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The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Power

Discussion in 'Historical Events & Figures' started by Truth-Bringer, May 5, 2008.

  1. Truth-Bringer

    Truth-Bringer New Member

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    The "General Welfare" Clause: What Does It Really Mean?

    By Alan Chapman

    There seems to be some disagreement as to what the word "welfare" means with regard to the phrase "general welfare" as it appears in the Constitution. Many on FR use the "general welfare" clause as the basis of their support for government schools and Social Security. I started this thread with the intent to discover the true meaning of the term "welfare" with regard to it's use in the Constitution.

    The word "welfare" appears twice in the Constitution. Once in the preamble and again in Article 1, Section 8.

    The preamble to the Constitution states:

    "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    The preamble is not a delegation of power to the federal government. It is simply a stated purpose.
    Article 1, Section 8 states:

    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;

    We all know the meaning of words can change over time. In order to more accurately assess the meaning of the word "welfare", with respect to it's use in the Constitution, I consulted a source from that period. I happened to own a reprint of the 1828 edition of Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language. Here is how the word "welfare" was defined 40 years after it was written in the Constitution.



    A clear distinction is made with respect to welfare as applied to persons and states. In the Constitution the word "welfare" is used in the context of states and not persons. The "welfare of the United States" is not congruous with the welfare of individuals, people, or citizens.

    Furthermore, Article 4, Section 4 states:

    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

    A Republican form of government is one that is not Democratic. This means that policy cannot be decided based on majority rule. It is impossible to guarantee a Republican form of government and, at the same time, compel people to fund and participate in government programs which are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

    Rest of Article Here


    "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." - James Madison, Letter to Edmund Pendleton, January 21, 1792 _Madison_ 1865, I, page 546

    "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constitutents." - James Madison, regarding an appropriations bill for French refugees, 1794

    "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." - James Madison, Letter to James Robertson, April 20, 1831 _Madison_ 1865, IV, pages 171-172

    "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." - Thomas Jefferson


    For years socialists and statists have declared that the government can do anything it wants in the name of the "general welfare." Clearly, this was deception and fraud on their part. Here we have the "Father of the Constitution" and the author of the Declaration of Independence clearly explaining that the government has no such right under Constitutional law.
     
  2. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Unlimited and wreckless spending are modern practices put forth by the hypocritical GOP while claiming to be in pursuit of a smaller government.
    Also, I am sick and tired of people saying we live in a Republic and not a Democracy when in fact we live in both and they are strictly non-exclusice.

    As for providing for the common defense and general welfare, I am not sure if I agree with the assessment, because for some reason, the actual 1828 definition was not included in the OP. Either way, things like the department of education, have always been there to provide assistance to states and local communities in meeting the shortfalls that are often faced when it comes to funding at those levels.

    What are you getting at here TB? That we shouldnt have welfare going to individuals? There isnt much in the way of your opinion here. But either way, just like the meaning of words evolve over time, so does the role of government as circumstances deem them necessary.

    I found it interesting also, that you didnt mention much about this part and the hypocrisy from both sides.
    This would mean to me, that all this right wing garbage about free trade with certain countries and tax breaks for certain companies and various industries are as unconstitutional as welfare for poor people. So, why not just come out and say it...
    I dont want my tax dollars supporting poor people.
     
  3. Truth-Bringer

    Truth-Bringer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Well I certainly can't argue about that. The GOP has definitely been quite hypocritical in regards to government spending, except for certain individuals such as Ron Paul who continue to vote against all unbalanced budgets.

    Actually, we live in a de jure republic that has deteriorated into more of a de facto legislative democracy.

    Madison's words and actions are quite clear. He's the father of the Constitution. I think he knows what he's talking about.

    Huh? The Department of Education wasn't created until 1979.

    At the federal level, no. It is not within the enumerated powers of the federal government - neither is corporate welfare of any type. If it's going to be done, legally, it would have to be done at the state or local level.

    Appeal to Novelty fallacy. Should 2 + 2 = 4 evolve to 2 + 2 = 5 simply because the times change?

    I fully admit that both political parties are hypocrites on the issue.

    I agree. All these trade deals are unconstitutional and should be stopped. We should have a flat tariff. All corporate welfare should be stopped as well. If we're not going to have welfare for individuals, we definitely shouldn't have it for corporations.
     
  4. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Ah you cut my quote off, so lets try it again.

    I used the department of education, but could have also used transportation, and a few others. Without some federal assistance state and local communities would struggle to provide the services of government at a level on par with other states and communities.

    Libsmasher would agree with your math on that one, but that is another issue.
    You said words evolved, I dont disagree, I also pointed out that the role of government has evolved. But you brought in the math equation that we both know is a stretch for purposes of this discussion.
     
  5. Truth-Bringer

    Truth-Bringer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Speculation.


    No, it is not a stretch. Logic is logic, and truth is truth. They don't "evolve." The role of government hasn't evolved. It's only legitimate function is punishing those who initiate force, fraud or coercion. It has no legitimate authority to control the peaceful, honest, voluntary actions of adult individuals.

    "It [is] inconsistent with the principles of civil liberty, and contrary
    to the natural rights of the other members of the society, that any
    body of men therein should have authority to enlarge their own
    powers... without restraint." --Thomas Jefferson: Virginia Allowance
    Bill, 1778. (government or the majority has no right to usurp authority that deprives any individual of inalienable rights under Natural Law)

    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as
    are injurious to others." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia, 1782. (meaning government or majority does not have the right to claim any power over people if they are acting in peaceful, honest, voluntary ways)

    "Laws provide against injury from others, but not from
    ourselves." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Religion, 1776 (meaning the majority cannot make laws punishing victimless crimes such as prostitution or smoking marijuana)

    "The people cannot delegate to government the power to do anything which would be unlawful for them to do themselves (as individuals)." - John Locke (the principle influence of the political thought of the Founding Fathers - for example, if you can't steal from someone by force or threat of force as an individual, you can't do it as government)
     
  6. Federal Farmer

    Federal Farmer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Bunz, I fear that I must take issue with your characterization. Both the DNC and the GOP today are equally culpable in their reckless, and blatantly un-constitutional spending. It is the same thought process of "bread and circuses" that eventually led to the downfall of the Roman Empire, and like all who refuse to learn from their history, we appear doomed to repeat it.

    Simply stating that we live in a "democracy" as opposed to a Republic (be it on life support as it is) does not make it so. The founding fathers addressed this very point in Article IV Section IV of the Constitution when they very clearly stated that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government...". Further proof of the founding fathers contempt for "direct democracy" can be found in their creation of an Electoral College, which very astutely precludes We The People from exercising "direct" control of the elections of our federal officers.

    In a "democracy", or more properly a "direct democracy", 51% of the people may enslave 49% of the people at will, which is why Massachusettensis pointed out in his 5th Essay to "To the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay" that "...monarchy is apt to rush headlong into tyranny, aristocracy to beget faction and multiplied usurpation, and democracy to degenerate into tumult, violence and anarchy." The author Charles Inglis, in his essay of 1776 entitled "The True Interest of America Impartially Stated" hesitated not to refer to someone who sought "democracy" as "crack-brained zelot". You may also wish to cousult Federalist 10, in which Alexander Hamilton makes it quite clear that not only is our form of government under our Constitution not a "democracy", and that "democracy" is to be avoided at all costs. Even Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that "A democracy [is] the only pure republic, but impracticable beyond the limits of a town.", but perhaps my favorite quote on the subject of "democracy" comes from Sir Winston Churchill who said "The strongest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter."

    No form of "direct democratic" government has ever lasted, since it is doomed to failure from the outset simply by the fact that it is nothing more than mob rule, where the leaders of the mob are among the least educated, least even tempered, and least interested in what is best for all of the citizens.

    I fear you are once again mistaken, or simply misguided. The original Department of Health Education and Welfare was begun as a Cabinet level department under President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, and from it sprang the modern Department of Education in 1979. The fact that a federal agency was enacted by a government that collects so much in taxes from the citizenry in order to administer a federal agency who's mission is to return, selectively, the money to the States for their own schools boggles the mind, and escapes all attempts at rational explaination. If the States need additional funding for their Schools, there's a very simple solution to the problem, shut down the DE, and reduce taxes accordingly so that the States themselves may collect those monies for their own use, in their own schools, by their own citizens, without having to pay the operating expenses of another high maintainance building occupied by dim-witted functionaries in Washington DC.

    No, there should be no "welfare" going to individuals. The concept of redistribution of wealth is anathema to the principles of any republican form of government. It is also in complete contradiction to the Constitution, on it's face. As far as words changing meaning, I fear that this is a specious argument. Words mean what words mean, unless of course you live in some Alice in Wonderland world where "words mean what I want them to mean, when I want them to mean them, and no longer". If you wish to change the Constitution, the mechanism for doing so is contained in the document, and I invite you to avail yourself of that Right, but that is the only way that circumstances may deem them necessary, otherwise one is constrained to the "original meaning" and "texturalism" of the Constitution, as written, signed, and ratified by the 13 colonies, and all subsequent States as they have joined our country.

    I'll say it, I DON'T want my tax dollars going to support ANYONE, including individuals, companies, or industries. The power of taxation, as was clearly expounded by the founding fathers, was to be limited strictly to those items specifically enumerated in Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution.
     
  7. Truth-Bringer

    Truth-Bringer New Member

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  8. Federal Farmer

    Federal Farmer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Thank you.

    I've been studying the Constitution, and the writings of the FF's for over 30 years, and it never ceases to amaze me the utter lack of knowledge on the subject that most Americans today possess. Disheartening doesn't even begin to cover it. What is perhaps worse, for me personally, is when one takes the time and effort to try to help someone understand the subject, and they steadfastly refuse to even make an attempt to do so, relying instead on their own preconceived notions and prejudices, regardless of the volumnes of information to the contrary one provides them. The extraordinary lengths that some will go to in order to maintain their "willful ignorance" is a constant source of awe and wonder to me (I shake my head, mutter "aww" s**t, I "wonder" how this one managed to get past the 3rd grade:rolleyes:).

    Again, thank you.

    Noted, and replied to.
     
  9. ilikeboobs

    ilikeboobs Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Here's an example of why the federal government SHOULD NEVER be taking your money and distributing it to unconstitutionally-funded bureaucracies, let alone special interests:

    Federal taxpayers are subsidizing a college in New York whose art school is currently displaying works that include a drawing of a man with a crucifix coming out of his rectum, a drawing of a man with a rosary coming out of his rectum, and rosaries decorated with penises. Over the last eight years, at least $4.6 million in federal tax dollars have been provided to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, which is displaying the controversial artworks. Some of the money has come in the form of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

    I fail to see how stealing my money and giving it to jackasses who think crosses in butts is "art". And I REALLY fail to see how this would ever be construed as something covered by the "general welfare" clause.
     
  10. 9sublime

    9sublime Active Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Anything that inspires emotion is art, and you getting pissy about a rectum coming out of someones butt is good enough for me :)
     
  11. Federal Farmer

    Federal Farmer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    I can give you some better examples.

    1) I offer into evidence the words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the original Founding Fathers, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, an Ambassador to France, and our 3rd President, who said in his letter to Albert Gallatin in 1817;
    2) He had also addressed the issue in 1791, when he said concerning Congress;
    3) Shall we consider the words of James Madison, also one of the original Founding Fathers, one of the primary authors of the Federalist Papers, the author of the Bill of Rights, and the 4th President of the United States, who said;
    Simply stated, Congress does not have proper legal authority to apply money to anything that is not specifically enumerated in Article I Section VIII of the US Constitution, and as these founding fathers clearly stated, only those thing specifically enumerated in Article I Section VIII of the Constitution constitute the "general welfare", and nothing else.
     
  12. Federal Farmer

    Federal Farmer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Yes, well, unfortunately supporting the "arts" in general is NOT one of the specifically enumerated items upon which Congress is authorized by the Constitution to spend the publics money upon. Only the "USEFUL arts" are specifically enumerated, so perhaps you could inform us all of exactly how you feel that such "art" as described above is in any way "useful"? Oh, and no, getting a kick out of watching someone hurl their lunch when they see such trash is NOT "useful".
     
  13. GenSeneca

    GenSeneca Well-Known Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    TB and FedFarm,

    I'm right there with you guys as far as the idealism represented by our Constitution, I hope to one day return to what the founders had intended for our country.

    Problem is... this is 2008. In the last 232 years of politicians trying to make a name for themselves, we have taken on many obligations and responsibilities. Point being, we cannot just take a mulligan and start over without consequence.

    Any return to America's Ideal state will take nearly as long as its taken to get to where we are today. I want to get back to a Constitutional Republic but the odds are stacked against those of us holding such an opinion... as you guys well know.

    Its very popular to offer federal funds for this or that group, organization or program. How do you plan to fight such populism? I hear a great deal of idealism but not much in the way of solutions that deal with the realities of past obligations.

    Thats not specifically pointed at the two of you but Constitutionalists in general.
    -----------------------------------------
    Someone mentioned Ron Paul, I found him to be disappointing on multiple levels. In particular, Paul's tacit support for Earmarks and Conspiracy theories turned me off to him. He also oversimplifies the problems we face in dealing with our past obligations and commitments, preferring to spout flowery Constitutional rhetoric when he should be proposing rational and detailed measure to begin our return. This leads me to believe he is either not fully honest about his Constitutional positions OR more likely, he does not have an adequate support structure (Think Tanks) for creating such proposals.

    One last thing I wanted to address, Corporate Welfare.

    Depending on which corporation we're talking about, this is a complete misnomer. Corporations pay a huge percentage of our budget in taxes - thus when they get money back, I see it as being no different than returning money to any other taxpayer who overpaid in taxes.

    Of course there are exceptions, the Corn Ethanol industry is the best example of true corporate welfare I can come up with. That entire industry would not exist but for our taxdollars creating and sustaining it.

    Anyhow, I look forward to your comments.
     
  14. Federal Farmer

    Federal Farmer New Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    I wholeheartedly agree. Realizing that there is a problem, and what the problem is only represents the first two steps towards a cure. The challenge is that we must be careful in how we approach the problem or it may be a case of "the operation was a success, but the patient died".

    I do realize this, but I disagree in your prognosis as to the amount of time necessary. I've looked at this for several decades, and given some serious people, in positions of serious power and authority, it should take 50-60 years max. I say this advisedly because the current state we're in is primarily a result of the highly Socialist programs promulgated by FDR. It's not unlike weening an addict off of herion, you can't simply cut them off cold-turkey and expect an optimum outcome. You have to start by slowly cutting back on the amount of the drug (in this case, all of the Socialist programs), and returning ourselves to a strictly Constitutional economic policy.

    The first requirement would be to simply start holding our representatives (employees) CRIMINALLY responsible for violating their Oaths of Office, and the Constitution. The Constitution is quite clear on what the Congress may and may not spend our money on, and any Congresscritter who fails to uphold that Oath should be impeached, and then charged and tried for their (felony) CRIMINAL actions (Article 1 Section III, and Article 1 Section VI). I'm currently working with a group in my home district to bring charges against our Representative for just this very thing, and if successful, it could very well set the precendent we've been looking for, since apparantly nothing else has gotten their attention.
    -----------------------------------------
    The biggest thing that completely turned me off about RP is the fact that a sitting Congressman, with as many years of experience as he has, and who harps about the Constitution as much as he does, could be so willfully ignorant about it, particularaly in his screeching about OIF being "unconstitutional". The man is a barking moonbat who needs to be hooded like a falcon! The Constitution does in fact give Congress the 'authority' to declare War, but it does not require Congress to do so. He also conveniently ignores the fact that the Joint Resolution concerning Iraq was in fact a declaration of war. There is no constitutionally prescribed form that a "declaration of war" must, or even should, take therefore such a declaration is immediately in effect the moment the Congress authorizes military force to be used against any foreign State or power provided it passes both chambers like any other Bill, and receives the signature of POTUS, or in case of a veto, is overridden, as prescribed in the Constitution, by Congress.

    Completely agree. "Corporate Welfare" is 'lib speak' used to describe their jealousy because they never had the intestinal fortitude to start and run their own business, and build it to the point where incorporating was adventagous. Simply put, the ones screeching about "corporate welfare" are nothing but a bunch of whinney assed, cry-baby slackers who are envious of, and want to stick it to, "the man".

    Corn ethanol is one of the biggest Red Herrings ever foisted upon the American people. Anyone with even half a brain, a fourth grade education, and the ability to operate a calculator can quickly see that even if we were to convert every arible acre of land in the entire United States to corn production, we wouldn't be able to produce enough to satisfy half or our current fuel usage. One can only grow so many bushels of corn per acre, I don't care how much nitrogen you dump on it, and one can only get so much ethanol out of each bushel of corn, I don't care how hard you squeeze it, so even thinking about using corn ethanol is a non-starter right out of the gate, and the fact that the government would even consider funding it simply proves that any time "government" is the answer, it has to be a REALLY stupid question.
     
  15. GenSeneca

    GenSeneca Well-Known Member

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    Re: The "General Welfare" Clause Does Not Grant the Government Unlimited Spending Pow

    Sounds like we agree about a great many things but to keep this from becoming a discussion devoted to patting each other on the back for our wisdom and use of relevant quotes on the subject, I would like to focus on the areas where we disagree.

    Now I don't have your years of experience on the matter but going through the courts sounds like a pretty difficult path - Particularly if you're appearing in the 9th Circus Court of California. BTW, Where are you doing this? I would like to keep an eye on how things progress.

    Another point of contention I would have is on your timetable... We have many long term treaties and trade obligations to consider. Forgive me for not remembering the specifics off the top of my head but Bush recently renewed a 100 year agreement with another country - or one of our provinces. (hearing he signed a 100 year agreement is what sticks out and I can look it up later if necessary)

    And speaking of American Provinces (such as Puerto Rico - who to my knowledge is not actually a state but votes in our elections anyway) perhaps you could enlighten me as to the Constitutionality of such provinces and where they would fit into a Constitutional re-organization of America.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise and no offense to TB but you're much more pleasant to chat with. TB seemed more interested in proving intellectual superiority on the subject, rather than dealing with the types of questions I have posed to you, hopefully the kind that lead to realistically applicable solutions.
     
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