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John Ben Shepperd: 27th Annual Clinical Assembly of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons

October 31, 1954

27th Annual Clinical Assembly of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons (Dallas, Texas)

There is a powerful directional force in our Federal government, entirely independent of administrations, that has sponsored and continues to sponsor a steady movement toward the socialization of American life, through the gradual assertion of Federal pre-eminence over the powers of the states and the rights of private enterprise.

One of the worst things about it is that it costs so much. Most of the States get back in Federal aid only 10 or 15 percent of all the money collected from their citizens as Federal internal revenue. Texans paid $2,727,000,000 in Federal revenue in 1953, and got back $227,000,000. That’s a dime on the dollar. Some states get less than a penny. California gets six cents, Connecticut two, Oklahoma fifteen.

It is notable that in the last few years this movement toward socialism has not come primarily from Congress or the Executive Department, but from a series of court decisions pursuing invariably the same object—the assertion of Federal authority. Call it Nationalization; call it centralization; it is still Socialization.

Let me give you two or three quick examples that are especially poignant to us in Texas, but which affect all of you as well. No. 1: The so-called Tidelands that were retained by Texas in her treaty of annexation, were offered to the United States in payment of debt and were rejected, and which were then taken away from Texas by a court decision and restored to Texas by an Act of Congress. If Congress had not acted, this would have been a giant step toward the nationalization of the entire petroleum industry of the United States.

No. 2: The court decision in the Texas gas gathering tax case, which in large measure took away the right of any state to levy taxes on its own natural resources if they are bound for interstate commerce.

No. 3: The decision in the Phillips Petroleum Company case in which the Court gave the power to regulate and fix prices on the production of natural gas to a Federal agency that did not want it, when Congress had stated specifically on two occasions that gas production was to be exempt from Federal control. This was another step toward the socialization of an industry and the erasure of state boundaries.

How would you feel if someone told you that you could fix your own fees as long as you practiced medicine on yourself and your family, but asserted the right to set your compensation for you when you practiced on anyone else? That’s the way Texas feels. That’s the way every state in the 48 feels. That’s the way the soil and gas industries feel. It’s not private enterprise. It is Socialism.

Maybe you think, “Well, it’s only gas and oil.” But it’s not. In the case of Garner vs. Teamsters a court decision went a long way toward knocking the props from under the states’ labor laws. I could cite a dozen other recent cases showing the same trend in other fields. But I’m only trying to say that what they can do in other industries and areas they can also do in medicine, one of the most important fields of all and one of the closest to the people.

What would you think if I told you that in the Federal government there are highly trained and highly paid public relations experts who are paid to do nothing but to push the idea of socialized medicine? They are there, and they are working.

How hard are you working for what you believe in? Are you actively joining forces with those who are resisting Socialism in other fields, or are you so busy with your profession that you haven’t time for such things? The only thing standing between you and Socialism is the American citizen and his opinions. He’s your problem. He has many things wrong with him, and it’s up to you to help cure him. Look at his symptoms:

Symptom No 1: Lack of coordination. His left hand doesn’t know what his right hand is doing. He shakes one at the government demanding more economy and less socialism, and with the other he takes handouts from the public treasury.

Symptom 2: Inferiority complex. He thinks it won’t do any good to write his congressman, because he wouldn’t pay any attention to a small taxpayer.

Symptom 3: Mental depression. He worries about corruption and waste in high places. But he thinks he can’t do anything about it, so he tries to forget it.

Symptom 4: Destructive tendencies. He tears down his home by not spending enough time with his family. He tears down the Church by not attending and supporting it. He votes to destroy democracy by not taking an active part in the processes of government.

Are you the doctor, or are you the patient? It is time for us to diagnose and cure our country’s ills, or the autopsy will show that our Uncle Sam died of Socialism.

I hope and trust that your convention will be a tremendous success, and that as you meet here with the object of improving the standards of your own profession, you will meet also with the object of doing what you can, as a group and as individuals, to keep your country and mine the land of free enterprise and the home of brave citizenship.

You can meet here because you are free, and Texas is proud to have you here. I want to extend to all of you a Texas-size welcome and a Texas-size wish for all possible success, in increasing your skill not only with the scalpel but also with the instruments of free men—a Bible, a backbone, a brain and a ballot.

Please note: The views expressed in these speeches were those of John Ben Shepperd, and do not necessarily represent the views of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute or the University of Texas Permian Basin.