During his weekly address on August 17, President Barack Obama declared that health insurance isn’t just a privilege–it’s a right.
The address, titled “Working to Implement the Affordable Care Act,” featured all the President’s well-worn talking points about Obamacare–with one new addition.
Obama touted the fact that people under 26 years old can stay on their parents’ insurance; he talked of the “free mammograms”; and he celebrated the access to “contraceptive care.” And then, in full demagogic mode, Obama went on to excoriate Republicans for trying to hurt “sick people” and the economy by opposing his Obamacare law.
Warming to his theme, Obama then said, “A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they’ll somehow be sticking it to me. But they’d just be sticking it to you.”
While this is all typical Obama boilerplate, light on facts and heavy on sunny promises and hectoring rhetoric, one point he made was rather fantastic: He declared health insurance to be a right:
So I’m going to keep doing everything in my power to make sure this law works as it’s supposed to. Because in the United States of America, health insurance isn’t a privilege–it is your right. And we’re going to keep it that way.
This edges into the territory of Franklin Roosevelt’s 1944 attempt to float a “second bill of rights.”
In his campaign to implement a second bill of rights, Roosevelt tried to create all sorts of new rights out of whole cloth. Among other things, the 32nd President tried to make “adequate food” a right, owning a home a right, having a job a right, and he also tried to make a right of “adequate medical care.”
Few in 1944 embraced FDR’s second bill of rights because it clearly would have upended the American way of life as created by our Founders and codified in the U.S. Constitution.
Instead of relying on the American tradition of leaving each person free to affect his own life, FDR’s new bill of rights would have required people to do things for other people–often a violation of their own freedom.
Requiring health care professionals to care for people, for instance, necessarily violates these professionals’ freedom to conduct their professional lives as they see fit. It may put some out of business–but health care as a “right” implies that some might be compelled to work anyway, at a government-dictated salary.
The American left has been looking to put government controlled healthcare into place since well before Roosevelt’s days. But this “right” of health care is, of course, no more in keeping with American principles now than it was in 1944.