The Founders of our nation toiled long and hard to establish a government that was representative of the people. They actually designed a reasonably effective system, but over the years, significant metamorphosis has occurred, producing something that is quite dissimilar from their original intent.
There were not a lot of perks for early congressional representatives, and the pay was quite meager. People willing to take on such responsibilities were unlikely to be desirous of perpetual re-election. In many ways, this was a good thing — frequent replacement of representatives increased the likelihood that they would have their finger on the pulse of the communities they represented.
Our Founders also saw no reason for a gigantic central government, because they felt that the states would be much more in tune with the needs of their constituents and be able to provide appropriate legislation to facilitate local and national goals. They felt that the purpose of the government was to protect the people from foreign and hostile domestic forces, to protect their property and to enable their pursuit of happiness. Obviously, there were some other purposes, like facilitating transportation and containing disease, but the point is, limited federal government was desirable, as was maximum freedom for the people.
One of the prime advantages of a small central government was that it would only require a small amount of tax revenue to sustain itself. The Founders knew from studying past civilizations that the nation’s resources would either belong to the people or to the government, and they preferred the former. Our Founders as well as many of our revered social commentators have had some interesting things to say about our government and the legislative process:
George Washington: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
Mark Twain: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
These are just a couple of the numerous quotes available to demonstrate that concern about government overreach is not a new phenomenon in America. However, that concern is now being fueled by blatant favoritism shown to members of Congress and their staffs regarding the requirement to participate in the insurance programs offered by Obamacare.
It is abrasive to a sense of fair play that friends of the administration have been permitted to delay their enrollment in the program for a year or more. Now we are seeing protests from some of the same unions that were strong supporters of the act as they realize that many of their “Cadillac” health plans are in jeopardy. Less than 3 percent of federal workers want to enroll in Obamacare — even though they strongly supported its passage. However, the most offensive thing of all to anyone with a sense of justice is a provision that will extend government subsidies to members of Congress and their staffs to defray their health care costs while the people they represent must suffer the slings and arrows of this outrageous program forced upon them through a host of backroom deals that would shame a mobster. Some of these representatives, unwilling to accept the deal for themselves, were actually complicit in forcing Obamacare on all Americans without even reading it. This is the height of irresponsibility, and it is hard to imagine how anyone claiming to represent the interest of their constituents could even look at themselves in the mirror if they are guilty of such actions.
Rather than rushing headlong down the path of destruction, like a lemming following his leader, I would implore every member of Congress to ask himself or herself this question: Why are so many people fleeing from this legislation if it is such a great masterpiece? Would you eat food prepared by a great chef if he refused to eat it himself and all of his staff also refused to eat it? We need to understand that we are trying to create living situations that are good for all of our citizens. This is America, and we certainly should eschew anything that smacks of favoritism, especially toward the people honored by winning the people’s trust. To their credit, some of our congressional representatives are preparing a bill that will preclude this type of preferential treatment. Still, it is truly disappointing that they would have to do this at all. Every single member of Congress should be up in arms at the very thought of differential treatment in a country that was supposed to be a model of egalitarianism.
Passage of Obamacare and its subsequent endorsement by the Supreme Court blatantly disregard the will of the people. This is certainly something one would expect from a ruler — not from a servant. This whole situation can be a wake-up call for government officials to rekindle that spirit of sacrifice and service that fueled our unprecedented rise to the pinnacle of the world.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.