The following was originally published on Michael Farri's Facebook page. You can follow him here.
Today, I launch a new series that I will post from time to time when I have time and when there is a lull in the news. The Supreme Court is either the chief culprit or a guilty accessory to most of the problems we face in this country. I do not intend these decision to be in order of importance. Just ten really bad decisions.
The reason we have Obamacare, Medicare, the US Department of Education with Common Core Funding, every form of entitlement spending and much more is a decision of the Court in 1936 called Butler v. United States.
In that case, there was a constitutional challenge to Comrade FDR’s program that was the precursor to the modern farm subsidies program. Take money from one group through taxes, give it to the farmers so they wouldn’t grow crops. One of the food processors who had to pay the tax challenged it in the Supreme Court.
The central question was this: Does the General Welfare Clause give Congress an independent basis for taxing and spending?
The Court correctly noted that James Madison believed that the General Welfare Clause was not a GRANT of spending power, but a LIMITATION on spending power. Alexander Hamilton believed it was a grant of power.
The Court accepted the Hamilton position without any meaningful explanation, the whole discussion was one paragraph.
This one paragraph is responsible for our entire national debt.
Now here is the tricky part. The Supreme Court actually held that this taxing and spending program was unconstitutional because it violated the Tenth Amendment. That was a good decision. But unfortunately, the Tenth Amendment aspect of the case got reversed in later years and has been long forgotten.
Butler v. United States is now known as the launching point for essentially unlimited federal spending. But here is the kicker: they got the Hamilton position wrong.
Alexander Hamilton’s position—supported by George Washington and many others—was this: the General Welfare Clause was an additional grant of power but it grants no power to spend money on any subject that is within the state’s jurisdiction. This is much like the Tenth Amendment, but we need to remember that this Amendment was intended as a reminder that the federal government was one of very limited power.
So, even if we adopt the Hamilton rule, all spending on entitlements, education, and the vast majority of Congress’s domestic spending is unconstitutional. The states can (if their state constitutions permit) spend money on health care, welfare, education, etc…on all the subjects that are bankrupting this country. But, unlike the feds, the states can’t print money. Leaving this subject to the states necessarily limits the abuse of such spending.
We have a national debt of enormous size because the United States Supreme Court was too lazy to dig deeply enough into the General Welfare’s original meaning. They were supportive of state’s rights but they messed up their analysis of this clause, and in just a few years, the door they opened was the conduit for a flood of unconstitutional spending.
This is just one reason I want to have a Convention of States to reverse this decision’s interpretation of the General Welfare Clause AND to put checks and balances on the Supreme Court.
If the states can spend money on a topic, the federal government can’t. That’s the real rule.