Remembering our roots


Author: Taylor Wilson

Last Sunday was the 66th anniversary of D-Day, the day the Allied troops invaded Normandy.  The men who fought that day sacrificed on the field of battle for our rights and for the rights of everyone around the world.  They gave their lives to restore democracy to Europe and to protect democracy at home.  Those that survived returned home from the front lines, and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to help build the United States into a great superpower.  They represent what this country is about: hard work and self-reliance.  In those soldiers, we can see the reflection of the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary soldiers who fought to create a government that respects our unalienable rights, natural rights that all humans possess.

But over 60 years after D-Day, the government is larger than ever and encroaching more than ever on those rights.  Today, Congress uses its spending power to meddle with the everyday decisions of all Americans, from the legal drinking age to healthcare.

The claimed source of this authority is the General Welfare Clause, which grants Congress the power to tax and spend in order to pay the nation's debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.  In United States v. Butler, the Court provided for an expansive reading of the General Welfare Clause by determining that the concept of general welfare is always changing, and thus the Court should generally decline to determine what general welfare is and leave that decision up to Congress.  The practical result of this judicial abdication is that congress began legislating in areas over which the Constitution does not specifically provide any congressional authority.  This goes against the notion that the federal government is granted only those powers specifically listed in the Constitution, leaving all other governing powers to the states.

In fact, in 1976, the Court questioned whether "general welfare" was even enforceable at all, despite the earlier view in 1936 that "general welfare" was a specific limitation on the spending power.  Right now, the answer to that question seems to be "no."  This post-Butler interpretation of the General Welfare Clause has allowed the federal government to reach further into the business of each individual American.  For instance, in 1987, the Supreme Court upheld a requirement for all states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 as a condition to receiving federal highway funds.  Since the regulation fell within the taxing and spending powers given to Congress under the General Welfare Clause, the fact that the objective was to regulate the drinking age had little bearing on the constitutionality of the law.

We are once again seeing this expansion of the concept of general welfare today, as the healthcare mandate stretches federal power further than ever before.  Under the assumption that government knows best, the American people are now required to purchase insurance or be taxed for their lack of insurance.  PLF is working to counteract this trend.  Taxation and spending based on a vague notion of general welfare suffocates the desire to produce and to participate in our economy. PLF is taking up the fight against the healthcare mandate in order to halt government encroachment on freedom.  In a free economy, we must understand that our government is not here to babysit us throughout our lives, but instead to defend our freedoms–freedoms other generations have believed were worth the ultimate price.