Was President John Adams a Closet Socialist?

  • 09/20/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

obamaFairyForbes Magazine article reveals first national health care act passed in 1798

By James Preston Allen, Publisher

These days the “we’re so right that we’ll drive the country off the cliff” crowd  have come to call President Barack Obama a “Socialist” for his signature legislation to provide health care to millions of uninsured Americans and to regulate an industry that has basically run amuck.

They fought the Obama administration all the way to the Supreme Court where conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts decided against them in on a 4-5 split on the issue. On what basis was this decision made?

Obama is far from a socialist in any stretch of the definition. If he was really socialist, he would have just simply nationalized the entire health care system, fired the CEO’s at all of the insurance corporations and told the pill manufactures to lower their exorbitant prices or face the same fate as the insurance companies.

He didn’t do anything like that. What he did is pretty much in line with what President John Adams did in 1798 with the “Act for The Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen” (See http://tinyurl.com/sick-disabled-seamen1798). With this piece of legislation, Congress set up a system to guarantee the health of a workforce that was critical to the future of the nation.

The article that brought this to my attention was published in none other than the conservative-leaning publication, Forbes Magazine in November 2011. Most of the mainstream press and right-wing pundits ignored the story. What this first act of Congress on health care establishes is the right of the federal government to regulate and tax a specific industry to maintain the health and medical care of its workers. This is a legal precedent that gives justification for everything else that has followed within the past 214 years.  It seems a little too late to challenge that precedent or this president. And no one ever called Adams a socialist for signing this bill.

Upon reflecting on this historic act of Congress, I started thinking, “What other pieces of the national health care puzzle do we have?” Surely, this wasn’t the only time in the history of our nation that this subject has come up.

This is what I’ve found with a simple Google search:

The National Institute of Health was formed in 1887 and is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  It is the primary agency of the U. S. government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. Its science and engineering counterpart is the National Science Foundation. It comprises 27 separate institutes, centers, and offices.(http://history.nih.gov/exhibits/history/index.html)

The Public Health Service was established in 1798 and is directed by the U.S. Surgeon General. The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps employs more than 6,000 public health professionals for the purpose of delivering public health promotion and disease prevention programs and advancing public health science. Members of this uniformed Commissioned Corps often serve on the front lines in the fight against disease and poor health conditions.(http://www.usphs.gov)

Next the Center for Disease Control, a branch of the Health and Human Services, was founded in 1946, during World War II as the Office of National Defense Malaria Control Activities. It works to protect public health and safety by providing information to enhance health decisions and it promotes health through partnerships with state health departments and other organizations. The CDC focus national attention on developing and applying disease prevention and control, especially infectious diseases and food-borne pathogens and other microbial infections. (http://www.cdc.gov/)

Well before this country declared its independence there was precedent of government taking care of its veterans going back to 1636, when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony passed a law which stated that disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony.

The Continental Congress of 1776 encouraged enlistments during the Revolutionary War by providing pensions for soldiers who were disabled. Direct medical and hospital care given to veterans in the early days of the Republic was provided by the individual States and communities. In 1811, the first domiciliary and medical facility for veterans was authorized by the Federal Government. In the 19th century, the nation’s veterans assistance program was expanded to include benefits and pensions not only for veterans, but also their widows and dependents.

The federal government created the Department of Veterans Affairs and accompanying VA Hospitals in 1930. It is the federal government’s second largest department, after the U.S. Department of Defense.

Then, of course, we come to the 1960s with the creation of Medicare/Medicaid that provides health care for seniors, the poor, and the disabled. This is what really chaps Romney’s hide. This is the group of “free loaders”  the Republicans really object to.  They are the deficit according to some. They are the ones who want something-for-nothin, the conservatives exclaim!

It would appear to me that for many years, even since the earliest days of our republic, that our government has thought enough of “health care” as part of the general directive of the U.S. Constitution, as in  “to provide for the general welfare,” that Congress has acted repeatedly to this end. Should we expect anything less of Congress today?

Much of what we’ve inherited is a patchwork of band-aids, and like other parts of our government, it doesn’t work as a comprehensive system. What is missing from Obama-care is not that it goes too far, but that it doesn’t go far enough.

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