Was 'general welfare' intended to include health care?

By Tad Armstrong | Aug 30, 2009

Any American fifth grader knows our federal government has three branches, right? Remember the basics? The Legislative Branch (Congress) "makes" our laws, the Executive Branch (the President) "enforces" our laws and the Judicial Branch "interprets" our laws.

Did you know that ALL of the legislative powers granted in the United States Constitution are vested in Congress and Congress ONLY? Yep - 'says so right in the first sentence after the preamble. (Article I, § 1.)

But, does Congress have the right to make just any law it sees fit to make? Does Congress have the Constitutional power, let's say, to pass laws that permit the federal government to take over health care? Does it even have the power to permit a government-run-option in the health care field?

Well, we have already established that Congress can only act within the powers granted to it by the Constitution. Of course, that assumes that today's legislators honor the Constitution. But, surely that must be true. They all take an oath to support it. (Article VI.) Anyway, assuming they acknowledge and follow the "supreme law of the land" ('says so right in Article VI), let's take a quick look at the powers actually granted to Congress to see if we can answer these questions. Well, lookee there! The powers granted to Congress are actually listed in Article I, §8. This shouldn't be too hard.

Let's see. Congress has the power to tax, to pay its debts and to provide for the common defense. It has the power to borrow and the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states and with the Indians tribes. It has the power to establish rules of naturalization and to adopt bankruptcy laws. Congress can coin money, regulate its value and fix a system of weights and measures. It can provide a punishment for counterfeiting. It can establish post offices and provide laws for patents. It can set up a system of courts and it can provide for punishment of piracy. It can declare war and raise armies and navies and a militia. It can make the laws for the District of Columbia. And, it can make all laws "necessary and proper" to carry these powers into execution.

Well, although the Framers saw fit to specifically list and name each of these powers, they did not mention anything about health care or medicine or disease or injury or physicians or nurses or hospitals. Maybe I missed something? Did you see any hint of such power "granted" to Congress?

Let me know if you did.

Someone likely will raise the phrase I have not mentioned thus far. It is thrown in with "defense."

Here is what it says: "The Congress shall have the power to...provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States."

Was "general welfare" intended to include health care? Education? Baseball? Anything Under the Sun?

If "general welfare" was meant to include just anything Congress deems fit to do "for us" or "to us," then why does the Constitution limit the reach of Congress to only those powers granted to it in the Constitution? A list is not at all necessary if the powers are unlimited. Right?

Then, let's not forget the Tenth Amendment which states that the powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are "reserved to the States." Clearly, no powers can be reserved to the States if all powers are included under the "general welfare" umbrella.

Don't trust me? Pick up a copy of your United States Constitution and get acquainted with it. If you don't care enough to do that much, you won't know when Congress and the President fail to respect their Constitutional limitations and you won't know when five or more Justices of the Supreme Court fail to respect their oath to support the Constitution and, then, "We, the People" will deserve exactly what "We" get from the representatives we put in office to run our "constitutional" form of government.

Ben Franklin said: "It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins."

And I say, "An "epidemic of ignorance" is the greatest threat to this Republic.

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