The recent controversy over Obama’s attempted coercion and erosion of religious liberty reminded me of an essay Thomas Sowell wrote shortly after the oil spill. Sowell made the case that the U.S. is on the slippery slope to tyranny, cited the action by the Obama administration regarding compensation for the oil spill victims as an example. He wondered, “[j]ust where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.” And Sowell is correct. Just as Obama acted in such a manner then, his latest antics show that the slope is getting more slippery.
The audacity of our president to mandate that citizens violate their religious conscience by paying for and subsidizing things they are against is striking. Just as egregious is his shell game “compromise” – where he mandates that a private enterprise directly shoulder the cost themselves of those things (which a large percentage of the population opposes). Not that his proposal changes much anything in the way of liberty; the issue here is, once again, that we have actions by our President which are very clearly unconstitutional.
Our Constitution tells us that the the federal government has the power to provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States (Article 1, Section 8). The rest of the powers enumerated in this part mainly relate to the military and defense, as well as some specific items, such as roads and post offices. That’s it. But this administration has exploited the feel-good term of “general welfare” as a green light to spend drastically — and unconstitutionally.
So how did this happen? And why is it unconstitutional?
Let’s back to the beginning of tax and spend mentality, specifically the 16th amendment – the full implementation of the federal income tax. Before this passed in 1913, Congress was limited by its income due to the type of taxes the Constitution allowed. The Supreme Court had actually ruled that the income tax was unconstitutional. But this new federal income tax was a different type of tax levy than previous tax measures because it included corporations (so technically that was an excise tax), and it was not a proportional tax. It was based on income, which is disproportional: some are rich, others poor. With the new income tax, those who were working and accumulating large sums of wealth became a revenue stream for our Congress.
Government was grossly expanded during the Great Depression and New Deal when FDR gave America programs of public works such as the National Recovery Administration, and monetary supports like Social Security. The litany of abuse of federal power has been well documented and the salient point is that role of government and our relationship to the Constitution was forever changed.
The explosion of economic meddling and bloated government since then has been extraordinary. But we’ve been told it’s okay because it’s all in the name of General Welfare. We’ve slowly become more and more accustomed to the idea that the government can—and should—take care of its citizens in all facets of our lives. But that is not the original intent of government, according to our Founding Fathers.
Indeed, they were keenly aware of the potential for abuse of the welfare clause. Jefferson himself emphatically declared in 1798 that “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
What’s different about this current administration, is that Obama has explicitly stated, even before he became President, that he favors wealth redistribution. This is evident in his actions such as the aforementioned oil compensation. He is working vigorously to expand the welfare state.
Under the guise of “rights”, Obama has pushed forth the notion that we are entitled to many things. But these programs are not free, nor are they charitable. It simply transfers wealth from those who can afford it most to those who can afford it less. This idea in itself is not new in our country. But the Obama administration is continuously trying to spread the wealth around in more deep-reaching personal and private sectors. The so-called “Buffet Rule” , for instance, adds a surcharge to millionaires, just because he can. (He needs the revenue for his programs). And the latest: free birth control for all!
His administration appointees, aptly called “czars”, are mainly reflections of his own economic ideas. Most are against free market principles and favor great spending. But alarmingly, they are neither confirmed by Congress nor answerable to Obama, a clear violation of our Constitution. And the IRS has become the chief money launderer, as seen from the growing list of tax credits since the first stimulus package, his jobs bill and his recent SOTU address. But all these tax credits merely do is subsidize various industries while push an underlying agenda —but “credits” sound good to the pundits and citizens. That’s why we will never see true tax code reform.
We’ve seen bailouts of industries deemed “too big to fail” by taking our taxpayer money and nationalizing businesses. Putting government-decided caps on wages and imposing 90% taxes on employee compensation packages. And of course, Obamacare is among the biggest farces of all. Deeming healthcare a crisis is another example of false advertising in order to create a reason for the intrusion into our lives and money, and now, our religious liberty. As William Pitt the Younger sagely put it, “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
Ironically, those who claim to love liberty the most are those who have done the most damage. Calling the Constitution a “living document” is code word for manipulation and interpretation, justifying the general welfare clause time and again in order to spend recklessly, regulate more, oftentimes via unconstitutional procedures.
President Obama swore an oath “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” as he assumed the presidency. Yet he is busily ignoring it, rerouting it, and creating a new language of “rights” that are not contained therein but provide persuasive lingo to pass his calculated policies.
The difference between FDR and Obama is the era in which we live. We have allowed the slope to get slippery since the New Deal so much that our own politicians on both sides of the aisle have become accustomed to government intrusion and spending – so much that they have abrogated their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer to act as stewards of taxpayer money. And they have forgotten to ask the most important question of all, for us all: Is This Constitutional?