare. I agree healthcare needs to improve but this monstrosity that counts for 1/6 of the economy being centralized in Washington is a nightmare. They cooked the books Claire...remember Nancy Pelosi??? We'll have to pass it to find out whats in it. BUT you have in the past articulated your lack of concern over national debt, so I guess you would endorse it regardless.


What I believe

I'm in no position to decide whether the actuary or the CBO is better at guessing (and that's what all these projections are). As for forcing healthy young people to have health insurance I say they should. They are precisely the ones wrapping their motocycles around a telephone pole with no helmet and no health insurance because they aren't sick leaving the rest of us with their million dollar health care bill. And even if they don't they will get older and someday need health care or have babies who will need it. It seems inconsistent to me to see a national health care program as a bad thing but interstate health care as desirable. If anything will standardize rates it will be a national program. If the health care program counts for 1/6 of the economy, I have to wonder if you added up all the doctor, hospital, pharmaceutical, medical equipment, nursing home, therapeutic, psychiatric and health insurance bills being paid in this country what fraction of the national budget it would cover. I'm betting it would be a whopper. Right wing radio loves that remark by Nancy Pelosi but I'm pretty sure it is taken out of context. As I recall it referred to the many last minute changes that occurred in the bill but not to the bill as a whole. I don't think this law will be carved in stone. It will be amended as better solutions are found but you need something substantial to change something as far reaching as national health care.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Pelosi's statement needs no

Pelosi's statement needs no context; she said it--plain and simple.

 's picture

Obama invited this argument.

If he and the unknown authors of ObamaCare had made it a tax instead of a mandate, we wouldn't be talking about it. But we are and it's a useful diversion from the real issue: The act is a wealth sucking, job destroying, abomination.

But, as you say, call it what you like. It can work, technically, only if everyone participates - including unions and their members, the military, and the young - with absolutely no exemptions. Anything else just perpetuates the system where one class subsidizes the other.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You left out the Senate,

You left out the Senate, Congress, the Holy, oops, I mean the First Family. They also should all be required to accept the same crappy coverage as the rest of us. But everyone knows that won't happen.

 's picture


Another constitutional scholar, sure are a lot of them. Tell me, how many times is the word gun used in the constitution?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Probably the same number of

Probably the same number of times as the word "abortion" is.

 's picture


How do we know the founding fathers meant guns? The constitution doesn't say guns. Maybe they meant dull rusty butter knives.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It's really hard to take you

It's really hard to take you seriously on that one, Lil...The parrot sez that the 'right to bear arms' means that it's o.k. to wear short sleeve shirts. Now, before you go poking merciless fun at him, remember one thing; he's a liberal-one of you.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

The words

The words "the right to bear arms" appear ad last i knew guns were arms.

Jason Theriault's picture


It's not in the Constitution. It's in the Second Amendment.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Are we now to debate whether

Are we now to debate whether amendments to the Constitution become part of the constitution?

 's picture

A brief interlude with Google ...

... reveals that Mr. Tetenman used to live in Maine and recently moved to Wyoming. It happens a lot. It's called "escaping". I'm sure someone as internet-savvy as Breton could easily find the same information, but it's not as much fun as acusing someone of shilling.

The commerce clause gives Congress the right to regulate existing commerce among states, but it does not give the right to create new commerce to regulate. The individual mandate is a tax, but Obama and Democrats are afraid to let that truth out because ObamaCare would be even less popular than it already is.

Again Breton could find the same information, but it's more fun to pretend the Constitution means whatever he wants it to mean. I suppose it's easy to succumb to that delusion for someone who has never read it.

ERNEST LABBE's picture


the last time I checked the state of Wyoming was covered by the same constitution as the other 49 states are. If I am wrong please explain how.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Even the parrot was able to

Even the parrot was able to figure out that Mr. Tetenman was a former Lewiston resident.


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