The Morality of Government Entitlements

“The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded.”

— French political analyst and philosopher, Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689-1755)

A careful examination of some of the changes occurring in modern America should be a cause for serious concern.

America’s early settlers left England because they felt too many restrictions on their beliefs and their lives from the king and his administration. They hoped to build new lives in a society that offered more freedom of thought and action. Over the years, frictions with the home country and the imposition of laws from a remote region, became more and more intolerable. The citizens were determined to create something better.

Source: Mark Sussman

However, the new approach was not flawless because citizens themselves are not flawless. Decades later, it took a long, brutal war with a half million deaths to resolve the issue of slavery – with half the citizenry standing on one side and half on the other. It was a major struggle involving a moral view by some, largely unaffected by the economic aspect, pitted against an economic and somewhat self-serving view by others, at the expense of their fellow humans.

In the end, the Civil War taught us anew that societal order not structured on a moral platform, can be an illusory “house of cards”. While the Civil War was fought nearly a century after our Declaration of Independence, the need for a moral bedrock was not lost on our original founders. John Adams left a wise legacy when he said:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

By way of some history and homage to the wisdom of our Founders, we now reach a general introduction to this article – stated here in a negative construction for emphasis:

The Four Dumbest Things Citizens Can Do in America

  1. Ignore the Constitution
  2. Mistake good intentions for moral action
  3. Lead the nation to financial insolvency
  4. Lack the courage for timely corrective action

So, let’s talk about some of these things we’re doing that perhaps can be done more wisely and more morally.

Is Robin Hood’s Mantra of “Take from the Rich, Give to the Poor Any Morally Different than “Robbin’ the ‘Hood'”?

Consider the following scenario: Citizen B has obeyed his nation’s laws, supported his family and paid his taxes as Congress has mandated. He contributes to charities as he can. However, he has difficulty finding the morality or constitutionality, by which the government takes his earnings, the earnings he uses to support his family, and transfers them to citizen A to serve A’s needs. Moreover, the government punishes citizen B if he refuses to hand over his funds. This arrangement is vaguely reminiscent of the armed robbery portrayed below:

Source: Mark Sussman

What Would James Madison Say?

In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees. James Madison, credited as principal author of our Constitution, stood on the floor of the House to object saying (a):

“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

and (b):

“Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

Madison’s vision of morality and common sense seems lost on too many Americans, particularly in view of this next group of data.

Source: Heritage Foundation

Source: Heritage Foundation

70.5% of federal spending now goes to dependence-creating programs, up dramatically from 28.3% in 1962, and 48.5% in 1990. Over the next 25 years, more than 77 million “Baby Boomers” will begin collecting Social Security checks, drawing Medicare benefits, and relying on long-term care under Medicaid. No event will financially challenge these important programs over the next two decades more than this largest retirement activity in American history.

Entitlements, Dependency and the Link to Drug Pusher Morality

Source: Mark Sussman

Two Imporant Questions for All Americans:

  1. Can our republican form of government withstand the political weight of a growing population of Americans who receive benefits from fellow citizens but who are not even really asked to do what they can for themselves?
  2. How seriously have these Federal programs eroded civil society by diminishing what were once citizens’ personal obligations, either individually or voluntarily provided by families, congregations, community groups, and local governments?

We have allowed these community group responsibilities to evolve into impersonal “political trinkets”, thereby diminishing the freedoms, ideals, morality and humanity of every citizen.

The following figure shows of the logical options and consequences of this impersonal system:

Source: Mark Sussman

In summary, which the following systems do we prefer?

Source: Mark Sussman

References

  1. “Free to Die?”, Walter E. Williams, Patriot Post, December 7, 2011 Ref: http://patriotpost.us/opinion/walter-e-williams/2011/12/07/free-to-die/print/ “
  2. “A Nation of Dependents”, Bob Beauprez, Townhall.com, January 28, 2012
  3. “Is President Obama Creating A Nation Of Dependents?”, John Merline, Investor’s Business Daily, Jan 26, 2012
  4. “Avoiding the Obvious Solution to Entitlements”, Bob Beauprez, Townhall.com, February 2, 2012
  5. “The Index of Dependence on Government”, William W. Beach and Patrick D. Tyrell,  A Report of the Heritage Center for Data Analysis, Feb 8, 2012
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About mbsbvu

EDUCATION: BAE, MAE, Aero. Eng'g - Rensselaer Poly Inst; Ph.D. Aero. Eng'g - M.I.T. CAREER: Engineer & Program Mgr. - The Boeing Co. 1966-2000. Retired 2000. Founder of Political Discussion Group: Conservative Enthusiasts Greater Seattle Area - -2006
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16 Responses to The Morality of Government Entitlements

  1. efgd says:

    This is very interesting. However it assumes that those on welfare are there deliberately and that it was a choice. The photo pf the drug pusher is a red-herring in so much to take drugs, drink alcohol and smoke is a choice. All detrimental to ones health but a choice none the less.

    With welfare in most cases a person finds he is unemployed – his savings do not cover the unemployment and he tries valiantly to find work. It was not and is not his choice to be unemployed. So we forget about him and beggar my neighbour rather than find a way to help him. But he too has paid taxes to fund all the wonderful things the government gives you, no one in the US is not helped, and hindered in someway by the state, so this chap is now in need of a little help. Tough luck old chap.

    Someone pays health insurance, falls very ill, insurance runs out or refuses to pay because of the various nefarious loopholes insurances have to keep the money in the bank so to speak. Oh well tough luck old boy hope the blanket keeps you warm as you lie in bed at home in great pain or illness. Beggar my neighbour. Though his taxes help fund the wars we keep starting or promoting or prolonging.

    The reality is we can not go backwards to what was. We are in the what is now. If enough people really gave to the various charities and these were adequate and abundant enough to help the unfortunates then welfare would not have been instigated. A big kitty to help the unfortunate has always worked better than lots of little kitties [I don’t mean cats] with various administrative and clerical people to circumvent if not pay if they were voluntary, even volunteers have to eat and drink and hopefully have some form of shelter. So having said oh gee beggar my neighbour what do you propose to replace the system?

    I am all for helping people to help themselves but lets not pretend that welfare for the majority is a choice. Its a necessity. You want to change welfare from state to individual then you have to look at what is really happening to real people not people you don’t know or read about in the tabloids. I expected a more progressive post from you about this. Pity.

    • marksbvue says:

      efgd,
      Thx for your note, most of which I sincerely disagree with. A few examples:

      “IT ASSUMES THAT THOSE ON WELFARE ARE THERE DELIBERATELY AND THAT IT WAS A CHOICE”
      On the contrary, I acknowledge that some subset of folks on welfare are truly in need. My objection is that the welfare system, necessarily is a typical governmental “one size fits all”. That is, it fails to distinguish those truly incapable from the many who could and should be contributing in their own behalf. The historical record of such a gov’t system is the near universal failure of Socialism across the world. To name just a few: the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and now elements of western Europe. Enhanced living? No! Shared misery.
      It has to do with the key point of inadvertently subverting the citizens – – and many of their descendents – – to a life of dependence on the government. Witness: history shows there are more people in poverty today, than when the ‘war on poverty’ was undertaken multiple decades ago. It deprives the “beneficiaries” of the pride of work and independence. To me that is immoral. I know some with “do good” intentions love to vote that others must join together to “care for the needy”. But making some “do-gooder” feel happy, while stunting the growth of mutiple families and generations of families has zero moral substance in my book.

      “TOUGH LUCK OLD CHAP”
      No. A true safety net, is fine with me if structured as a last resort. My preference is that it be organized and implemented by the multiple Charity organizations which have always done such work. They are more effective and they are admirably giving voluntarily of themselves to help others. The government simply takes money from some and hands it to others, while paying the various intermediaries along the way. Nothing noble about that at all. It’s simply forced theft and paid labor. Now, if asked: “What happens if somewhere, Charity fails to step up?” In that case, for the truly physically or mentally incapacitated, I could go along with a true safety net. But it should be designed as a “first aid and temporary” device, until a real Charity can step in. After all, what did people do before the onset of the Welfare system as we know it today? What they did, for many eons, was: help others who were generally family members or neighbors. Or the needy were helped by various religious Congregations or specially-organized non-denominational Charities. But the needy were truly helped by people wanting to help – – not being paid , with someone else’s funds – – by a bureaucracy to be a “do-gooder”.
      ““HIS TAXES HELP FUND THE WARS”
      Sounds like “Progressive doublespeak” to me. What has this got to do with the subject at hand?

      “THE REALITY IS WE CAN NOT GO BACKWARDS TO WHAT WAS.”
      What reality is that? Going “forwards” or “backwards” is simply a matter of orientation. You are choosing to face one direction, I another. This has nothing to do with the effectiveness of helping a fellow human being. I believe that Ayn Rand had it quite right: “That which is outside the possibility of choice, is also outside the province of morality”. When the government forces person A to help Person B – – with no choice involved on the part of A – – there is no morality in the basic concept from the start – – and things go downhill from there.

      “WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE TO REPLACE THE SYSTEM”
      My proposal is based on volunteered choice and true morality to do most of the lifting. If Person A helps person B of his own heart, then they together they will help Person B become as independent a functioning human being as possible. This is in direct contrast to the bloated rolls of “takers” who become complacent as wards of others. This does no favor to either of them. The Chinese had it right centuries ago: “Give a man a fish and he eats once – – teach a man to fish and he can do well indefinitely”. And it doesn’t take a government to teach the man to fish, it takes a good person of charitable instinct.
      Bottom Line: In my book “Governmental Charity” is an oxymoron from start to finish – – and I have my doubt about the “oxy” part.

      • efgd says:

        Thanks for the reply.
        Thanks for the reply.

        It seems that the notion that the less lucky who find themselves in a hard patch is merged with the notion that the government should do nothing about it. The point is of course that the government takes from A to give to B, C, D, F. Maybe if the taxes were not put to use for C, D, F as well there would be more in the kitty – armed conflict costs, hence the “TAXES HELP FUND THE WARS” comment, financial bailout of the banks for instance as in, “The U.S. government has spent more than $12 trillion to prop up large financial institutions since the 2008 financial meltdown, but more taxpayer money could still be used for U.S. bank bailouts”, as well of course through bailing out of other industrial fallout payments.

        I was not saying that you did not care about those who hit a bad patch, nor that state is best at doing it, or that the state should be doing it. as said above it should not be taking taxes to give to C,D, E or F either. It is just that the drug pusher is offering a choice. A drug pusher is structured as a first choice access to drugs. You take drugs or you do not. A choice is implied. A person down on their luck has no choice to take it or leave it – he has to take what is offered, be it from the state or from a charity, no choice involved. It is how he can be helped not hindered that is, or should be, part of the procedure of social welfare. Now I get where you are coming from regarding charity provision of welfare, and I guess that might lead to a less regulatory, as in bureaucratic controlled welfare provision, which would be a good thing. And of course I think people would be inclined to give rather than have it taken from them by taxation without choice as to what it is spent on.

        I agree that once caught in a benefit trap it is hard to get out of it – because of all the can not do this or that regulations. Quite often someone trying to get up and out is pushed down by these bureaucratically imposed regulations – which is normally the apparatus of a state institution; which is where the Chinese proverb comes into play. But if there are no fish in the lake we’ve got a problem, but I understand your basic sentiments. Just one more point, a question actually marksbvue, but were charity and or voluntary institutions effective and will they be effective in today’s political and financial climate? Would there be more or less poverty under a stateless scheme of no welfare? We shall no doubt see.

  2. bnmng says:

    Those quotes from James Madison, according to the Library of Congress, where made during a debate which he lost. In 1794, over Madison’s objections, we authorized federal funds to assist foreign refugees in need. While Madison’s words are instructive, it’s misleading to suggest that his ideas represent a consensus on what the founding fathers believed, especially when in fact, they represent ideas that were rejected in the early years of our nation.

    • marksbvue says:

      bnmng,
      bnmng,
      A few rebuttal points. I re-read my comments. Could you please point out where I “suggested” that Madison’s “ideas represent a consensus on what the Founding Fathers believed” ?

      I am certainly an admirer of James Madison for his wisdom and accomplishments, which are both vast. Whether he wins every debating point is not particularly relevant. Heck, even I don’t win every debating point. But more seriously, James Madison is credited with being the prime writer of our Constitution, a document that has withstood critiques for two+ centuries. Moreover, in 1789, James Madison presented to the First United States Congress a series of ten Amendments to the United States Constitution, today known as the Bill of Rights. After enumerating specific rights retained by the people in the first eight Amendments, the Ninth Amendment and the the Tenth Amendment summarily spelled out the principle of limited government.

      Madison was not the only luminary of the Founding crowd to preach the virtues of small, non-meddling government. In his first Inaugural Address in 1801, Thomas Jefferson gave us a splendid summation of what government should do. It did NOT glowingly espouse welfare programs, but rather asserted: “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

      Perhaps if we had stayed truer to the ideals of Jefferson and Madison, we wouldn’t today be winess to a Congress: with a 13% approval rating from Americans; which produces 3000-page pieces of legislation from a dark closet several hours before voting on it; which has Leadership who urge its Members to “pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”; which hasn’t passed a budget to assure proper debate and prioritization in 1000 days; whose uncontrolled meddling has forced upon our children a legacy of $15Trillion dollars of debt with yearly deficits of $1T+ for the forseeable future. In short, a Congress which is broken beyond comprehension.

      So I am not bothered by shallow criticism that I revere the Founders or our Constitution. Would only: that we follow their concept of limited government much more rigorously.

      • bnmng says:

        I stand corrected. The fact that you wrote, “In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees.” is the context that I accused you of leaving out. I’m usually more careful than that. Sorry.

        I hope I can admit that mistake without invalidating my whole argument. James Madison may be the credited author but building our constitution wasn’t a one-man job. The founding fathers didn’t agree on much, and the debate about the refugees shows that even in the early years, our politicians were arguing over how much to tax and what can be done with tax dollars.

        I don’t agree with the Jefferson quote, and I imagine other founding fathers wouldn’t agree either (and I starting wonder if there is any political philosophy which cant be supported by quoting Jefferson). We can argue over the definition of “promoting the general welfare”, but to me it has to mean something more than just restraining men from injuring each other.

  3. nickgb says:

    “If citizen A takes were to take citizen B’s monies at gunpoint, we’d call it a crime. So what do we call it when the same act when authorized by 535 Legislators?”

    I call it the exercise of power by duly elected officials, the way we intended it. Comparing taxation to armed robbery is the kind of argument we expect from anarchists and their cousins the deranged libertarians.

    You can’t compare governmental functions to arbitrary human actions to make it seem unfair. When someone doesn’t like how you behave and they lock you up, we call it kidnapping. When the government does it, it’s called the penal system. Yet one of these things is an expected function of the government and the other is a crime, because GOVERNMENTS AREN’T CITIZENS. The fact that you don’t recognize that distinction is a pretty big flaw in your entire viewpoint here.

    • marksbvue says:

      Nick: Well we certainly have a pretty divergent set of views here.

      … EXERCISE OF POWER BY GOVERNMENT IS “AS WE INTENDED”.

      Not by my reading of History or the Constitution. The gov’t had strong limitations placed on it which are increasingly disregarded, if not flagrantly violated, by some Chief Executives. The current one being the most abusive by far. This is the definition of anarchy – some Leader making up the rules as you go along. I presume you’re of the school of thought which treats the Constitution as a “living document” to be disregarded at will. I don’t, and I see the true anarchists as those who do.

      “. . . , WE CALL IT KIDNAPPING. WHEN THE GOVERNMENT DOES IT, IT’S CALLED THE PENAL SYSTEM . . . BECAUSE GOVERNMENTS AREN’T CITIZENS.”

      Well, perhaps in your neck of the woods, the Government is composed of organisms from a far off galaxy. In mine, the government is comprised of Citizens and the Constitution was constructed because many Citizens often let power go to their head and begin to direct other Citizens in how they must behave. I support the ideals of our Constitution and say: No Way! To the subject at hand, when Legislators disregard the Constitution and engineer an estranged system of taking money from the most productive people to subsidize the least productive – – I say that is transforming this Nation into a caricature of its ideals and its past success. And when the President, the Legislators and all major appointees swear to uphold and defend the Constitution – – and then many of them don’t, I say Yes – – that is a crime and should be severely punished. If someone wishes to try to change the Constitution – – that is fine and is indeed their perogative. But it is not a unilateral prerogative. It takes effort, persuasion of fellow Citizens – – and difficult super-majority voting. King George’s day has long passed – – and we don’t want it to return – – ever! As for not recognizing that “Governments aren’t Citizens” – – I think you may have missed a few self-evident truths, which comprise the total point of America. Quoting from the 2nd paragraph of a pretty well-regarded document:

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

      • nickgb says:

        Really? The Declaration of Independence? Notice the grievance in there about taxation without representation? That’s why we have legislators, whom we elect, who pass taxes and create social programs and so forth. If you don’t like it, vote for the guy who’ll get rid of it, but all this talk about the Constitution, which allows for all of these things, seems pretty superficial.

        Lay off the emdashes and the German Capitlization Rules, and think about what you’re saying. You spend a whole post whining about how income tax and social programs are like armed robbery (which is moronic), and then you claim wildly that Legislators are flaunting the Constitution and thus have committed crimes and need to be punished. What crime? What punishment?

        Meanwhile, read what I write before you try to refute it. “GOVERNMENTS AREN’T CITIZENS”. I could also say that “CORPORATIONS ARE NOT CITIZENS”. I could also say that “THE CROWN OF ENGLAND IS NOT A CITIZEN”. There are all legal fictions created to serve a purpose, which is what that preamble you quote from is talking about. We create the government to exercise our collective will, which has included some social programs and income tax ever since the civil war.

        We have legislators, duly elected, who do these things on our behalf. We whine and bitch when they don’t get it done just right, but fortunately your rambling beliefs about social programs and income tax put you in a tiny minority. Seek refuge in the Constitution if you want to, if it consoles you for being in the unrepresented fringe of America, but you might feel better adjusted in you realize that the fault lies not in the legislature, but in yourself.

        And yes, I do believe the Constitution is a living document. The only reason the Founders didn’t expressly say that is because they thought we’d be rewriting it and amending it constantly. It gives me such a kick to hear you people talk about original intent and all that; doesn’t it occur to you that the whole point of the amendment procedure is that the document was considered incomplete? We’ve adapted, ever since Marbury v. Madison in 1803, such that the document is subject to interpretation. “The words in the Constitution are gifts from God, unless a Supermajority changes them and then THOSE are the divinely inspired words, and don’t ever let judges and other legal experts try to interpret it.” Yeah, makes sense.

        • marksbvue says:

          Nick, I note some of your vituperative vocabulary: “moronic”, “wildly”, “whine”, “bitch”, “rambling beliefs”. I infer that you must be unsure of your logic and facts – – otherwise, why wouldn’t you elevate your discussion to a more civil manner? I hope you’ll pardon me if I make an effort to be more civil and keep a few facts in the discussion, as I did in my original note.

          YOU CITE: “ALL THIS TALK ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION, WHICH ALLOWS FOR ALL OF THESE THINGS, SEEMS PRETTY SUPERFICIAL”.
          Well I agree the Constitution allows for elected representation, a Legislature, the Courts and the President. But when you blithely try to slip in “all those things” – – I say you’re being less than straightforward. Until the 1930s, the Constitution served as a major constraint on federal economic interventionism. The government’s powers were understood to be just as the framers intended: few and explicitly enumerated in our founding document and its amendments. Please search the Constitution and point to the authority conveyed for the government to spend money on global-warming research, urban mass transit, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, or countless other items in the stimulus package. I say you can’t do show it. And if you say, well it all “seems pretty superficial”, then I haven’t much of substance to discuss with you.

          Going back to the days of FDR, federal courts had respect for the Constitution as late as the 1930s. They issued some 1,600 injunctions to restrain officials from carrying out acts of Congress. This was enforcement of the limited government the Founders had created. It’s ample proof that just because some duly elected Legislator can dream up some quirky law, it doesn’t follow that Citizens have to suffer through that nonsense. That’s where the Constitution affords protection.

          YOU CITE: (1) “WHINING ABOUT HOW INCOME TAX AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS ARE LIKE ARMED ROBBERY” AND (2) YOU TRY THE “RED HERRING” STRATEGY of ALLEGING SOMETHING I SAID WHICH I DIDN’T: “THAT LEGISLATORS ARE FLAUNTING THE CONSTITUTION AND THUS HAVE COMMITTED CRIMES AND NEED TO BE PUNISHED. WHAT CRIME? WHAT PUNISHMENT?”

          Flaunting the Constitution – – I plead guilty to believing that, but perhaps you could please cite where I made the statement? Nevertheless, I would here point out that in 1995 the Supreme Court ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutionally enumerated powers–in particular, the power granted by the ‘commerce clause’ – – when it outlawed possession of guns within 1,000 feet of schools (U.S. v. Lopez).

          REGARDING FACTS, YOU SAY: “WE CREATE THE GOVERNMENT TO EXERCISE OUR COLLECTIVE WILL, WHICH HAS INCLUDED SOME SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND INCOME TAX EVER SINCE THE CIVIL WAR”.
          Actually, the 16th amendment, passed by Congress in 1913 (ratified by the States 6 years later), instituted the income tax, thus allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals as we know it today, without regard to proportionality to the population of each State.

          YOU SAY: “WE HAVE LEGISLATORS, DULY ELECTED, WHO DO THESE THINGS ON OUR BEHALF. WE WHINE AND BITCH WHEN THEY DON’T GET IT DONE JUST RIGHT . . .BUT FORTUNATELY YOUR RAMBLING BELIEFS ABOUT SOCIAL PROGRAMS AND INCOME TAX PUT YOU IN A TINY MINORITY.”
          Tiny minority? Another Red Herring, Nick? In the 104th Congress, a Constitutional Caucus, was formed with nearly 100 members. The caucus, according to the letter of announcement “will explore ways to return power to the states and the people and restore a limited, Constitutional government. It will focus on educating Congress and the public on the importance of returning the American government to ‘Constitutionalism.'” 100 Legislators! A tiny minority? Hardly.

          YOU ASK: “DOESN’T IT OCCUR TO YOU THAT THE WHOLE POINT OF THE AMENDMENT PROCEDURE IS THAT THE DOCUMENT WAS CONSIDERED INCOMPLETE? WE’VE ADAPTED, EVER SINCE MARBURY V. MADISON IN 1803, SUCH THAT THE DOCUMENT IS SUBJECT TO INTERPRETATION. ”
          But of course the Constitution is amendable. The first 10 amendments are in fact, world-renowned. That’s simply another indication of the wisdom of the Founders. They thought profoundly (philosophically and practically) about what they were doing. Would that we could say the same about some of today’s Legislators and Citizens. But being amendable does not equate to being conveniently malleable to passing whims of transient office holders.

          In explaining the Constitution, James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Document, wrote in Federalist Paper 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.”
          In Marbury v. Madison, John Marshall wrote: “The powers of the Legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may at any time be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished if those limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed, and if acts prohibited and acts allowed are of equal obligation.

        • nickgb says:

          “Please search the Constitution and point to the authority conveyed for the government to spend money on global-warming research, urban mass transit, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, or countless other items in the stimulus package.”

          Typically, the authority is found within the commerce clause, because most of these things affect interstate commerce. Is it within the actual text? No, but courts have long found that power to be broad. In my mind, too broadly, and the commerce clause is pretty much capable of encompassing anything at this point. But as you’ll note, I consider this a difference in legal interpretation, not a crime against the constitution.

          “Going back to the days of FDR, federal courts had respect for the Constitution as late as the 1930s. They issued some 1,600 injunctions to restrain officials from carrying out acts of Congress.”

          Okay, just to be clear here, you are in favor of the judicial branch interpreting the Constitution and standing in the way of properly enacted legislation? I agree that that is a very important function of the judiciary, but I think you’re going to regret that endorsement.

          For what it’s worth, I’d like to know where in the Constitution you find authority for the courts to do that. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not in there, it was a power created by the judiciary through case law.

          “Flaunting the Constitution – – I plead guilty to believing that, but perhaps you could please cite where I made the statement?”

          You said: “And when the President, the Legislators and all major appointees swear to uphold and defend the Constitution – – and then many of them don’t, I say Yes – – that is a crime and should be severely punished.”

          “Actually, the 16th amendment, passed by Congress in 1913 (ratified by the States 6 years later), instituted the income tax, thus allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals as we know it today, without regard to proportionality to the population of each State.”

          I’ll concede I was being sloppy on using the Civil War as a metric. The 16th Amendment was a Constitutional ratification of the Revenue Act of 186?, after it was eventually ruled to be an unconstitutional direct tax. So, instead of “since the civil war”, use “the last hundred years.”

          “100 Legislators! A tiny minority? Hardly.”

          Well, I was talking about population minority, not representation minority. For example, making a million dollars a year would put you in a small minority, however 44% of congress is in that club. They’re different things, and besides, politicians say all sorts of crazy things, especially when they’re wildly banging the drum of conservatism in the midterms.

          “But being amendable does not equate to being conveniently malleable to passing whims of transient office holders.”

          Okay, but what about the whims of hundreds of federal judges who have enlarged Congressional power? Congress isn’t making up commerce clause precedent, the Supreme Court is.

          And before you cite John Marshall for standing up for constitutional limits, remember that that case was sleight of hand: He sits there telling us that the Court couldn’t hear a case because it lacked constitutional jurisdiction to review a writ of mandamus, which sounds like restraint, but at the same time the Court is establishing itself as the final word on the Constitution. To, as Marshall writes, “say what the law is.”

          If your beef is with Congress for stepping outside Congressional authority, then your real beef is with the Court for expanding that authority over the years (but as discussed above, you’ve already deputized the Judiciary into your argument.). Or maybe your real beef is with the Executive who has continued to appoint judges who believe in broad commerce clause powers. Or maybe your real beef is with the voters, who see no conflict between the Constitution and our modern world. Regardless, I suspect your frustration comes from the fact that your view of a sacred and unchanging Constitution has been rejected (even by those legislators and Justices whom you think support it).

        • nickgb says:

          Nick, I note some of your vituperative vocabulary: “moronic”, “wildly”, “whine”, “bitch”, “rambling beliefs”. I infer that you must be unsure of your logic and facts – – otherwise, why wouldn’t you elevate your discussion to a more civil manner?

          Oh, yeah, forgot to address this part. When someone starts talking about how the government is like an armed gunman or a drug pusher, and quotes from a document about the need for rebellion against a tyrannical government, I consider that person to be a bit of a nutjob. There’s nothing wrong with pointing out that an argument is rambling or moronic, as long as you explain why, which I have been trying to do.

          Besides, when someone writes a post that compares your entire political philosophy to drug pushers and gunmen, it’s pretty silly that they cry foul that you use words like “moronic” and “rambling.” You set the tone with an inflammatory post, you’ve accused commenters of red herrings and double-speak, and in my mind at least, you’ve given up the moral high ground for language.

  4. With the Civil Rights Act, the parties began to sort by region and ideology. It took awhile, but now the Dixiecrats– wooed to the GOP by the Southern Strategy– control the party. So there’s a strong sense on the right that the Teh Gubmint is coming to take our stuff and give it to undeserving poors.

    Are our current programs creating dependency? Why might we think so? What accounts for the recent rise in spending? Which policies have led to it? Are there more job openings or unemployed people? What is the experience of comparably wealthy nations? Do we have more or less poverty and mobility than they do? When these policies were enacted, did the preexisting “families, congregations, community groups, and local governments” support or oppose them?

    Those are empirical questions, which are irrelevant to the Republican mind.

    To the extent this post contains facts, they come from William Beach of the Republican PR firm the Heritage Foundation. He is, of course, the propagandist behind the absurd claims in Paul Ryan’s budget plan (slashing spending will lead to 2% unemployment! and cause a housing boom!). He’s also the guy behind the claim that the Bush fiscal policies would end the national debt by 2010, based on the conviction that decreasing revenues increases revenue. Alas, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Here, Beach is most obviously lying to us by pretending that the income tax is the sum total of federal revenue. In reality, of course, about equal amount of federal revenue comes from the payroll tax. Which is a regressive tax. So, no, there is no “growing population of Americans who receive benefits from fellow citizens but who are not even really asked to do what they can for themselves”.

    Richard Nixon could preside over marginal tax rates of 70 percent; Dwight Eisenhower could criticize Democrats pushing for a tax cut in a time of deficits as “some kind of heights in fiscal irresponsibility.” “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society,” said legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Back then, the notion that “governance is theft” was not particularly widespread among conservatives and whites. In the interim, though, the Republican Party successfully recast white populism into anti-government resentment, capitalizing on whites’ reaction to desegregation.

  5. Hello everyone,

    This comment is directed at no one in particular.

    Let’s try to keep the discussion focused on the issues and avoid any ad hominem — direct or implied.

    Thanks!

    😉

  6. Scott Erb says:

    I don’t think it at all true that politicians want people to be dependent on welfare to get votes. Even the most liberal politicians and activists I’ve met are driven by a desire to help people climb out of really difficult situations, and believe that not only is there a moral obligation for society to do so (also a traditional conservative view) but that society would be better if we could truly help people climb out of welfare dependency. Moreover, most people on welfare are on it for a short term, especially if you look past programs to help on specific issues (e.g. heating oil, etc.) The same is true in Europe. The reason is that people don’t want to be dependent, that’s a very difficult and psychologically destructive life. I think both left and right would agree that social welfare programs are immoral if they breed dependency because it would be doing harm to the person receiving it. I also think most could agree that effective social welfare programs that truly help people overcome obstacles and succeed in becoming productive members of society would be in the interest of all – it would strengthen the country. If we could reach that basic agreement then there could be a bipartisan effort to eliminate/restructure welfare programs that breed dependency (which no one wants), while finding ways to maximize successful outcomes.

    There is work being done on that, and ultimately it focuses on community organizing — if you get communities working together everyone’s outcome improves. Tying welfare to community volunteerism and participation in programs could be a positive approach.

    The idea that taxation is theft is absurd on its face, by the way. Such a view would rest on the assumption that without government people would have the same result — otherwise much of the wealth and success people have is tied to living in a stable well governed society, with social welfare programs important in keeping that stability (as well as others). Taxation without representation is bad, but with representation it’s the will of the people.

  7. Eric Hielema says:

    The discussion in the comments is interesting and civil discussion is what we all need more than “proof”. I think it would have been a more effective discussion had the post been posited as a discussion point instead of a piece intended to be presented from a pulpit.

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