Appearing on Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) defended his longstanding view that Medicare, Social Security (and pretty much everything else) violate the Constitution. At one point, Paul even claimed that letting Social Security and similar programs to move forward is just like permitting slavery:
WALLACE: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.
PAUL: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn’t say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause. … That is such an extreme liberal viewpoint that has been mistaught in our schools for so long and that’s what we have to reverse—that very notion that you’re presenting.
WALLACE: Congressman, it’s not just a liberal view. It was the decision of the Supreme Court in 1937 when they said that Social Security was constitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
PAUL: And the Constitution and the courts said slavery was legal to, and we had to reverse that.
As Chris Wallace tries to explain, Paul’s crankish view of the Constitution cannot be squared with the document’s text. The Constitution gives Congress the power to “to lay and collect taxes” and to “provide for the…general welfare of the United States,” which is exactly what Social Security does. Nor is this reading of the Constitution’s unambiguous words limited to “extreme liberals.” Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia recently told a gathering of Members of Congress that “It’s up to Congress how you want to appropriate, basically.”
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of Paul’s fellow House Republicans disagree with his bizarre view that Medicare and other government-funded insurance programs violate the Constitution. 207 Republicans voted in support of President George W. Bush’s proposal to create a federal prescription drug insurance program under Medicare, including such notables as future Speaker John Boehner, uber-tenther Scott Garrett, and future Budget chair Paul Ryan. Although the GOP more recently voted for a radical plan to phase out the Medicare program, even that slow repeal of Medicare cannot be squared with Paul’s apparent view that it violates the Constitution to allow Medicare to continue one minute longer.
Like so many other Republicans, Paul needs to learn that the Constitution is not some toy that he can take apart and reassemble to force the nation down whatever path he chooses. The Constitution’s words actually mean something, and Ron Paul is not free to ignore them.
Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), recently said that giving people a right to healthcare is the equivalent of “slavery.”