Government Entitlements and the General Welfare

Posted on November 21, 2013. Filed under: Government, United States Constitution | Tags: , |

Secretary of State James Madison, who won Marb...

James Madison,  Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At what point did this nation fall under the control of the junkies, stoners and the lazy?

In the late 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson created the dual programs of welfare and Medicare. FDR created food stamps. Clinton created the “Obamaphone”.

There are those who feel that the government should provide everything for us. They call it “basic income”.

The government gives everyone a certain amount of money every month, and there is no requirement to work, find work, or do anything, really. It’s a stoner’s dream come true.

The problem is, where do these people think this money comes from? Well, they don’t care. It is yet another income redistribution scheme. Tax the rich, and give it to everyone else. They really don’t care where it comes from, as long as they receive it.

Why would one want to work if the government gives them everything they need; rent, clothes, food, healthcare, and ultimately, free weed!

While the idea is that this income is paid unconditionally, there are always strings attached.

The idea that people would willingly enslave themselves to any government escapes me. I know people who are all for this idea, and they don’t see themselves as becoming enslaved. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

What happens when the rich run out of money, or disappear with it and no longer pay to support the rest of the population?

People will have to go to work to earn what the government pays them. Will the government then determine what jobs they go into?

Most people on the left cite the General Welfare clause of the Constitution as the basis for this idea.

From Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; (emphasis mine)

But what does that mean, exactly?

In the Anti-Federalist #6, Brutus wrote:

But it is said, by some of the advocates of this system, “That the idea that Congress can levy taxes at pleasure, is false, and the suggestion wholly unsupported: that the preamble to the constitution is declaratory of the purposes of the union, and the assumption of any power not necessary to establish justice, &c. to provide for the common defence, &c. will be unconstitutional. Besides, in the very clause which gives the power of levying duties and taxes, the purposes to which the money shall be appropriated, are specified, viz. to pay the debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare.” I would ask those, who reason thus, to define what ideas are included under the terms, to provide for the common defence and general welfare? Are these terms definite, and will they be understood in the same manner, and to apply to the same cases by every one? No one will pretend they will. It will then be matter of opinion, what tends to the general welfare; and the Congress will be the only judges in the matter. To provide for the general welfare, is an abstract proposition, which mankind differ in the explanation of, as much as they do on any political or moral proposition that can be proposed; the most opposite measures may be pursued by different parties, and both may profess, that they have in view the general welfare; and both sides may be honest in their professions, or both may have sinister views. 

The prevailing anti-Federalist view was that the term “general welfare” would mean different things to different people, and that Congress was the sole arbiter of what constituted the “general welfare”. Brutus was correct in his assessment.

Federalist James Madison (who later became and anti-Federalist) disagreed. In the Federalist #46, Madison wrote:

But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity, which, as we are reduced to the dilemma of charging either on the authors of the objection or on the authors of the Constitution, we must take the liberty of supposing, had not its origin with the latter.

What Madison is saying is that the powers of Congress are being related in general terms, and specifics follow. Consider this. Article I, section 8 says that Congress has the power to levy taxes to provide for the common defense. A pretty general statement, but as one continues reading, restrictions begin appearing:

  • Define and punish piracies and felonies on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations (international law/relations)
  • Declare war
  • Grant letters of Marque and reprisal
  • Make rules concerning captures on land and water (Congress makes the rules on what to do with prisoners)
  • Raise and support armies, but appropriation of money for that use can’t be longer than a term of two years
  • Provide and maintain a navy
  • Make rules for the government and regulation of land and naval forces
  • Provide for the calling forth of the militia to execute the law of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions
  • Provide for the organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and governing those that may be employed in the service of the United States; however, it is reserved to the States to appoint the officers and train the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress

All of the above is providing for the common defense. So it follows that other items within this article pertain to the general welfare. Nowhere do I see that the Federal government is responsible for feeding people, clothing them, providing them with money if they are not working, or giving the healthcare in any form.

In other words, there is no constitutional basis for food stamps, social security, medicare, medicaid, Obamacare, or Section 8 housing.

I’m not saying these programs should not exist, but they should be left up to the states. Let the states find their own way.

It has often been said that Obamacare was modeled after Romneycare in Massachusetts. Oregon had it’s own healthcare plan (called the Oregon health plan). What do these two have in common with each other that they don’t have with Obamacare?

They are both run by their individual states.

I believe that the general welfare clause refers not to the general welfare of the populace, but to the nation as a whole, as in establishing post roads, regulate commerce, coin money and establish rules for naturalization. Anything beyond what is laid out in Article I, Section 8 is prohibited to the Federal government. Let the states decide how to take care of their own people. 

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