Sunday, August 8, 2010

The General Welfare…

The Clarion Ledger (the Jackson, MS newspaper) has a couple right/left bloggers in their employ.  One of these, who is named Jere Nash has posted an entry defending the health insurance mandate found in ObamaCare

His stance is that the mandated insurance policy isn't mandated, because "if a person choose not  to purchase a policy, he or she pays a modest assessment to cover his or her freeloader status."

Which is basically this logic:

  1. Government demands you must purchase Product A
  2. If you do not purchase Product A (because you like Product B or don't want Product A) then Government fines/taxes you
  3. If you do not pay fine/tax, you go to jail

So, your options if you willingly and happily don't want the government to demand you to purchase a product, is that you can pay extra money (and remember, this tax also applies to those folks who have better insurance or just don't want the government package) or go to jail.

So, this bastion of personal freedom, then questions whether or not one is willing to argue about Social Security and Medicare being un-constitutional, since they are government funded and taxed option. After all, the taxes/fines for non buying Product A are much less "onerous" than the taxes/fines which fund Social Security and Medicare.

Which is like saying,  should we do away with petty theft criminal laws because it's not dealing with the taking of as much real property as grand larceny laws are concerned with.

Regardless, my response to the underlying question would have to be a hearty: YES!

The federal government does not have a Constitutional mandate for providing charity. It's the reason that we have non-profit, charitable organizations after all.

Surprise! Who would have expected a Constitutionalist to support smaller government.

Then we get to the final bit of Leftist brilliance in this post, which is found in the following quote:

And, besides, the preamble to the Constitution specifically states that the Union is formed to "promote the general welfare."

Which, for some odd reason, he's right. Those words are in the preamble of the Constitution. So, let's look at that bit of text:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.

Yup, right there, that fourth out of five reasons is "promote the general Welfare."

Yet, in my opinion, Mr. Nash is taking that particular phrase and running it through a blender to get it to provide a meaning not supported by its context.  Mr. Nash is more or less stating that the preamble to our Constitution is concerned about the general health of individuals.

In a certain light, one can see how that is applicable.  After all, general is defined as "involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole," while Welfare is defined as "the state of doing well especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity."

Basically, the preamble is stating that the Constitution is defined to do the following:

  1. Form a "more perfect" Union
  2. Establish Justice
  3. Provide for the common defense
  4. Promote happiness, well-being and prosperity FOR THE WHOLE
  5. Secure the Blessings of Liberty

Sure, people read number four there, and go, "oh look! See the Constitution is all about Government providing for the welfare of people."

Unfortunately for those Socialists/Statists among us,  that is basically ignoring the "general" aspect of the phrase.  To qualify who the framers were discussing in this aspect, let's take a gander at the second place where the phrase is used.  The first clause of Article 1, Section 8 reads:

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;

Notice that no where in that clause is the phrase "the people" mentioned.  Meanwhile, whenever the Constitution is concerned about the people it succinctly states as such (see Amendments I, II, IV, IX, X, and XVII).

Additionally, note that the "pay debts and provide" clause is attached to the common defense attribute.  James Madison was of the opinion that this meant that Congress was allowed to spend money  within the needs to carry out the powers and duties specifically enumerated in the subsequent clauses of Article 1, Section 8. 

In fact in a letter to Edmund Pendleton dated January 21, 1792, Madison wrote:

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.

Read that paragraph. That's James Madison, the guy that WROTE THE CONSTITUTION, basically describing what has happened to our country as more socialists/statists (and this is in regards to tax and spend Democrats and Republicans both) gather power in Washington—more importantly he describes it as a subversion of the very foundations of our Government and way of life.

Additionally, in his last act as President prior to leaving that office, Madison vetoed a bill for "internal improvements" (which included the building of roads, bridges and canals).  He is on record as doing so for multiple reasons, the first and most important is because it was a violation of stats' rights.

But, he also rejected Congress' justification for the bill (which was the General Welfare provision of the Taxing and Spending Clause) by stating:

Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms "common defense and general welfare" embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.

Of course, these things are what the polity in Washington want.  They want Congress to have a general power of legislation rather than a defined and limited one.  They want the power to control individuals prosperity—by having legal structures to remove said prosperity at whim.  They want the ability to legislate morality, as they define it, up to and including how people think.

Worse, is how many of their wants have come true…

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