In what was clearly an effort to grow big government, the US Congress began passing sweeping regulations and welfare reform so that the continued operation of poor houses would ultimately become unnecessary. These laws are the foundation of the current welfare system.
The Progressives, with an eye to expanding the role of the US Government, passed the 1862 Civil War Pension Program. This legislation provided benefits to veterans of the Civil War who could no longer work because of disabilities sustained during the war. As expected, this was a controversial decision since it threatened Constitutional integrity and a huge percentage of the national budget would go toward funding this program. Prior to this legislation, disabled Civil War veterans without other economic resources could and did reside in the local poor houses.
For those who believe that the poor house is simply an antiquated expression used metaphorically to promote a concept, there are many academic resources where one can learn more about their standard operating procedures. The following are internet links:
While some may argue that the locally governed poor houses are better than federally funded social programs, based on their interpretation of the US Constitution, others would argue that the poor house was an abomination of society. Proponents of closing poor houses would argue that the Federal laws which led to their demise were a good move for the greater good. Therefore, years of actual Supreme Court rulings establish the precedent that all legislation in 2010 is subject to this yard stick of measuring greater good (promoting the welfare) versus Constitutional intent.
Some would argue that federal intervention is always detrimental to a capitalist society and that the Constitution precludes that interference. If you subscribe to that “poor house” philosophy (used metaphorically in this context) then you should continue to fight for a return to the limitations of the federal government as conservatives interpret the Constitution.
If you support radically progressive federal laws addressing federal pensions for veterans (1862), Veteran’s Hospitals (1811), federal funding for schools (1917), or Social Security (1935), then you are supporting programs in conflict with the strictest interpretations of the Constitution. Unfortunately, if you are one of the thousands of Americans standing on the loading dock for the Constitutional legality of national health care reform then “your ship has sailed.”
Consequently, constitutional arguments are of little value when trying to argue the relative merits or failures of the Health Care Reform bill. There is no benefit in continuing a Constitutional battle that was lost in 1862.
Now here’s a radical and progressive thought: Why don’t we fight about what we are fighting about? Money – who has it, who keeps it, and who spends it!