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27 October 2012

Pondering the Debates (part 5)

Here I go again...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I'm working toward the bottom of the 5th page of the transcript today, still on debate #1. But it's not election day yet, so I may yet get through some more.

 Obama: The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don't get.

I have issues with saying that permitting companies to keep money they earn is "corporate welfare." Bailouts are corporate welfare. Those companies actually got money from taxpayers to add to the corporate bank accounts. But deductions are taxes not paid. That's not the same thing. Not in the least. Not that it has a lot to do with the Constitution, but it strikes me as a dishonest way of looking at things. How generous. The government graciously allowed them to keep that deducted portion of their earnings. Balloney! That money rightly belongs to the person that earned it, or to the corporate shareholders. It doesn't belong to the government! This kind of thinking drives me crazy.

So, in part 4, I looked at where Mr. Obama accused Mr. Romney of wanting to send Medicare to the states. And, sending it to the states is a Constitutionally sound idea. But apparently that's not what Mr. Romney had in mind:

Romney: And, finally, Medicaid to states? I'm not quite sure where that came in, except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you're going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and then you're going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best.

I supposed that you could say that at least the States are controlling what happens with this money, but the reality is, the entire Medicaid program is unconstitutional. There is nothing in the Enumerated Powers that permits Congress to spend money on that stuff. I went over the Enumerated Powers in part 3, but maybe it's time for a recap. The candidates certainly seem to need to review it.

Article I Section 8 outlines the powers of Congress, sometimes called the Enumerated Powers. These include the following, and only the following:

  • The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States:
  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
  • To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
  • To establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform rules on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  • To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
  • To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
  • To establish post offices and post-roads;
  • To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
  • To constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court; 
  • To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses on land and water;
  • To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
  • To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
  • To provide and maintain a navy;
  • To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
  • To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
  • To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
  • To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, be cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings; And,
  • To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

James Madison said this in Federalist 45, in response to fears that Congress would overstep its bounds:

Madison: 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; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

In other words, if it ain't on the list, they're not supposed to do it. And charitible efforts, such as Medicare, are not on the list. And in case that list isn't clear enough, Mr. Madison specifically addressed this sort of question:

Madson: 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.

Mr. Madison being the "father" of the Constitution, it seems to me that he would know what is and is not Constitutional. Until we change it, the highest law of the land does not allow this sort of program. Certainly this has been ignored for a long time now, but that doesn't make it right. So, while returning control of the money to the States is a step in the right direction, returning the whole thing to the States would be even better. However, both candidates are clear: this is not what they are trying to do. It is worthy of note here, I think, that in that potential 30% reduction that Mr. Obama is worried about loosing if control is given back to the States is going to be a huge amount of bureaucracy and red tape. That stuff is very expensive, and contributes nothing to the quality of care people are getting, so I'm thinking that the reduction that he's accusing Mr. Romney of supporting (though Mr. Romney says he does not) would not be nearly as catastrophic as Mr. Obama would like voters to think. I think it likely that, between the reduced tax burden increasing the self-sufficiency of voters, and the reduced bureaucracy, it might even be a change that increased the quality and availability of care while reducing costs. Government is legendary for its inefficiency and corruption, and on those grounds alone a poor choice for our charitable dollars.

On to page 6.

Romney: But — but the right — the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance of our people and states, not the federal government.

This principle is key to understanding the Constitution. The whole concept of our government was radical in that the Founders' theory of government is that the powers of government are derived from the body of the people - not the other way around. I've been reading from America's Constitution: a Biography again, and Mr. Amar has this to say about the presidency, as outlined in Article II of our Constitution:

Article II obliged the Founders to venture deep into uncharted territory. The young continent needed a president who would be far more than a legislative presiding officer, a state governor, or a prime minister, but far less than a king. Nothing quite like this new office had ever existed. Nevertheless, as Americans in 1787 tried to envision a republican head of state who could protect them against the old King George without becoming a new King George, they did have a particular George in mind. (page 131)

Our president was never meant to be a king. In fact, he was specifically, deliberately NOT a king. And his powers, rather that being derived from "divine right" or intrinsic to the office in some other way, are delegated powers which originate in the People, rather than in the government. This concept is crucial. It is the hinge on which the question, "Is this proper for government to do?" swings upon. In his essay, The Proper Role of Government, Ezra Taft Benson said it this way:

Benson: The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.

So, in his comment above, Mr. Romney got things absolutely, exactly Constitutionally right. Relying on the brilliance of our people and the States is precisely what the Founders had in mind.


Cellista said...

Thanks for all of these posts. I haven't done nearly enough reading to be able to intelligently dissect everything they say. I love how you can pull up relevant quotes from the Founding Fathers that are just perfect.

I'll be so glad when this election is over, but more so if Obama loses. The more I find out about him, the more he disgusts me. Romney's not a perfect constitutionalist candidate, but I have a lot more hope for America if he wins.

Ritsumei said...

I'm glad you find it useful! I still feel like such an amateur when it comes to figuring this stuff out. I have so much to learn still. But I'm glad it's useful to someone!

I started really studying Founding thought during the last election. I started with President Benson's essay, The Proper Role of Government (there's links under my "freedom" tab), and have read a couple things since then that I can recommend: The 5000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen, and A Glorious Standard by Christopher Bentley both come to mind. I've also done a fair amount of listening to talks by the brethren recently. There's a number of them in the BYU speeches database. And I'm working my way through America's Constitution: a Biography by... I forget. I still haven't decided if I like that one as much. Browsing pages that I find by googling "Founders quotes" is another good way to find that sort of thing.

Anyway, thanks so much for the kind words; it's so encouraging!


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