Promoting the General Welfare
Steny Hoyer (and I am sure others will follow) has claimed that the ‘General Welfare’ allows Congress to force Americans to buy healthcare insurance. He is clearly wrong, as one of my favorite law professors, Professor Shea used to say, Congress cannot legislate for the General Welfare. Here is why Hoyer is wrong.
The United States Constitution is simply the document that unified the (at the time) 13 states and set out the rules by which those 13 states would: (1) regulate commerce between themselves; (2) admit new states; (3) settle disputes; (4) raise and spend money; (5) raise a military for their common defense; and (6) ensure that certain rights and liberties were respected as they passed from one state through to another–i.e., a Virginian was not discriminated against in New York. So you had three parties at risk: (a) the new federal government; (b) the states and (c) the people. The document had to address what the individual rights and responsibilities of each of those parties would be and how they would be carried out.
The principle that the drafters followed, which is embodied expressly in the Tenth Amendment is that, if the Constitution does not expressly give the federal government a power, no such power exists. The Constitution lays out in great detail the three separate branches of the federal government, their powers and their limits. So what about this “General Welfare” clause? Is there a provision that allows the federal government to provide for the “general welfare?” No. It is in the introduction:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure 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.
It was not the bloated federal bureaucracy that was established to promote the general Welfare–it was the Constitution itself.
So what does that mean? In Steny Hoyer’s mind (and, I’m sure, the minds of a lot of government-centric liberals) it means that the federal government–specifically Congress– is being created to “promote the general Welfare.” But if you read to the end of that sentence, it is not the federal government that this language refers to. No, Mr. Hoyer. It is not you, Mrs. Pelosi and your bloated, ignorant, unaccountable federal bureaucracy that was established to promote the general Welfare. It was the Constitution itself.
It was the Constitution that was written to promote the general welfare. The limits on federal power are what promote the general welfare. The very barriers between the federal government, the state government and the people that Hoyer, Pelosi and Reid so gleefully ignore–that is what the Founders had in mind when they talked about promoting the general Welfare. The clear, unambiguous language in black and crinkled yellow that says, “thou shalt not trample my rights” is what establishes justice, ensures domestic tranquility, provides for the common defense, promotes the general Welfare, and secures the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
It is the Constitution –the limits on federal power–that promote the general welfare.
Liberals lament the sharp reaction that their schemes have met. They fret about violence and secretly fear the backlash from their policies. Their constant unconstitutional plans are all met with passionate anger: dragging us deeper in debt for their pet projects; telling us at what temperature to set our thermostats; coercing people into buying insurance; “nudging” us into what they deem to be proper behavior. It is the Constitution that has ensured domestic justice and tranquility for 220 years. Democrats “reshape” our Republic at their peril.