When it comes to repealing and replacing Obamacare, defenders of President Barack Obama's signature domestic law constantly ask, "What about those with pre-existing illnesses?"
After all, the most popular feature of Obamacare is that it prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage because an applicant has a pre-existing illness. And President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan insist that those with pre-existing conditions will be covered. But by agreeing with Obama on the issue of pre-existing illnesses, by promising to replace Obamacare "with something better," Republicans are making a massive concession: That access to health care insurance should be guaranteed by the federal government, and that denying people coverage based on their health history is unfair and should be prevented by law.
That's a lot for the supposedly limited-government party to buy into. Free markets are the best way to improve quality, accessibility and affordability. But by campaigning to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, by refusing to make the case that free markets beat government-controlled health care, they've done just that. So the question now simply becomes who pays and how much.
When did health insurance become a right?
Did the Founding Fathers, under Article I, Section 8, grant the federal government the power and duty to ensure "universal health care coverage"? The answer is no, and there are many historical examples that prove it.
Economist Walter Williams writes of Presidents James Madison, Franklin Pierce and Grover Cleveland, and how they quoted the Constitution to turn away congressional attempts to spend money when the federal government is not authorized to do so.
James Madison, known as the "father of the Constitution," opposed a 1792 bill that would appropriate $15,000 for French refugees. Madison said, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
Some argued that the Constitution allows for benevolent spending under the general-welfare clause. Not so, said Madison: "With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers (enumerated in the Constitution) connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
Later presidents understood this. President Pierce, in 1854, vetoed a bill meant to help the mentally ill, saying, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity." To approve such spending, he said, "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded."
In 1887, President Cleveland vetoed a bill to send money to drought-stricken counties in Texas, saying: "I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan to indulge in benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds. ... I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution."
This brings us back to the issue of those with pre-existing illnesses. Before Obamacare, 35 states had "high-risk pools" so that their residents with pre-existing illnesses could get non-group health insurance. But what about states that don't have high-risk pools? And even in states that do, some people will not be able to afford it, even at a reduced and subsidized price. What to do?
The answer is charity.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who spent months studying America in the 19th century, wrote this about America's charitable spirit: "Americans group together to hold fetes, found seminaries, build inns, construct churches, distribute books, dispatch missionaries to the antipodes. They establish hospitals, prisons, schools by the same method. Finally, if they wish to highlight a truth or develop an opinion by the encouragement of a great example, they form an association."
As for why Americans donate so much to charity, Tocqueville considered it a matter of enlightened self-interest: "American moralists do not claim that one must sacrifice oneself for one's fellows because it is a fine thing to do but they are bold enough to say that such sacrifices are as necessary to the man who makes them as to those gaining from them. ... They do not, therefore, deny that every man can pursue his own self-interest but they turn themselves inside out to prove that it is in each man's interest to be virtuous. ... Enlightened self-love continually leads them to help one another and inclines them to devote freely a part of their time and wealth to the welfare of the state."
Life is not fair. But it is unfair to assume that an America without a government-provided safety net would turn its backs on the less fortunate. Charity is in America's DNA.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com. Follow Larry on Twitter @larryelder.
A rough translation of Maryland's state motto is "Strong Deeds, Gentle Words." In the case of a 14-year-old girl who was recently raped in a restroom at Rockville High School by two males students, both immigrants, one facing a deportation hearing, that motto in practice has been reversed.
The police report of the incident is so graphic that it cannot be printed in full, but the facts are these: Henry Sanchez, 18, a Guatemala native who has a pending "alien removal" case against him, and 17-year-old Jose Montano, who came to America from El Salvador eight months ago, have been charged with first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual offenses.
The two are alleged to have dragged the 14-year-old girl into a boy's restroom where they raped her after she repeatedly screamed "no."
Compounding the physical and possible long-term psychological damage to the girl is the response of school authorities and state legislators.
A letter sent to parents from Rockville High School officials said, "Ensuring a safe, secure and welcoming learning environment for all of our students is a top priority. Our staff remains vigilant in the monitoring of our school each and every day."
Among the many questions that should be asked is why Sanchez and Montano -- both old enough to be seniors -- were placed in a freshman class in the first place? They were given a translator to help them understand what the teacher said in English, but the word that describes that ludicrous decision is easily understood in both English and Spanish -- "estupido."
Equally "stupid" is a bill in the legislature that would declare Maryland a "sanctuary state." If it passes and survives a likely veto by Gov. Larry Hogan, it would shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration laws. The Republican leader in the House of Delegates, Nic Kipke, says the measure "ignores the rule of law" and would create "anarchy" in the state.
One of the things the left claims to always be concerned about are the rights of minorities and the disenfranchised. One hears that argument invoked often in debates over transgender individuals and which bathroom they can use. If that works for liberals in this case, what about the right of a teenage girl to be protected against a violation of her person by illegal immigrants?
A corollary argument is that most illegal immigrants are not violent criminals. We hear the same argument when it comes to Muslims, that not all members of the religion should be judged by the acts of a violent few. Ask the victims or relatives of people who have died or been injured by radical Islamists how they feel about that argument. In the case of the young Rockville High School girl, ask her and her parents, siblings and other relatives if they are OK with allowing people like Sanchez and Montano into their child's school.
The high school from which I graduated is located not far from Rockville High. My school was a much safer place. Chewing gum and running in the halls were the worst offenses one could commit, and for repeat offenders that got you a trip to the vice principal's office, or detention, and a note home to parents where further discipline was often applied.
If a law like the one under consideration by the Maryland legislature had been in force, Sanchez and Montano might have been shielded from a deportation hearing because authorities would have been prevented from asking them about their immigration status or even their country of origin.
If convicted of the rape charges, they should be punished and then deported. School officials and legislators who have helped create the environment that has allowed such a horrible incident to occur must be held accountable by the citizens of Montgomery County, Maryland, and voters statewide.