The Patriot Act and the "phony" war on terror is slowly taken away our civil liberties and burning away at the U.S. Constitution. With that being said I feel I need to continue to add credence in my posts to defend our rights and freedoms as Americans.
Americans are beginning to question the constitutionality of proposed programs such as government run healthcare. In response to these challenges, a misinterpretation of the 'General Welfare' clause seems to be the common support for such Federal programs. This article examines what the General Welfare clause actually means.
US Constitution Preamble:
"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. "
The Federal Government has continued to expand its power using misinterpretations of the Constitution as its defense. The General Welfare clause is one of the most commonly missentrupreted and seemingly the vaguest of all of the clauses in the Constitution. There is much that can be written on the subject, however the meaning of the ‘General Welfare' clause is easy to grasp with just a few observations.
In order to understand the General Welfare clause, you have to look at only two things. The first is the common definition of both general and welfare. The second is to which body or entity this clause applies.
General: "involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole"
Welfare: "the state of doing well especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity."
So, the Constitution states that the US government will promote the state of well being, happiness and/or prosperity for the whole. Those in defense of the expansion of Federal power (and what are now defined as Federal "welfare" programs and entitlement programs) stop there and are satisfied with this generic application of such a definition. However, in order to completely understand the meaning and intended purpose of this clause, you must define who or what makes up the "whole". In other words, to whom does the General Welfare clause apply?
Article 1, Section 8:
"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;"
This section specifically defines to which body or entity the general welfare clause is to apply, since the United States is specifically made up of the States themselves, this clause applies to the States as a whole and not the People. The Constitution addresses specific entities throughout the document. The People as an entity are only addressed twice in the main body of the US Constitution and in no case does the General Welfare clause apply to the People specifically. However, the Constitution does specifically define the rights which are to be retained by the People, as you can see in the following constitutional amendments.
"...or the right of the people peaceably to assemble."
"...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,..."
"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
"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."
"...elected by the people thereof..."
"...That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election..."
The General Welfare clause applies to the States of the Union, not to the People. However, it is certainly in the best interest of the People if the General Welfare of the states is promoted.
It is important to state however, that under Amendment 10 of the US Constitution, many of the programs that have been created by the Federal Government such as Welfare, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc, would otherwise be perfectly constitutional under the jurisdiction of the states themselves.
University of Common Sense
Note: In my opinion, the 17th Amendment should be repealed, because it undermines the sovereignty of the States and the original concept of separation of powers, but that is another topic.