So often, we hear from politicians in both parties, and, by extension, many of the people who vote them into office, why our Government(s) should, or needs to, spend more of our money. Then, if you confront a politician, and ask them why they continually support creating more welfare programs, you will most likely get an answer such as: “We do it because people are out of work,” and, “we care about the poor.” The supposition is that, Government must spend more of our money, otherwise people will be homeless, and starving. But, is that really the case? Please consider what one of our greatest Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, said, in regards to this subject:
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
Conversely, it is not unusual for politicians to give our money away to industries, corporations, banks etc. And, if you confront a politician, and ask them why they are continually giving our money to these entities, the answer, generally is, that it’s for the “Public Good.” In other words, if they subsidize this, or bailout that, they are saving, or expanding our economy. Anyone with a basic understanding of Free-Market economics knows that such an argument is completely fallacious, and would only distort, and hinder, economic growth!
What they fail to tell us is that, most of these things, whether it is corporate welfare, or welfare to the poor, is subsidized by our Federal Government, via borrowing from foreign countries, or by printing more and more money, which causes inflation, and the devaluing of the current money that we all have in our wallets, pocket books, and bank accounts.
And, time and time again, we hear the demagogues in both parties proudly appearing on interviews, and claiming that they are the saviors of the people!
First of all, there is nowhere in The United States Constitution that possibly gives our Federal Government the power to create any welfare programs, whether the welfare is directed to the rich or the poor! Often times, we will hear The General Welfare Clause cited, as reason to create such programs; but, Thomas Jefferson, many years ago, put that fallacy to rest:
“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
James Madison, who is widely considered to be The Father of The United States Constitution, made a similar comment, in regards to The General Welfare Clause:
“With respect to the two 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.”
Both Jefferson and Madison, rightly, pointed out that, tax-payer dollars, or Congress’ power of borrowing, could only be used by The Federal Government if the money was connected with the Powers explicitly enumerated to them by The Constitution.
Of course, there is The Tenth Amendment, as well, which says:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Therefore, the logical and legal conclusion that should be drawn is, The Federal Government was created to be an agent of a Few, Enumerated Powers – leaving the people, in their respective states, to decide, through their state Constitutions, what is in their General Welfare.
With that said, I could conclude this post. But, this subject goes well beyond the legal arguments of our Federal and State Constitutions, and goes into questions of morality as well.
Do most Americans, myself included, sympathize with those who are hungry, and without homes? Of course we do! Do most Americans want a vibrant economy, so that we, and our children, can be gainfully employed, and have dignified and prosperous careers? Absolutely!
The question then becomes: who is responsible for the least among us, and for a good, vibrant economy? Which, undeniably, is good for all of us, including the poor. That answer is very simple: We, The People!
President Grover Cleveland, eloquently, explained it, with these words:
“The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.”
Our citizenry has a long history of helping out those in need, in this country, as well as in foreign countries; unfortunately, throughout the 20th Century, our Government(s) have, presumptuously, and arrogantly, taken on the role of both philanthropists, and venture Capitalists – with OUR MONEY! Our Governments have systematically hindered, if not destroyed, that kindly sentiment that President Cleveland referred to; while, at the same time, bankrupting our Public Treasuries!
Politicians, over the last century, found that, they could bribe the citizenry, in exchange for their votes, by offering more public welfare to the poor, and more subsidies and bailouts to the rich. But, no matter where you stand on either side of these two policies, both are tantamount to theft!
In the words of Thomas Jefferson:
“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
From the beginning of our country, starting with The Declaration of Independence, it was understood that, Governments are instituted to “secure” (as in to protect) our “natural,” “unalienable,” rights; not to be the arbiter of them!
Good public policy should be based on a Government who secures economic and civil Liberties for it’s citizens, allowing the citizenry to freely live their lives; not to favor the rich, or the poor, or any other group, who they believe, is most likely to assure their re-elections!