Thursday, August 20, 2009

Part One: The Constitutional Powers of Congress

Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste by not filling it with good information, the Oklahomilist begins a series detailing what the United States Constitution actually says about the limited powers of the legislative branch, otherwise known as the Congress. These are found in Article 1, Section 8, under "Powers of Congress."

They begin with this:

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;

Pay attention, class!

The Constitution was so strict on the ability to levy taxes that Congress eventually had to float the 16th Amendment in order to legally enact a personal income tax on American citizens. And that didn't happen until 1916, some one hundred and thirty years after the constitution was ratified. There are many solid citizens who believe the 16th Amendment should be repealed, as it has helped fuel the legislative ambitions of many a politician.

"Common Defence" is fairly well understood. Sadly, modern progressives attempt to define "general Welfare" beyond the original scope of the Founders. In short, "general Welfare" means that the government has enough tax money to carry out its basic duties as outlined by the constitution. That's it. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Founders' definition many times over the years.

The Founders of this Republic feared a large, powerful national government. They were all too familiar with governments that ignored the individual rights of citizens, and they knew only too well that the road to governmental hell would be paved with the "good intentions" of those who crave power. So they specifically addressed what Congress could do, and then broadly asserted that anything left unmentioned was essentially "off the table."

The Bill of Rights, otherwise known as the first ten "amendments" to the Constitution, add more prohibitions to government conduct. These were added in 1791, three years after ratification.

"The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many; ... Let the national government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police and administration of what concerns the State generally; the counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each ward [town or city] direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics, from the great national one down through all its subordinations, until it ends in the administration of every man's farm by himself, by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best."
-- Thomas Jefferson



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