The Spending Clause – Article I, Section 8 – and the general welfare

With the Sound Off Sister providing legal commentary on the General Welfare clause, I thought I’d toss in my opinion since the subject is closely tied to my Symptom of the Disease series. With no doubt, the interpretation of the Spending Clause is the root of many problems we have right now. Let’s take a look at some history in reference to Article I, Section 8.

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Mandatory insurance and the Constitution

In the race to do something quickly about health care, it would seem that Congress has overlooked one pesky little problem…the United States Constitution.

Our founding fathers determined that the individual states were better equipped to deal with most issues.  So, when establishing Congress in Article I of the Constitution, they limited the power of Congress to only those matters specified in Article I, Section 8.

All versions of Obamacare currently pending before Congress require everyone to obtain health insurance or pay a fine for failure to do so.  But, does Congress have the power to do that?  The only way to answer the question is to look at the Constitution.

Of all of the powers listed in Article I, Section 8, there are only two that could possibly justify Congress’s actions, the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the power to tax.

The power to regulate interstate commerce would, without question, allow Congress to pass a law stating that all insurance companies must be allowed to do business across state lines.  But, having done that, could that power be extended to provide that all people in the state purchase insurance?   The best analogy I can give is that under the power to regulate interstate commerce, Congress could certainly pass a law requiring the state of Florida to permit peaches from the state of Georgia to be sold in Florida.  But, having done that, can Congress then require that all citizens in Florida must buy peaches, or be fined by the federal government for failure to do so?  I think not.  Thus, mandatory insurance cannot be supported by Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.

The only other provision of Article I, Section 8 that could hope to be used in an attempt to support mandatory insurance would be Congress’s power to tax.  And, although our president has said this is not a tax, the drafters of Obamacare think otherwise.  All versions of the pending legislation put the mandatory insurance requirement in the tax code!

But, just because it’s an amendment to the tax code, is it constitutional?  Again, I think the answer is, no.  No matter how laudable it may be for all to have insurance, Congress has no more power to mandate this than it would have, for example, to mandate that all people weigh no more that a certain amount, or pay a tax; or, cover their mouths when they cough, or, pay a tax; or, using the above example, buy peaches, or pay a tax.

Although all of these items may be things that promote health, Congress has no constitutional power to do so.  There simply is no “for the good of the country” exception in Article I, Section 8.

Are we in a post-Constitutional America?

That title should send a shiver or two down your spine, but this is a good time in American history to consider if some portions of the United States Constitution are being completely ignored. Do some Americans – do you – think parts of the Constitution does not reflect what America wants anymore?

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Compare ‘promote’ and ‘provide’ in your dictionary and get back to me

I have not been blogging as much as I would like lately and there is no one good reason. It’s summer and I’d rather be out riding my bike, I’ve been busy at work, have a couple of other projects in the works and, well, it’s summer. That said, sometimes I feel like a broken record.

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We’ve got mail – Boston physician desires “not for profit” health care

I guess I’m smarter than a 5th grader. Or at least I’m smarter than a professor emeritus of medicine and social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Arnold Relman might know plenty about health care, but nothing about health care economics. Read more

Feinstein, $25 billion, and her husband’s company

In today’s “can we make the problem any more obvious” file, we have Sen. Diane Feinstein introducing legislation to send $25 billion in tax dollars to the Federal Deposit Insurance Agency (FDIC) who days before provided her husband’s company a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties.

The Washington Times thought this was a pretty interesting story especially since Feinstein is not on any FDIC-related committee in Congress.

Mrs. Feinstein’s intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn’t a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments – not direct federal dollars.

Documents reviewed by The Washington Times show Mrs. Feinstein first offered Oct. 30 to help the FDIC secure money for its effort to stem the rise of home foreclosures. Her letter was sent just days before the agency determined that CB Richard Ellis Group (CBRE) – the commercial real estate firm that her husband Richard Blum heads as board chairman – had won the competitive bidding for a contract to sell foreclosed properties that FDIC had inherited from failed banks.

About the same time of the contract award, Mr. Blum’s private investment firm reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it and related affiliates had purchased more than 10 million new shares in CBRE. The shares were purchased for the going price of $3.77; CBRE’s stock closed Monday at $5.14.

Again, this is one more example why the U.S. Constitution was written the way it was written. In what section does the Constitution provide this authorization to spend money this way? It’s a pretty simple question, but nobody seems to care.

By respecting the Founder’s document, this type of graft would be very limited at the federal level.

Gateway Pundit just picked up on this story and reminds us that this has happened before with Feinstein. You’ll see more bloggers on it throughout the day.

Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.) from 2001 through the end of 2005 supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars for specific military construction projects whose interests were largely controlled by her husband.

Ed at Hot Air

In other words, Richard Blum bought 10 million shares at the same time his wife arranged for an unusual and extremely large chunk of taxpayer money to go to FDIC.  Blum must have been an investment genius to guess that his wife’s intervention would coincidentally precede the FDIC’s award, making CBRE stock more valuable.  Blum’s investment made a $14 million profit for Blum and Feinstein and their partners.

But of course, that’s all just a coincidence.

Life gets better with cash to spend – until you have to pay it back

Hold firm. For the next couple of months – maybe even for the next couple of years – you’re going to hear things are getting better, President Obama’s plan is going to work. As a matter of fact, I just heard a commentator on Fox News note things are getting better so why would we want to stop what is being done!

This is not unexpected and there is a good explanation. Hold firm.

If I loaned you $1 million, would your life be better today? Tomorrow? What about next week? Eventually you would need to pay back the $1 million – with interest of course – but the point is there could be an influx of good things in your life. You could buy a new car, boat, mountain bike, and maybe even one of those fancy iPhones without the two year commitment.

Of course, if I loaned you $100, you’re life could be better today as well, but there is a much better chance you would be able to pay back that loan, and that is where we are right now.

wapoobamabudget1The government is printing and handing out money so fast that nobody in Congress can tell you where it is going or what is being done with it. The problem is nobody knows how, when or if it can ever be paid back; and nobody seems to care.

The plan truly is generational theft and the end to any fiscal responsibility. The Constitution is – quite honestly – being ignored. Click on the popular chart, released by the Obama administration, showing the huge increase in the projected deficit.

But you have to look at the other side of the ledger as well. How much is the country producing and how does that compare to what the government is spending. For this figure, we use a chart showing the deficit – or surplus – as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

deficit-percent-gdpThe second chart to the right (click for full view) shows we are quickly jumping to 8+ percent (deficit) in 2009. We averaged about 2.5 percent (deficit) since 1970. This can be simply described as selling you an expensive car based on the assumption your income is going to get much better within the next few years.

We can use the example of a home mortgage. Normally, banks want to ensure you can afford to pay back a loan before they grant the mortgage. This is partially done by reviewing your debt to income ratio. If you have good credit, a bank will be comfortable with a debt ratio of about 30 percent.

That means the loan principal, interest, property taxes and insurance should not exceed 30 percent of your gross income. If you make $100,000 per year, you would be limited to payments of no more than $30,000 per year or $2,500 per month. Would a bank feel comfortable providing you a debt ratio at 50 percent? Probably not.

And neither are the Chinese.

The government is setting its own rules and tripling the accepted debt ratio. Between 1988 and 2008, the deficit as a percentage of GDP averaged 2 percent (deficit spending). The “bad years” came with the excessive spending after 9/11 and between  1988 and 1993. Of course, it was not to good in the mid-1980s either, but the best ray of hope was just after the 1996 Congress came to power.

Truth is stranger than fiction. The gingerbread house built by the Budget and Fiscal Services department of Honolulu collapsed. What a symbol of 2008. Image courtesy Quasic at Flickr

Truth is stranger than fiction. The gingerbread house built by the Budget and Fiscal Services department of Honolulu collapsed. What a symbol of 2008. Image courtesy Quasic at Flickr

Again, you’d be perfectly comfortable loaning money to someone at a debt to income ratio that makes sense, but this ratio does not make sense.

Hold firm.

As a conservative, I want you to remember that Congress – not the president – holds the purse strings for the country. Second, a huge portion of the federal spending is not authorized by the Constitution.

With that in mind we need to concentrate on our congressmen and women at home, put the pressure on them to end the federal spending that is not authorized by the Constitution.

Yes I know, people tell me that boat sailed long ago – FDRs New Deal headed us out of the harbor – but we must fight to take that power away from the federal government and bring it back to the states and the people.

Just a thought? Reynolds is right on the money

Here’s a very quick post. Hat tip to Vicevich. Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit has this.

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Williams helps us understand the Constitution

Always a good read, Walter Williams’ column this week is right on message for our audience. This week he reminds readers that Congress – primarily the people’s house – runs the government including generating tax revenue and determining spending allocations.

As the media and many politicians completely ignore the founding documents, over time they become less relevant. This is a dangerous path.

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Hey McDermott – Congress does not have authority to fill gas tanks

Sticking with the you-need-government-to-take-care-of-you theme, Representative Jim McDermott, a congressman from Washington state, has brought fourth legislation to help the hard working people around the United States that are having a tough time paying for gasoline.

That’s right, he wants the federal government to help fill gas tanks. What a tool. Congressman, do you have the guts to let us know what section of the United States Constitution provides Congress with the authority to fill up the gas tanks of its citizens? Read more