8 Facts That Prove the Tea Party Is Ignorant of the U.S. Constitution

Author: September 2, 2012 8:07 am

The Tea Partiers insist that they obey the Constitution to the letter of the law and that their radical agenda embodies the Constitutional idea. But study the Constitution and you’ll see that these so-called Constitutional conservatives don’t love the law – they’re trying to distort and rewrite the Constitution to subvert it to their wishes. These 8 facts serve as proof.

1. Congress enjoys a Constitutional authority to provide social services.

The first and foremost power the Constitution grants Congress is the right to “collect taxes…to provide for common defense and general welfare” of the nation. Michele Bachmann and other radical Republicans ignore this Constitutional imperative in their quest to dismantle all federal initiatives that aren’t explicitly spelled out in the Constitution.

If the Tea Party gets their way, it would mean:

Obviously, the Tea Party’s strict constructionism doesn’t permit the common-sense, for-the-social-good governance the forefathers intended. For further illustration, consider the current imperative to create jobs. Republicans are already opposing the bipartisan ideas in Obama’s American Jobs Act. The GOP appears ready to deny jobs to teachers and construction workers and strike down incentives for businesses to hire new workers.

Nevertheless, Obama’s Sept. 8 jobs speech delivered a compelling defense of the most basic Constitutional principle of general welfare:

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

2. SCOTUS has upheld broad federal powers under the Constitution.

Following in the ideological footsteps of founding father Alexander Hamilton, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld that federal authority extends beyond the specific Congressional powers enumerated in the Constitution. Two landmark precedents were:

  • United States v. Butler (1936), which ruled that Congress has the right to tax for the general welfare beyond what the Constitution specifically lists. The majority opinion stated the general welfare clause is “a power separate and distinct” and “not limited by the direct grants of legislative power found in the Constitution.”
  • Helvering v. Davis (1937), which upheld the constitutionality of Social Security by affirming Congress’ right to spend money to promote the general welfare – a concept the Court said changes with the times and is for Congress to decide, not the states.

Thus, the Tea Party’s “cut-the-head-off-the-snake” anti-government attitude flouts both the Constitution’s original intent and the SCOTUS precedents that have upheld a broad interpretation of the general welfare clause.

3. Far from outlawing gay marriage, Constitutional Amendments actually protect it.

Even though the radical right wants to strictly limit Democrats’ legislative powers, they don’t mind grabbing powers for themselves that aren’t expressed in the Constitution. Take for example the Tea Party’s imagined mandate to marginalize homosexuals and project morality onto others.

Thankfully, the tide is turning against the Tea Party on this issue. Earlier this year the Obama administration called the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. In June, a California bankruptcy judge also ruled DOMA unconstitutional. Then he called out conservatives on their misplaced homophobic zeal:

“The government’s only basis for supporting DOMA comes down to an apparent belief that the moral views of the majority may properly be enacted as the law of the land…in disregard of the personal status and living conditions of a significant segment of our pluralistic society.”

Eventually, homosexuals will win marriage equality. The outcome is inevitable because our forefathers designed specific civil liberties to protect against the tyranny of religious zealots in Britain. They asserted these rights in two separate amendments:

9th: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain [government] rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

14th (excerpted): “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

4. The 14th Amendment forbids severe immigration laws that racially profile Latinos and Muslims.

Just as the 14th amendment protects gay rights, it also protects ethnic minorities from the immigration Gestapo.

Students arrested at rally supporting the Dream Act (Washington Post)

The draconian immigration law Alabama just passed (which a federal judge has blocked) allows the police to detain people suspected of being illegal immigrants if they aren’t carrying proper documentation. It also makes it illegal for anyone to give an undocumented immigrant a ride in a car (without checking their papers first).

From a civil liberties standpoint, the Alabama permits the targeting and unlawful detention of citizens who just look like possible illegal immigrants because of their ethnicity. By condoning racial profiling and by permitting detentions of citizens who aren’t carrying papers, the Alabama law strips racial minorities of their liberty and controverts their 14th Amendment rights to liberty and equal protection.

5. The 16th Amendment gives Congress the authority to collect income taxes from any source.

Self-proclaimed Constitutional conservatives probably hate nothing more than the 16th Amendment:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.

While most ordinary citizens pay income tax (unless they don’t earn enough to have a tax liability), the wealthy play by different rules. For instance:

Moreover, the Constitution does not authorize spending tax money on Big Oil profits or private jet ownership. Constitutional conservatives took it upon themselves to hold the debt ceiling and America’s credit rating hostage to protect these giveaways to the already wealthy.

6. Republican-backed voting restrictions circumvent the 24th Amendment.

Under the guise of stopping practically non-existent voting fraud, Republicans are working to disenfranchise elderly, poor, student, minority and disabled voters. These groups overwhelmingly vote Democrat and they also have a harder time meeting the new Republican voting standards.

The voting suppression efforts unfolding around the country include:

  • the adoption of mandatory government-issued photo ID laws as a prerequisite to casting a ballot,
  • proof of citizenship requirements for new voters,
  • reductions in the number of days (and hours) previously allocated for early voting, and
  • burdens imposed on those seeking to conduct voter registration drives.

Collectively, these laws represent a new form of 21st century voter suppression that President Bill Clinton calls a new “Jim Crow era.” And since people must pay fees to acquire the necessary ID documents, such laws amount to a violation of Section 1 of the 24th Amendment:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election…shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

7. The Constitution does not grant any authority to ban abortion.

Given the fervor with which Constitutional conservatives attack pro-choice rights, you’d think the Constitution grants authority to regulate or ban abortion. It does not.

A woman’s right to choose is protected by the Roe v. Wade ruling and the 9th Amendment, which prevents government from over-reaching into individuals’ private lives. (“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain [government] rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”)

Even though the matter is settled that a woman has the right to privately select her health care options, radical conservatives are still pushing through such exceptionally anti-choice legislation. Republicans are going so far as to criminalize miscarriage. In Georgia, Rep. Bobby Franklin proposed a bill to charge a woman with felony murder if she is unable to prove her miscarriage was an accident.

8. The Constitution allows the federal government “to regulate commerce…among the several states,” which is the Constitutional key that may allow health reform to persevere.

Republicans decry “Obamacare” for its “unconstitutional” individual mandate. Yes, buying health insurance may be a financial burden to some. However, the Affordable Care Act reasons that everyone must ultimately receive health care if they plan on staying alive. Health reform just asks that people pay health care costs sooner rather than later for the greater economic good (and it subsidizes premium costs for families earning less than $88,000).

The 6th circuit federal court ruled in June that the government can regulate the purchase of health insurance under the interstate commerce clause on the grounds that waiting to pay for health care until you get sick (or “self-insuring”) adversely impacts the cost of health care for everyone:

“The practice of self-insuring substantially affects interstate commerce by driving up the cost of health care as well as by shifting costs to third parties.”

A second federal court ruling in August opposed the individual mandate, saying the federal government cannot require citizens to enter into contracts with private health insurers. The Supreme Court will likely rule on the constitutionality of health reform later this year.

On Obama, the once and future constitutional law professor

This post would not be complete if I didn’t acknowledge that Obama too has gone astray of the Constitution, just not in the ways the Tea Party claims. Obama has:

The restriction of civil liberties, even for foreign terror suspects, is a serious departure from the Constitutional principle of a fair justice system. Obama is engaged in a precarious Constitutional dance motivated by the desire to prevent loss of life.

On the other hand, the so-called Constitutional conservatives are trying to remake the Constitution to serve the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful. If a Republican White House or Congress prevails in 2012, we will continue to see our nation drift away from the concept of “general welfare” to a state in which the government no longer provides health care, education or nutritional safety nets for the young, infirm, elderly, and poor. And we will see greater deregulation that will come at a great cost to our environment, our health, and our economic stability.

Please vote against the Republican agenda on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. This may be the most crucial election of our lifetimes with Medicare, Social Security, public health and education teetering on the brink of Constitutional conservativism.

For your information:

Transcript of the U.S. Constitution
The Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10)
Amendments 11-27


Visit the author: The Liberal Lamp Post  – @LiberaLLamp on Twitter  – On Facebook

View Liberal Lamp’s archive on this site or Contact the author of this post.

Click for “18 Reasons to Thank a Liberal: A Partial List of Liberal Achievements; 1935-2010.”


Edited By: Sherri Yarbrough


facebook comments:


  • alexander im better than you

    Gosh darnit people why can’t we just let the rich keep getting richer; the middle class disappear into the valley of death, and let 95% of the country be so darn poor they have to decide weather to put gas in there car or buy a morsel of food for there family on there crappy dream killing demoralizing jobs because anymore you have to go to college for at least four years then in order to be considered then to also have 5 years of work experience to get an entry level job. Its just so aggravating we can’t let this happen you can’t see it but i’m stomping up and down like the pompous asses the republicans are when they can’t spoon feed the rich and wipe their asses after they shit and say yes master i will be you peasant.

    Alexander im better than you nana nana boo boo

  • Your statistics are in error, according to this report, which I have compared to numerous others who all state about the same. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/28/46-percent-of-americans-e_n_886293.html What I found interesting in this article is the reference to the statistical rise in non-paying taxpayers during the BUSH administration; which was a direct result of Republican policies concerning child tax credits. I also found it interesting that there were some 443,000 NON-PAYING taxpayers, or 0.6 percent of the total who were in the top percentile of wealth. I guess they didn’t get that memo stating that they were supposed to be “footing the bill” for everyone, ‘eh? lol.

    • JohnMinWalkertownNC

      Oh gee, the huffingtonpost… As if that isn’t a biased website… That site is BY liberals, FOR liberals. Everything posted on that site is SKEWED to support their beliefs, NOT the truth…

      • Oh yes lets just ignore the huffingtonpost, CNN and everyone else who isn’t fox news. Clearly they are the only ones capable of giving it to us straight. You can take your truth and keep it to yourself thanks.

        Oh and let’s ignore the multi-billionaires openly admitting they pay the same tax rate as people working minimum wage jobs barely able to feed their families. Back under your bridge sir.

      • I want to define an “ad hominem” attack for you in layman’s terms and tell you why they are childish, ineffective and don’t generally work, okay?

        An ad hominem attack basically says “because person x IS person x, nothing they are saying is true”. It can leveled (as you did here) on organizations like HuffPo. You simply say “oh, well. Look at the source! It’s the Huffington Post and they are LIBERALS so it HAS to be a lie because they disagree with EVERYTHING conservatives say! Case closed”.

        Why it’s childish and ineffective: It’s reductive. It’s lazy. It doesn’t examine facts beyond the primary source. In this case the primary source is the Huffington Post. The SECONDARY source is a place called “Liberal Lamp Post”. Now, the source THEY QUOTE is the Constitution. Therefore, what you are ACTUALLY arguing against is quotes from the Constitution, not the Huffington Post. That is your ACTUAL cited source. Laziness makes you look unintelligent and reductivism is a brand of laziness.

        Why this tactic doesn’t WORK: I’ll put this simply. SOME people think. Those people will CALL you on being lazy and reductive.

        “I are those there peoples.”

        You have yourself a peachy day, okay?

  • If 15% of the taxpayers make 80% of all the money earned, then yes it’s perfectly fair. It’s called statistics.

    But I digress, since your utterly incorrect statement of “… nearly 60% of all taxpayers actually pay ZERO income taxes (and in many cases receive refunds in EXCESS of any taxes deducted from their income..” invalidates your entire argument.

  • I mean below.

  • I would like all the English majors or anyone who has taken English 102 to look above and reread each passage and find as many logical fallacies as you can. Tally them up and then in complete sentences tell us why each arguing party chose to use the Fallacies in the way that they did. Ask yourself whose agenda it served and moreover why the party may have thought it necessary to do so, when true statements may have been presented in their place.

  • Just for one short note ANYONE who says someone does not pay income tax either has no knowledge of economics or their head up their. Every time i buy even so much as a can of beans i pay income tax. Rich people generally spend more ergo they pay a larger amount of income taxes. If anyone cannot grasp this concept and stop their hyperboly I willl gladly give them a class in economics 101.

    • JohnMinWalkertownNC

      “Every time i buy even so much as a can of beans i pay income tax.”

      You seem to be confusing SALES tax (which is based on purchasing) with INCOME tax (which is based on a person’s pay rate at their job). Everyone pays SALES tax, but NOT everyone pays INCOME tax. People with ZERO income (which means people living on welfare instead of working for a living) pay ZERO income tax.

      I am an accountant, I have processed several hundred tax returns during the last 12 years, so I know VERY WELL the situation regarding income taxes.

      • Dude, he just explained to you how a sales tax is effectively an income tax.

        • He also explained the difference. People can get around that simply by going to somewhere that doesn’t have a sales tax and there fore are circumventing the “income tax” argument of a sales tax. An income tax is a tax placed on INCOME, a sales tax is a tax placed on the SALES of goods and services. Why can’t you people get it through your simple little minds the difference.
          How about this as an example:
          Someone owns a factory. He only takes the products produced in the factory. He makes money from the profits of the factory but because he doesn’t PURCHASE the products, he pays NO SALES TAX. Calling a sales tax an income tax is like calling a dog a cat or a bird a fish. It doesn’t make any sense. I have no problem to be a proud TAX PAYING AMERICAN because I know freedom doesn’t come free, in any form.

        • No, he didn’t. He is either made an honest mistake, is completely misguided, or is trying to manipulate facts with pretzel logic.

          Income tax is based on income and is justified using the argument that everyone pay for municipal services, an armed force, and a government, among other things.

          Sales tax is based on what are termed ‘luxury’ items (there are no taxes on things deemed necessary), and are based on a percentage of the cost of said items.

          EVERYONE pays sales tax. Not everyone pays income tax. So, if one class of people only pay sales tax, they are not going to pay as much ‘total tax’ (if you want to go by the pretzel logic theory of all taxes are the same) unles they spend much more on income tax. Now, considering that most sales tax is under 20% maximum, and the LEAST income tax is greater than 30% a person would be hard pressed to spend that much.

          To add to the fallacy of this argument, the article mentions corporations as a main culprit of not paying taxes and any spending a corporation does is TAX EXEMPT for the most part, so they aren’t paying sales tax either. And, the 1% do NOT spend more than the middle class. The middle class and lower class are the real consumers in this country. So the above poster is either just plain uninformend or deliberately distorting the facts. Either way, his argument is flimsy as his ‘facts.’

          • Plus, even if someone were to consider sales tax and income tax to be the same (which it isn’t), then the argument of richer people spending more and equating to paying more taxes is still a losing argument since it doesn’t take a very important fact into account.

            The rich spend much LESS as a percentage of their income in sales tax than the middle class and the poor do. While their overall expenditures may be more, they have a vast amount of undisposed income that does not get spent and subjected to sales tax. So, under a “let’s only pay sales tax to be fair” scenario, the poor have an effective income tax of 100%, the middle class ends up with an income tax of somewhere between 80-100% depending on how much they are able to put back into savings, and the rich come out far ahead with an income tax at or below 50% easily.

            No thanks, but it sure makes for a nice fallacious argument that can be spun to convince all the ignorant tea party lemmings that the 1% is on their side!

    • incorrect; income tax is a percentage of your financial income paid to the government to fund federal services. true, sales tax does go to fund some local state and city programs. however, it is not a federal collection and it is not placed on all items (i.e. raw or unprepared food stuffs, including that can of beans).
      despite this gaff, i’ll address the point you were trying to make: while the wealthy may pay a larger dollar amount in sales tax than those in the middle or lower class, they tend to pay a lower percentage of their total income on those taxable goods. a luxurious couch for a mansion generally takes a smaller bite out of a millionaire’s budget than the 2nd hand sofa from savers for a family of four living off of $2,500 a month. the same can be said about that family’s once a week pizza night compared to a lavish four course meal for two at a five star restaurant; the dollar amount for the latter (and thus the collected sales tax) is much higher, but is a smaller percentage of the overall budgetary allowance.

  • Barbara D Holtzman

    Difficult to disagree with you on the philosphy and semantics, however… “we’re taxing my grandchildren (not yet born) to pay for this” because we are unwilling to tax those who currently benefit. If we simply let the Bush tax cuts expire, how long will it take to get back to the Clinton surplus? If we stop fighting unfunded foreign wars, an expense as such that we have never before incurred, how much more money will we save? I promise you, your children would rather pay a bit more in taxes than have to keep you in their spare bedroom because you would otherwise starve in the street.

    Why are so many of the 98% who suffer opposed to taxing the 2% who do not? I just don’t get it.

    • JohnMinWalkertownNC

      “Why are so many of the 98% who suffer opposed to taxing the 2% who do not?”

      Let me ask you two questions in return: Is it right (or fair) that nearly 80% of ALL tax monies received by the government are paid by less than 15% of all the taxpayers in America? Is it right (or fair) that nearly 60% of all taxpayers actually pay ZERO income taxes (and in many cases receive refunds in EXCESS of any taxes deducted from their income)?

      Clinton only had a “surplus” because of what Reagan did prior to Clinton’s election. Clinton GUTTED the American military and raised taxes… And the “housing bubble” that everyone blames on GWB originated during the Clinton years.

      • Gwynne Chesher

        A survey of Consumer Finance sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board shows that the wealthiest 1% of families owns roughly 34.3% of the nation’s net worth, the top 10% of families won over 71% and the bottom 40% of the population owns way less than 1%. So, it stands to reason that the super wealthy are paying most of the taxes. Many Americans (like the elderly and disabled) earn so little, that they, by law, do not owe any taxes.
        As for the Reagan/Clinton B.S., we wonder if you really believe that you can re-write history and get away with it.

        • JohnMinWalkertownNC

          “A survey of Consumer Finance sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board”

          Gee, quoting from a BIASED report…

          My problem is that I am so sick and tired of the whining that “the ‘rich’ aren’t paying enough taxes”. The “rich” are “footing the bill” for NEARLY EVERYONE ELSE as well as for themselves. That is NOT right. Taxation SHOULD be an EQUAL rate (percentage wise) for all, not “progressive” (ever heard the term “tax brackets”?) where the percentage rates increase just because the person’s income level increases.

          Which is why I am a supporter of the Fair Tax plan, which uses a consumption tax (aka SALES tax) instead of income tax (since there are WAY TOO MANY people who pay ZERO income tax – drug dealers, illegal immigrants, prostitutes, mafia, welfare recipients who don’t work, etc). Everyone makes purchases, therefor EVERYONE pays sales tax (including foreign tourists and all the categories I mentioned in the previous statement).

          • Hey, pal, you benefit from the system, you pay. You are concerned with welfare recipients, but did you complain when Congress gave over $787 Billion in WELFARE to the Banks? Where was your vigor and vim then?

            • JohnMinWalkertownNC

              I was completely AGAINST the “bailout” bills. If a company is failing, it should be allowed to fail so that a competitor can swoop in and “pick up the pieces”.

            • JohnMinWalkertownNC

              And by the way, look at the “who’s who” list of companies that received those bailouts… Most (if not all) were campaign donors to the senators/congressmen who signed those bills…

            • JohnMinWalkertownNC

              And explain to me how, if I am “paying into the programs”, I benefit from the “system”?

              My income, which is low, is still considered too high to be eligible to receive welfare, food stamps, or medicaid.

              How do I benefit from a system that I am considered ineligible to apply for???

          • Since most religious institutions are so morally bankrupt, it make sense, in a way for so many to start worshipping money and raising those who have more to saintly status (regardless of how they got it).

      • I absolutely seethe at the Right’s contention that “60% of all taxpayers actually pay ZERO income taxes”, as if that means they all come from the 99%. What part of that supposed 60% of tax evaders don’t pay an income tax because they don’t make enough income to incur one, and what part doesn’t pay an income tax because they have an army of accountants and tax attorneys who they have hired for the sole purpose of avoiding it? You never say, mostly because I suspect a MUCH larger portion of that (probably mythical) 60% come from the top than the bottom of the income cale.

        • JohnMinWalkertownNC

          Then you must have zero understanding of how the income tax system works. Under the current system, the higher a person’s income, the larger the chunk they pay (and it isn’t a percentage, which would be fair, but a lump-sum amount), a concept the government calls “tax brackets”.

          There are people in America with ZERO TAXABLE income – because it is not reported to the government as income – (such as drug dealers, prostitutes, illegal immigrants, mafia, and anyone receiving welfare instead of working for a paycheck). Then there are people in America whose income level is SO LOW they receive a COMPLETE REFUND of the tax amounts deducted from their paychecks, and in some cases even get back EXTRA…

          Numerically speaking, less than 15% of all tax-paying Americans pay “the lion’s share” (greater than 60%) of ALL tax-moneys received by the federal government. It is not a “contention” and it is not “mythical”, it is a FACT.

          • >FACE PALM<
            "such as drug dealers, prostitutes, illegal immigrants, mafia…".
            or, working and middle class folks with two to three kids living off of $2500 a month.

            i also LOVE how you complain about "biased" sources to everyone that refutes your claims with verifiable statistics. why aren't you siting your sources?

            • JohnMinWalkertownNC

              Apparently you missed the part where I said “Then there are people in America whose income level is SO LOW they receive a COMPLETE REFUND of the tax amounts deducted from their paychecks, and in some cases even get back EXTRA…”

              I have processed several hundred personal (plus over 100 small-business – including S-Corporation) income tax returns since 1999, so I know full well what I am talking about. Just because some website reports it does NOT make that site an expert on the subject, huffingtonpost.com in particular is a sensationalist site, they post inflammatory reports, not accurate truth.

              • It is abundantly clear you are far more biased than the news sites you claim are trash. As such your “expertise” is at the bare minimum also completely worthless. You are posting inflammatory remarks not the accurate truth.

      • Blaming any singular person is about stupid. The boom actually happened during the Bush years and happened in the span of less than 24 months.

      • If I made a billion dollars a year I would gladly pay 90%+ of my income to taxes. Especially if it saved families with an average income of 12k dollars a year from paying taxes. WTF do people need more than a million dollars for. Answer: nothing. You want to talk about EXCESS how about you look at the lifestyles of the people stealing billions from the American people to line their own pockets. How about that for getting a tax refund?

  • I’m just going to respond to the point that the Constitution neither grants the power to outlaw abortion nor forbids the prohibition of abortion. The entire purpose of the Constitution was to provide for limitations on governmental power not unwarranted expansions. The grant of power and only those laws that would reasonably flow from them are constitutional. Consequently, without a specific grant of power neither the federal government nor any state has the legal authority to encroach upon a woman’s right to make her own procreative decisions. Furthermore,as eloquently explicated in Roe v. Wade she has that right under the 9th Amendment.

  • From the article:The first and foremost power the Constitution grants Congress is the right to “collect taxes…to provide for common defense and general welfare” of the nation.

    The author starts out here with a common misconception. The “general welfare clause” is an introductory clause that opens Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution and introduces the specific enumerated powers delegated to the federal Congress. The actual powers delegated to the Congress are all those things that follow.
    James Madison, the man who wrote Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, also wrote an explanation of the “general welfare” clause in Federalist #41. Here’s a quote from that:

    From Federalist #41 by James Madison:Had no other enumeration or definition of the powers of the Congress been found in the Constitution, than the general expressions just cited, the authors of the objection might have had some color for it; though it would have been difficult to find a reason for so awkward a form of describing an authority to legislate in all possible cases. A power to destroy the freedom of the press, the trial by jury, or even to regulate the course of descents, or the forms of conveyances, must be very singularly expressed by the terms “to raise money for the general welfare. “But what color can the objection have, when a specification of the objects alluded to by these general terms immediately follows, and is not even separated by a longer pause than a semicolon? If the different parts of the same instrument ought to be so expounded, as to give meaning to every part which will bear it, shall one part of the same sentence be excluded altogether from a share in the meaning; and shall the more doubtful and indefinite terms be retained in their full extent, and the clear and precise expressions be denied any signification whatsoever? For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power?

    • Liberal Lamp Post

      You should know that you are presenting only one, narrow interpretation. As #2 in this article shows, SCOTUS, which has the supreme power to interpret the Constitution, has upheld a broad interpretation of federal powers that are not limited by the narrow list contained in the Constitution.

      Also, Madison’s writings are no more important or influential than Alexander Hamilton’s. In fact, it is the Hamiltonian vision of the federal government providing for the common good that has dominated in federal case law.


      “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.”

      “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful.”

      • You should know that you are presenting only one, narrow interpretation. As #2 in this article shows, SCOTUS, which has the supreme power to interpret the Constitution, has upheld a broad interpretation of federal powers that are not limited by the narrow list contained in the Constitution.

        Also, Madison’s writings are no more important or influential than Alexander Hamilton’s. In fact, it is the Hamiltonian vision of the federal government providing for the common good that has dominated in federal case law.

        At the time of the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton’s views were not the mainstream view. Hamilton was more of a “the ends justify the means” kind of guy. He would have fit right in with the progressive wing of todays Democrat party. But he was not in the mainstream, and the Constitutional Convention generally did not share these views.

        It may surprise you, but Madison’s view of the general welfare clause was the mainstream view for nearly 125 years of this country’s history. Many presidents held that view, and many of them vetoed acts of the Congress for wich there was no specific enumerated power in Article 1 Section 8. It might surprise you, but in my opinion, one of the best presidents we ever had was actually a Democrat. But he was a Democrat who held strong to the Madisonian view of the enumerated powers.

        America had just 4 years before the Constitutional Convention signed a peace treaty ending a war against “the divine rights of kings” and the British monarchy.

        Do you honestly believe that less than 4 years after fighting against a king of unlimited power, the founders of this country sought to give unlimited power over this entire nation to a small group of men in the Congress? If they wanted to do that, why not just say, “Congress can pass any law it feels is necessary, for any purpose whatsoever, or for no purpose at all.” and be done with it?

        Moving on to SCOTUS, where exactly does SCOTUS derive their power to be the supreme arbiter of what is constitutional and what is not? Is that in the Constitution?

        Also, once SCOTUS rules on an issue, is that settled law for all time? Have they never made a mistake? Have the nine robed judges never corrected a mistake made by their predecessors?

        Finally, Hamilton was dishonest in his support for an all powerful Congress. In his letters supporting the view that anything was within Congress’s powers if the “general welfare” clause was invoked, he would quote that section of the constitution with a period in place of the semi-colon. Joseph Story, a supreme court justice in the early 19th century, and a strong, big government Hamitonian wrote a book about the Constitution, “Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States.” In his book, Justice Joseph Story too, place a period after that clause, where the actual document has a semicolon.

        As far as I know, in every Supreme Court opinion affirming Congressional acts which rely solely or primarily on the “general welfare” clause, all of those opinions cite either Hamilton or Story, and place a period after that clause. In these opinions, SCOTUS has modified/amended the constitution (and not in a way sanctioned by article 5) before ruling on the constitutionality of a congressional act.

        I’ve lived all my life in Hamilton’s America, with an all powerful, unlimted federal government. Now, we’re taxing my grandchildren (not yet born) to pay for this, when we aren’t borrowing money out of thin air. This is madness.

        If the TEA Party wants to try getting us to Madison’s America, I’m all for it. Hamilton’s America wil collapse of its own weight. I just fear that when this happens, America as a free country will be a historical curiosity and an experiment that will never be repeated. That’s a scary thought.

        • “Moving on to SCOTUS, where exactly does SCOTUS derive their power to be the supreme arbitrator of what is constitutional and what is not? Is that in the Constitution?” Yes sir, it actually is. Article III of the Constitution, states: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.” In other words “one supreme court” ( The Supreme Court ) has the responsibility to determine what IS or IS NOT constitutional.

        • Wow, so your entire argument re:SCOTUS and Hamilton comes down to a semicolon? You will love this definition of a semicolon then:
          “A mark of punctuation ( ; ) used to connect independent clauses and show a closer relationship than a period does.

          “Unlike many of the other punctuation marks, there is no occasion on which the semicolon cannot be replaced by another form of punctuation or sentence construction, and its use appears to be gradually declining.” (Martin H. Manser, Good Word Guide, 7th ed. A & C Black, 2008)”

          So, a semicolon CAN be replaced by a period. It is only used to suggest a closer relationship. That is it. A closer relationship does not make it into a dependant clause that has no meaning without the following clause. They are two independant clauses.

          Your argument fails. Sorry.

  • I think the whole bunch of our elected officals are ignorant of the constitution they only refer to it when it is conveiant to thier agenda

  • Until the New Deal era, a general acknowledgement that individual social welfare, more specifically the use of public monies for the purpose of charity by the national government, was unconstitutional on the national level prevailed in government. Charity was known not to be an enumerated power nor one reasonably implied by the “necessary and proper” clause and therefore considered unconstitutional. Yet around the time of the New Deal, government began overlooking this clear unconstitutionality. The Supreme Court temporarily checked this until the Court Packing Scandal led to pro-welfare rulings by an incapacitated court, fearing dismantling by FDR and therefore under duress, in 1937. Since then the use of public monies for charity, or social welfare, has expanded in what is reasonably termed direct defiance of the Constitution

    “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1798

    “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.” – James Madison criticizing an attempt to grant public monies for charitable means, 1794

    • I agree. James Madison was the chief architect of the Constitution, co-author of the Federalist papers, and was the main interpreter of the what the Constitution meant.

      His explanation is clear that Congress does not have an enumerated power to take money from some citizens in order to be benevolent to others. That is something which should be left to private citizens to handle on their own.

      Social spending takes up 60% of the federal budget. It seems that Congressman spend the majority of their time working on these social programs. If we left this to churches, private citizens, and other charitable organizations, we wouldn’t have our $15 trillion debt, a yearly deficit of over one trillion dollars, or the tax rates that we now endure; plus, members of Congress could spend more time in their districts meeting with their constituents.

  • To bad the writer of this piece of trash has absolutely no clue how the Constitution actually works.
    1) The term “general welfare” has nothing to do with social services since they didn’t exist at the time. It means the health, peace, morality, and safety of its citizens.
    2) The Supreme Court effectively determines what the Constitution means.
    3) The Constitution says nothing-not one word-about marriage. As for the Obama administration calling Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Only SCOTUS has the authority to determine the constitutionality of DOMA.
    4) The 14th Amendment does not forbid any type of immigration law. Federal law requires legal non-citizens to carry a permanent residence card. “Every alien shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession”. But in most states US citizens are not required to carry any type of identification. So if you are lawfully detained by the police and they need to run a check on you it’s easier if you have an ID otherwise they do have the authority to detain you until your identity is verified (but only if it’s a lawful contact). They can’t just ask for your ID with no reason in mind, let alone your perceived ethnicity. It’s that pesky Equal Protection Clause at work. This means the only people that have any reason to worry are those without a lawful presence in the US, i.e. illegal aliens.
    5) When President William H. Taft introduced the 16th Amendment, he clearly revealed its legislative intent which was to allow the government to tax only its own employees but not private citizens.
    6) The 24th amendment plainly states that there shall be no type of tax levied as a condition to vote in any federal election. It says nothing at all about not having to present any type of identification in order to vote.
    7) The Constitution does not grant any authority to ban abortion it also doesn’t give any authority not to ban abortion.
    8) By giving the interstate commerce clause the kind of power you’re supporting would allow the government the authority to make you purchase anything they want you to have, even if you don’t want it.
    The only reason Obama studied the US Constitution was to try and find loopholes in which he could shove his agenda through, and in the process enriching his cronies. The Democrats agenda is much more crippling to our country then anything the Republicans could manage.
    Obama may have taught courses in constitutional law but in no way does that make him a professor. He is listed on the University of Chicago web page as “Senior Lecturer in Law” which is not the same thing as professor.
    Chicago Law Prof on Obama: “The Professors Hated Him because he was Lazy, Unqualified & Never Attended any of the Faculty Meetings”

    • I sat and read your argument in awe and wonder! An intelligent debate! Until I got to #7. The constitution is supposed to GUARANTEE our freedoms…you can’t argue it doesn’t protect them. That’s just ignorant. yeah, I know…murder of fetus and all that…but you would have to expand your argument then (and this is a WHOLE different issue) as to when a person IS a person (conception, 1st, 2nd, 3rd trimester, birth, etc) and when they are considered a “citizen”…You left your ENTIRE stance on that out (maybe a wise decision because then that opens up the death penalty argument also…).

      And then the very last line…Please don’t “quote” sources and NOT give the source. You just destroyed your ENTIRE piece by using childish tactics. I LOVE a good debate, and expected there to be one from your otherwise EXCELLENT response, but you closed off the debate with the last piece trying to discredit Obama. If you had left it at the facts (he was a lecturer and NOT a prof, you had a good argument!). This is unfortunate…

      PLEASE NOTICE (before anyone out there starts screaming “off with his liberal head”) that I have put NO opinions on this matter out there, other than HOW you presented (and it was mostly good!) your arguments. I just want to see better debates of the issues. If better debating can be had (and, like I said, I saw it here at first), I will GLADLY join in and voice my opinion on the issues! I am just tired of being shouted down. I get that at work from the drunks as I toss them from the bar…

      • Tim, I just posted the link and the headline that came with it.
        As on #7, not being female my I have limited judgement in this matter. However my wife and I agreed long ago (over 22 yrs) that if a woman was single and of legal age then she should be able to make that choice on her own. But if she was underage then she should get permission from at least one parent unless it is caused from an incestuous relationship/rape)and counseling afterwards. And if she is married then she should at least talk it over with her spouse. If some woman wants an abortion who am I to say otherwise? And the question of when the latest it should be performed is something I’m not qualified to say. And I won’t get into the capital punishment question right now.
        I was being a bit flippant with my earlier answer and for that I apologize (I was also being rushed but that is no excuse).
        Civilized debates are so much better than internet flaming. Everyone has their own thoughts on different subjects and even-though I may not agree with them I will not try to shout them down even if someone else started it. If they start to get obnoxious then I’ll ignore them.

        • Bradley J. Greene

          I wish more people would follow this “template” for debating. Not just online, but everywhere. Reading your volley not only informed me, it put a smile on my face! I guess cooler heads DO prevail. Thank you.

      • Tim,

        You are right, the Constitution is supposed to guarantee our freedoms. One of those freedoms is the right to life. Abortion robs unborn children of their right to live. Of course, the abortion issue was framed around a woman’s “choice” and that she has a right to do with her body as she sees fit, but the that effectively subverts the unborn child’s right to life.

        So, in my opinion, the guarantee of the unborn child’s right to life overrules a woman’s right to kill that child.

        The court has been known throughout its existence to rule incorrectly and that happens to be the case when it upheld abortion. Congress does not have a right to allow it.

        It’s unfortunate that the writer of this article does not understand the Constitution better as True Knowledge mentions.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.