The 1934 dinner party that may have helped save ObamaCare

When Perkins expressed worry about whether an old-age and survivors insurance program would pass constitutional muster, Stone, a Republican appointee to the court and future chief justice, replied: “The taxing power of the federal government, my dear; the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need.” …

Then, as now, there was some sales deception involved. Social Security was sold by FDR as a social insurance program where each employee paid premiums into a personal retirement fund; in truth, it’s financed by a payroll tax and the money collected goes to today’s retirees, not the workers who paid in. Obamacare was sold as being funded by a “mandate”; in truth, it’s like a cigarette tax, as the chief justice wrote, designed not so much to raise revenue as to change behavior. …

After the dinner party, Frances Perkins went to FDR and swore him to secrecy on the advance opinion from the court, but Justice Stone’s view gave the Roosevelt administration more confidence as it moved forward with what would become the most popular and successful social program in American history. The Affordable Care Act is the completion of the “cradle to grave” insurance coverage that Roosevelt envisioned when he launched Social Security.