What Our Founding Generation Would Have Said About Obamacare

tea-party-you-mean-we-can-tax-them-for-not-buying-tea       by Diane Rufino, February 25, 2017

Although we are on the verge of having President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka, “Obamacare”) repealed and replaced, I am writing this piece to remind folks of the loss of freedom we suffered at the hands of President Obama and his administration with the unconstitutional and universal healthcare scheme he misrepresented and then forced on the American people.

The assault on the precious liberties of the American people were realized by only a handful (and certainly not the liberal members of the Supreme Court) and to half of these, it didn’t matter. When I talk about those who could care less, I am referring to the Republican members of Congress, who for years seemed unable to craft legislation or summon a vote.

Certainly, the caliber of an “American” has changed. We should all shutter for the future of our republic and for the security of the liberties our forefathers fought a revolution for. The debacle known as Obamacare has shown that they are never secure in the face of a hostile president who uses a “phone and a pen” and secret meetings to pressure legislation that that are violative of them.

Yes, it would be wonderful for everyone to have healthcare insurance to help them with their healthcare costs. It would be great if insurance didn’t make it cost prohibitive for those with pre-existing conditions. It would be great if times were like they were many years ago when everyone went to school, took their education seriously, got a job, and took care of themselves and their families. But jobs are scarce and people willing to invest in themselves and look for a job are even scarcer. It would be great if people took stock of their health and avoided tobacco, drugs, and fattening foods so that they are not obese and prone to diabetes and heart disease and therefore put an enormous strain on our healthcare system, but they don’t.

Yes, there are poor people out there. Some are poor because of a legitimate situation but most are poor because of a mindset and lifestyle choice. Some complain about being poor but don’t want a job; they merely want to be made more comfortable in poverty, which the Democratic Party is all-too-happy to do. Dependents make the most loyal voters. Why would anyone want to set an alarm to get up early every morning, worry about shuffling their kids to daycare, deal with traffic on the roads, put up with bullshit at work, put up with a horrible boss, have to show up even when they don’t feel well, strive to earn a decent performance evaluation just to hopefully be able to take home the same amount of money the following year, stress out about whether he or she has job security, balance work with other parenting obligations (such as when children get sick), and deal with limited days off when they could stay home, sleep late, get a welfare check from the government, have their apartments paid for, heating and air-conditioning paid for, food paid for, daycare covered (even though they aren’t working), a free cell phone, and free healthcare. Why do they need to work? Why would they even want to work?

American used to produce things. Americans used to be productive citizens. They were ambitious, resourceful, proud. Our government programs are creating the human waste and decay that is beginning to define America and destroy our cities, our schools, and our ability to live contently amongst each other. How can one group of Americans, who work hard, raise their families responsibly, pay their taxes and then find out that those exceedingly high taxes are going to pay for others and their families, have any respect for the latter? They don’t. They don’t look at them as equals.

But there is a constitutional way to solve problems and there is an unconstitutional way to solve them. And that’s why it is so important to vet presidential candidates for their constitutional character and not make choices based on skin color or social justice.

And so, a lesson taught so well that it inspired a revolution has been lost on today’s generation of Americans. And that lesson was to never yield individual liberties to the designs of government, even if those designs are well-intentioned. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficient… The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

The lesson of the Boston Tea Party, an act of civil disobedience and protest that inspired today’s Sons of Liberty movement (the Tea Party), is an important and timeless lesson.

On the night of December 16,1773, members of the Sons of Liberty dressed as Indians, boarded three ships in the Boston harbor, and tossed 342 chests of tea overboard. They did this to protest the Tea Act. The Tea Act was actually not so bad in its provisions – it provided a high-quality tea, at lower costs than the colonists had been used to, and at a lower tax than what they had been previously used to. So why were the colonists so upset?

The Tea Act of 1773 was a follow-up to the Revenue Act, which was one of the laws in the hugely unpopular Townshend Acts. The Townshend Acts set new import duties (taxes) on British goods including paint, paper, lead, glass and tea. Due to protests from British merchants, whose trade was seriously effected by the American colonists refusing to buy the goods, Parliament ultimately repealed all of the duties (taxes) – except the tax on tea.

The principal objective of the Tea Act was to reduce the massive amount of tea held by the financially-troubled British East India Company in its London warehouses and to help the struggling company survive and to do so, it created a monopoly on the sale of tea to the colonies to the East India Company. It allowed the East India company to sell its large tea surplus below the prices charged by colonial competitors and thus under-cut and threatened local tea merchants. It was able to sell its tea at lower prices because the Act granted the Company the right to ship its tea directly to North America from its China warehouses (without first stopping at Britain to pay export duties). However, as mentioned earlier, the tea imposed on the colonies was still subject to the tea tax under the Revenue Act.

Specifically, the Tea Act provided:

1. Tea could be shipped in East India Company ships directly from China to the American colonies, thus avoiding the tax on goods first due England, as required by previous legislation.

2. A duty (tax) of 3 pence per pound was to be collected on tea delivered to America. [The previous duty (tax) was 12 pence (1 shilling) per pound, which was paid on tax which had been sent from Britain, so colonists would be paying LESS in tea tax with this Act. Also, interestingly, they would be getting their tea cheaper than the people of Britain !!].

3. The tea would be marketed and forced on colonists by special consignees (receivers of shipments) who would be selected by the East India Tea Company.

The new import tax of 3 pence was considerably less than the previous tea tax on the colonists, in which 12 pence (1 shilling) per pound on tea sent via Britain, so colonists would be paying LESS in tea tax with the Tea Act of 1773. Also, interestingly, they would be getting their tea cheaper than the people of Britain !! Even King George III was reported to comment that “the colonists will finally be happy!” and will stop protesting.

The Act also encouraged British agents to seek out local merchants of tea who were smuggling in tea (in violation of the new law) and shut down their operations. In effect, they were making sure the monopoly on tea was complete and that colonists were buying only the tea that the British Parliament were forcing on them.

While the average contemporary American might look at the bottom dollar and assess the law based on their pocketbook and conclude that the Tea Act was good and fair, our founding generation looked at the insidious violations to their fundamental liberties embedded in this seemingly harmless law.

First of all, the Tea Act forced the colonists to purchase Company tea on which the Townshend duties were paid, thus implicitly asserting Parliament’s right of taxation. Even though the costs and the taxes were lowered, they would not back down on their demand that there be “No Taxation Without Representation!” This basic English right was secured in the Magna Carta of 1215 and re-asserted over and over again up until the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which essentially transferred government power from the King to the peoples’ house – Parliament. And second, the Tea Act compelled the colonists to buy a product identified by a legislative body far away. It took away their right to enjoy competition and to pursue livelihoods.

If men like Sam Adams, John Hancock, James Otis Jr., Paul Revere were alive today, they would have called out Obamacare for violations similar to those in the Tea Act. They wouldn’t be complaining about the increased premiums or the frustration in signing up for healthcare… they would be sounding the alarm to government compulsion and unconstitutional taxation.

Let’s hope that when Obamacare is repealed it will be replaced by a scheme that divests the federal government of compulsion power over the American people and returns power to the free market system. And let’s help educate our lesser-informed members of society that those who are all too happy to receive hand-outs from the government are the most insidious threats to the very liberty upon which our country was founded. “A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety,” wrote John Stuart Mill, “is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

Where are Today’s Sons of Liberty?

Sons of Liberty    by Diane Rufino

We talk a lot today about how the Constitution no longer means what it used to and it no longer protects individual freedom and liberty as it used to. We say this because a government of limited and defined powers has steadily and without apology become a government of broad and undefined powers.  When a state should happen to assert its sovereignty and challenge the usurpation of power, the federal government issues a letter threatening to take them to court. The government knows that what the Constitution won’t allow it to do, the courts will.

But the situation is far more serious than what we thought.  Yes, our Constitution is and has been under attack. And yes, the relationship between the individual and the government has been fundamentally altered. But the document that perhaps may be even more significant to us as Americans, the Declaration of Independence, is also under attack. The attack, if we want to be intellectually honest, started with the man the government touts as the greatest American president Abraham Lincoln.

Just as the Constitution was fundamentally transformed as the American people slept and as they became virtual strangers to their own history and heritage, the Declaration has been eroded because of the same reason.

John Adams once said: “A constitution of government once changed from freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”  The American people don’t know how close they are to losing the very gifts they have taken for granted for so long.  We here today will enjoy the last remnants of freedom, but through our actions, our neglect, our spite, and our ignorance we may condemn our children and grandchildren to repurchase it, perhaps with their lives. It may be too late.

What shame we should feel that the people we love most in this world – our children – will not be able to exercise liberty as fully and enjoy property as unconditionally as we did when we were young. The most important property of all – that which stems from our minds, our hearts, and our ambitions – has come increasingly under the control of the federal government, to be regulated for others rather than protected for the individual.

Our greatest shame should be in the reality that posterity will have to buy back a gift we were supposed to preserve for them.

The problem today is that we’ve too long forgotten what makes us uniquely American. It’s not the heritage we bring with us to add to this melting pot we call the United States.  No, it’s the very thing that Martin Luther King referred to in his “I Have a Dream” speech – the promissory note that all Americans are entitled to. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as well as the guarantee that government would be protect those rights. That promissory note attaches to us at our birth and attaches to everyone who comes to America’s shores looking for freedom and the American Dream. In the United States, individual liberty is the product of natural law and God’s law and not a token gift from a benevolent government. In the United States, government doesn’t grant rights; it protects them. Our laws apply in times of good and bad; they apply to good people and bad people. The Bill of Rights has no exemptions for “really bad people” or even non-citizens. The Bill of Rights, as prefaced in its preamble as “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” on the power delegated to the government in the Constitution – is an important check on government power against any person. That is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system. And at the core of what defines America is that grand moral proclamation so eloquently articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

For too many years, Americans have remained silent as precious liberty interests have been taken away from them. It’s been a slow, progressive erosion indeed.  We today are guilty too, if not more than any other generation. We don’t understand that our freedom and liberty is only as secure as the foundation that supports and protects it. And every bit of that foundation is being eroded or has been eroded, including the notion of individual sovereignty (as I’ve pointed out in my previous article – “What It Means to be Sovereign” –  http://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2013/07/30/what-it-means-to-be-sovereign/).

We no longer jealously guard what our Founding Fathers sought to accomplish when they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for and what our forefathers fought and died for. The spirit of the American Revolution is dead. Patrick Henry warned that we should never lose that spirit. Yet, when the Constitution was written and then presented to the Virginia ratifying convention in 1788 – only one year after it was written in Philadelphia – Henry took the floor and listed a series of issues he found with the document, all “tending to re-establish a monarchy” and subjecting citizens to the type of government that they had just dissolved their bonds of allegiance with. He accused the Virginians of already losing the spirit of the Revolution and being too willing to surrender their freedoms. He warned them to guard “that precious jewel,” which is liberty.

Before the Revolution, as we all know, the British Parliament imposed the Stamp Act – a tax on documents. The colonists did everything in their power, mostly through the Sons of Liberty, to frustrate its enforcement. They protested, hung British officials in effigy, organized angry mobs, threw rocks at the homes of officials tasked with collecting the tax, and otherwise intimidated such officials so that most resigned. In short, the Stamp Act could not be enforced. The colonists stood up for their rights (the right NOT to have a government in some far off land legislate for them and tax them without their representation).  As Benjamin Franklin (who was acting as the ambassador to England from Massachusetts at the time) tried to explain to Parliament: “The Stamp Act says we shall have no commerce, make no exchange of property with each other, neither purchase nor grant, nor recover debts; we shall neither marry nor make our wills, unless we pay such and such sums; and thus it is intended to extort our money from us or ruin us by the consequence of refusing to pay it…. They (the colonists) think it extremely hard and unjust that a body of men in which they have no representatives should make a merit to itself of giving and granting what is not its own but theirs, and deprive them of a right they esteem of the utmost value and importance, as it is the security of all their other rights.” A member of Parliament then asked Franklin if the colonists know their rights, and Franklin responded that they know them very well indeed. Franklin went on to warn Parliament that if the Stamp Act was not repealed, the colonies would likely revolt.

Next came the tax on tea. The King and Parliament were mindful of the rising passions of the colonists and their “revolutionary spirit.” In order to impose a tax yet not burden the colonists, Parliament secured a great surplus of tea from the East India Company. Because it was a surplus, it would be sold to the colonies at a lower price. On top of that, there would be a tax imposed of 3 pence per pound. It was no doubt, a minute tax on the tea. With the reduced price plus the tax, colonists would still be paying less for tea than they had paid before. There was no burden. Yet, we know what happened. We know that about 100 members of the Sons of Liberty dressed up as Mohawk Indians and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest that minute tax. They protested, not because the tax imposed a hardship, but because they were smart enough and liberty-minded enough to recognize the violation of their rights which was at the core of that tax. They would not submit.

Today, we stand idly by even while the government destroys chunks of our liberties. When the 2011-2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed, the Obama administration added a new clause (to the original Authorization of Military Force, AUMF, which Bush requested to hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators of 9/11). Instead of targeting the perpetrators of 9/11, the federal government added a clause to target US citizens, on American soil, who are engaged in hostilities against the United States (undefined terms, of course). Once targeted, they are stripped of their Bill of Rights and can be interrogated, tortured, and held indefinitely without a formal charge or without a trial. The Supreme Court created a special term for these Americans (reviving a term used by FDR in WWII) – “enemy combatants.” The US Constitution already addresses these types of people – they are called “traitors” – and appropriate action is clearly spelled out, so as not to punish without recognizing inherent human rights. But our government needed a way to by-pass constitutional rights and so, we have the NDAA and the ability of the Executive Department to unilaterally attach the label of “enemy-combatant” to an American citizen. But what did the American people do when their rights were taken away? Most said: “Well, the government needs to do what it needs to do to keep us safe.” And where was the outrage when the Supreme Court found that Obamacare was constitutional and the federal government can use the taxing power to compel human behavior in ways that in and of itself are unconstitutional (federal government has NO right to get involved in healthcare; it’s not an enumerated function). Again, too many people were just happy to know the government will be ensuring that they have healthcare coverage than to appreciate the enormity of the violation of fundamental rights that underlies that decision. The debate over whether the government needs to restrain gun rights in order to stem violence in our schools is another issue. Sustainable development policies are another. The “Wall of Separation” and growing hostility of government against religion is another….

The list goes on and on. We just sit back. We don’t protest, we don’t do all we can to frustrate the enforcement of unconstitutional federal laws or policies or even court decisions….  We’ve lost the Revolutionary spirit. We’ve lost the spirit in our hearts and minds that compels us to stand up for our precious liberties.

And the sad thing, we’ve already lost so much.

So the question is this: Why don’t we care?  Why aren’t we doing more?  And where are today’s Sons of Liberty?