The 'General Welfare' thread

Discussion in 'Politics' started by manifold, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. manifold
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    manifold Diamond Member

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    from Article I section 8 of the US 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"

    I don't see any explicit limit placed on what CAN or CANNOT be considered providing for the general welfare of the United States. However, I've seen several people here lately argue that there is only ONE acceptable definition of 'general welfare' (conveniently their own) and it excludes anything that even slightly constitutes a redistribution of wealth.

    I understand philosophical and ideological opposition to wealth redistribution. But I don't understand constitutional opposition.

    How do you interpret the General Welfare clause?
     
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  2. Cuyo
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    Cuyo Training a Guineapig army

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    Like most of the constitution, it is intentionally ambiguous. :thup:
     
  3. Jack Fate
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    Jack Fate I'm Your Daddy

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    I believe the GW clause refers to public works, etc. General welfare. It's not that complicated. A looney lefty would have you believe it means everyone should be guaranteed a job, home, education, etc. When a lefty sees the word "welfare" they automatically think of getting funded by some government program.
     
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  4. Trajan
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    Trajan conscientia mille testes

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    It become ambiguous in the cause to provide everything to everyone. becasue there is imho, a lack of honest and logical interpretation as to what (are) enumerated power(s) means.
     
  5. johnrocks
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    johnrocks Silver Member

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    General Welfare;like "Common Defense" and the "Commerce Clause" has been so widely and broadly interpreted to render it meaningless;imho; but "General Welfare" to me; means for all of our good and all of us share equally in the cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ;it could be argued; is for all of our benefit, it can fight epidemics that could kill millions but Obamacare or Medicare Part D ;not so much, we pay different costs,some don't pay anything, others get subsidized for providing coverage,some don't need it so there is no "General " benefit; not the way I interpret it anyway.
     
  6. ClosedCaption
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    ClosedCaption Diamond Member

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    I really cannot stand the way repubs intentionally misrepresent the oppositions arguments. Not ONE person has ever said everyone should have a job amd a house. Not one!
     
  7. kaz
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    kaz Diamond Member

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    So your argument is that when the Founding Fathers signed what they thought was a document that strictly limited Federal Power and preserved individual freedoms and protected State rights, one of those enumerated powers was "oh, and the Federal Government can do whatever the hell it wants."

    Very persuasive argument that is...
     
  8. manifold
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    manifold Diamond Member

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    Then why wasn't that spelled out specifically?
     
  9. Intense
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    Intense Senior Member

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    FEDERALIST No. 41
    General View of the Powers Conferred by The Constitution
    For the Independent Journal.
    James Madison

    To the People of the State of New York:

    THE Constitution proposed by the convention may be considered under two general points of view. The FIRST relates to the sum or quantity of power which it vests in the government, including the restraints imposed on the States. The SECOND, to the particular structure of the government, and the distribution of this power among its several branches.

    Under the FIRST view of the subject, two important questions arise: 1. Whether any part of the powers transferred to the general government be unnecessary or improper? 2. Whether the entire mass of them be dangerous to the portion of jurisdiction left in the several States?

    Is the aggregate power of the general government greater than ought to have been vested in it? This is the FIRST question.


    It cannot have escaped those who have attended with candor to the arguments employed against the extensive powers of the government, that the authors of them have very little considered how far these powers were necessary means of attaining a necessary end. They have chosen rather to dwell on the inconveniences which must be unavoidably blended with all political advantages; and on the possible abuses which must be incident to every power or trust, of which a beneficial use can be made. This method of handling the subject cannot impose on the good sense of the people of America. It may display the subtlety of the writer; it may open a boundless field for rhetoric and declamation; it may inflame the passions of the unthinking, and may confirm the prejudices of the misthinking: but cool and candid people will at once reflect, that the purest of human blessings must have a portion of alloy in them; that the choice must always be made, if not of the lesser evil, at least of the GREATER, not the PERFECT, good; and that in every political institution, a power to advance the public happiness involves a discretion which may be misapplied and abused. They will see, therefore, that in all cases where power is to be conferred, the point first to be decided is, whether such a power be necessary to the public good; as the next will be, in case of an affirmative decision, to guard as effectually as possible against a perversion of the power to the public detriment.

    That we may form a correct judgment on this subject, it will be proper to review the several powers conferred on the government of the Union; and that this may be the more conveniently done they may be reduced into different classes as they relate to the following different objects: 1. Security against foreign danger; 2. Regulation of the intercourse with foreign nations; 3. Maintenance of harmony and proper intercourse among the States; 4. Certain miscellaneous objects of general utility; 5. Restraint of the States from certain injurious acts; 6. Provisions for giving due efficacy to all these powers. ..........
    Some, who have not denied the necessity of the power of taxation, have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.

    Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms "to raise money for the general welfare.

    "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.

    The objection here is the more extraordinary, as it appears that the language used by the convention is a copy from the articles of Confederation. The objects of the Union among the States, as described in article third, are "their common defense, security of their liberties, and mutual and general welfare. " The terms of article eighth are still more identical: "All charges of war and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury," etc. A similar language again occurs in article ninth. Construe either of these articles by the rules which would justify the construction put on the new Constitution, and they vest in the existing Congress a power to legislate in all cases whatsoever. But what would have been thought of that assembly, if, attaching themselves to these general expressions, and disregarding the specifications which ascertain and limit their import, they had exercised an unlimited power of providing for the common defense and general welfare? I appeal to the objectors themselves, whether they would in that case have employed the same reasoning in justification of Congress as they now make use of against the convention. How difficult it is for error to escape its own condemnation!
    -Madison (Before He lost His first Supreme Court Case)

    Federalist Papers: FEDERALIST No. 41
     
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  10. Cuyo
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    Cuyo Training a Guineapig army

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    I didn't read all that... But I hope you realize Madison is hardly the person you want to be quoting. His views were quite incompatible with Democracy as we understand it today.
     

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