This post is inspired by the continual misunderstanding of the “General Welfare” clause of the U.S. Constitution. This is one of the most misunderstood parts of the Constitution. Most statists think this phrase gives the Federal Government carte blanche to spend money on anything that may be good for anyone in the U.S. Stating it as this reporter does just illustrates his colossal ignorance. The General Welfare clause gives no spending authority at all, but is a limit on spending authority.
Let me start by telling you where the spending authority of Congress does come from. In article 1 section 8 of the Constitution there are several powers that are given to congress. Within each of those powers there is an implied power to spend. In other words, Congress is given the power to raise an army, this implies the power to pay the troops and buy weapons. For each listed power the congress as authorization to spend and carry out those functions.
Now lets look at the General Welfare clause, “The congress is authorized to raise taxes, to spend on the common defense and the general welfare.” What the framers are saying here is that the money they spend has to be spent on the whole of the U.S. That is to say they cannot build postal roads only in Massachusetts (to the detriment of Georgia). So any monies they spend must be on the whole, not just one part.
That brings us to the ironic part of the whole health care bill now being rammed through Congress. The fact that Nebraska and Louisiana get such preferential treatment means that not only is this bill usurping more authority than congress has, but it violates the very tenant that the defenders point to as being the justification.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote from James Madison (the Father of the Constitution):
“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.”
Tim Reeves is the State Chapter Coordinator for the Oregon Tenth Amendment Center.
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