General Welfare Clause
The general welfare clause is one of the most horribly understood and most misused pieces of the United States Constitution, second only to the Interstate Commerce Clause. With it, Congress has exercises many wealth redistribution schemes with the argument that it’s constitutional. However, when you look at the Founding Father’s intent, nothing could be further from the truth.
To start with, let’s look at this quote from Thomas Jefferson:
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
James Madison agrees:
“With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”
It all looks pretty straight forward to me.
The phrase “general welfare” didn’t create a broad power that could be thrown around whenever someone wanted to justify taking from the rich and giving to the poor. No, it was guidance on how best to use the powers given to the Congress. They weren’t to work towards the benefits of a particular group, but for the benefit of Americans as a whole.
The United States Constitution. Many consider it one of the greatest documents ever devised by man. The idea that men could govern themselves was radical. The United States was the first nation to ever try it. It’s just to bad that the Founders managed to also illustrate the folly of central planning.
What’s that? What in the heck did the Founders have to do with central planning? An excellent question.
You see, the Founding Fathers tasked with creating the Constitution were a small, select group of people. They wanted what was best for the new nation, and so they wrote out a guide. These were people driven by a noble ideology, that of a free nation, and yet they screwed up oh-so-royally.
“They didn’t screw up! We’re the ones screwing up the Constitution,” some might say. Well, you’re partially right. Unfortunately, where you’re wrong is that that the Founders did make mistakes. You see, there are a lot of areas where they were less than clear, or inserted things that weren’t really necessary. There are few actual definitions of what they wanted or envisioned.
Here are some examples. None of these even touch on the horror that was slavery, codified in a document intended to create a free nation (irony much?)
To promote the general welfare
That phrase is used to justify all kinds of crap. Every time someone claims an entitlement is unconstitutional, someone else will trot out this gem. Now, if you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you understand that this was not what it was intended to support. Instead, the government was to exist to protect an environment where people could take care of themselves. Unfortunately, that’s not what they said.
The SCOTUS is set to rule this week on Obamacare, and that ruling will likely hinge on the individual mandate.
Conservatives, libertarians, constitutionalists, and just about everyone anywhere close to the right wing, oppose the individual mandate. Their criticisms center on this belief: government should not be able to force anyone to purchase a good or service. Fair enough.
Accepting that belief, however, raises some questions for an honest intellect. What about Social Security?
Social Security, created by Congress in 1935, is essentially a compulsory retirement program. The money is automatically withdrawn from your paycheck. There isn’t an opt-in, and there isn’t an opt-out. There is no choice—it’s a mandate.
There are, however, a couple of differences between the ObamaCare mandate and that found in the Social Security program.
First, the government taxes people to pay for the program rather than mandating it and allowing them to shop around in the market place. Apart from the distortion of forcing people into the marketplace, Obamacare allows people to use the market to choose their insurance. You can choose plans that better fit your needs. Social Security doesn’t allow that luxury.
Second, Obamacare’s mandate doesn’t proscribe a specific amount that consumers must spend. Social Security isn’t so lax. It requires 4.2% of employees’ income, a matching 6.2% from employers, and, from the self-employed, 10.4%. You can’t compare rates between firms, and you can’t shop for a better price.
In other words, Social Security not only mandates that you buy a product—retirement savings—but it also mandates from whom and for how much you have to purchase the service.
Can any intelligent and consistent person oppose Obamacare’s individual mandate and simultaneously support compulsory participation in Social Security? It’s a hypocritical attitude, and it should be abandoned.
The current, ongoing showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the federal budget is giving Americans a front row seat for the fight over national spending priorities and, for the conservative wing of the Republican Party, over the proper role of government itself. There are huge quantities of heated rhetoric being thrown around about greedy corporations, the need to help the poor and dire warnings against “Draconian” cuts to the budget. Yet, make no mistake about it; the problem is solely one of spending. Even if we taxed 100% of earnings for those hated millionaires and billionaires that Obama and the Democrats so love to publicly flog (even as the privately court them for their campaign donations), we wouldn’t even fund the annual budget, much less make a dent in the national debt.
While we will be forced in the very near future to finally have a serious discussion about the Big Three entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…with ObamaCare pending resolution in the courts), there is some low-hanging fruit that we can cut in the budget if we look at a cost-benefit analysis of programs and agencies that are duplicative, outdated or simply unnecessary. Right near the top of that list should be the federal Department of Education.
The federal Department of Education was created in 1976, signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. The legislation narrowly passed Congress, but succeeded in large part because of a heavy lobbying effort by the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Many politicians, eager to secure the donations, manpower and influence of a large and powerful constituency, jumped at the opportunity to cement this politically incestuous relationship.
Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia held a town hall Monday night when a member of the Campaign for Liberty decided to ask a very pertinent question: