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Jewish World Review Nov. 2, 2000/ 4 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Larry Elder

Larry Elder
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Why I'm "wasting" my vote -- "WITH RESPECT to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers (enumerated in the Constitution) connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."

James Madison, the principal author of the Constitution, said this to explain the so-called "general welfare" clause of the Constitution. Today both parties ignore the original intention of the general welfare clause. And this is precisely why I cannot vote for either party.

Madison and the Founding Fathers envisioned a limited government, along the lines of Henry David Thoreau, who said, "That government is best which governs least."

Think about it. If the general welfare clause of the Constitution allowed unlimited federal powers, why bother with Article I, Section 8, which sets forth the specific powers and duties of the federal government? The Founding Fathers left to the states all responsibilities not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

This means the Supreme Court correctly interpreted the Constitution when it initially rejected much of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's so-called "New Deal." This means the Supreme Court correctly rejected Congress's first attempt to pass an income tax, ruling that this, too, violated the Constitution.

Think about the concept of Social Security. The government, determining its citizens too irresponsible to plan for the future, takes part of a worker's paycheck. Then, when that worker retires, the government "returns" the money, but at a paltry rate of interest.

Remember when President Clinton said of the budget "surplus," "We could give it all back to you and hope you spend it right. But ... if you don't spend it right, here's what's going to happen."

In Philadelphia at the Republican National Convention, Republican candidate George W. Bush declared that the federal government should take no more than a third of one's income. A third! How about zero? Read the Constitution. The Founding Fathers allowed duties and tariffs to fund the limited obligations of the federal government.

The Soviet Union collapsed under 100 percent socialism. But, through Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs, government pays roughly 50 percent of our health-care tab. In 1965, Congress passed the Medicare Act. In the 20 years before the Act, a one-day stay in the hospital increased threefold. In the 20 years following the passage of the Medicare Act, a one-day stay in a hospital increased eightfold. Full socialism doesn't work, nor does semi-socialism. Government involvement in health care increases the prices, decreases innovation, and diminishes accessibility.

What about government welfare for the poor and the needy? Economist and columnist Thomas Sowell estimates that bureaucratic red tape and costs burn up 70 cents for every dollar intended for the poor and needy. Contrast this with organizations like the United Way and the Salvation Army, where over 85 percent of the donated dollar gets down to the intended beneficiaries.

Did the Founding Fathers envision an intrusive, heavy-handed Internal Revenue Service that collects a disproportionate percentage of taxes from "the wealthy," often the hardest-working and most innovative of Americans?

Did the Founding Fathers envision a Congress that pays farmers not to grow crops?

Did the Founding Fathers envision a government-operated Amtrak, run less efficiently than private sector rail companies?

Did the Founding Fathers envision taxpayer funding of sports stadiums and arenas?

Did the Founding Fathers envision Congress, through the use of the interstate commerce laws, deciding to pass laws mandating minimum wages, or dictating work rules from the Potomac?

Did the Founding Fathers envision a Department of Education attaching strings to federal funds earmarked for education, a function that should be local in nature?

Did the Founding Fathers envision the federal erosion of the Second Amendment, a provision providing a right to keep and bear arms?

Did the Founding Fathers envision a federal government that hires teachers and police officers, a function the Founding Fathers expected local authorities to handle?

Did the Founding Fathers envision the federal government to answer questions such as abortion or school prayer, given Thomas Jefferson's declaration of a wall separating church and state?

Richard Nixon said that, to capture the presidency, a Republican candidate runs to the right in the primaries, and then to the center in a general election. But "the center," misled by a "distribute-the-wealth" media, misunderstands Economics 101 and the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

I intend to vote for Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne. Many say I waste my vote. You've heard the argument -- vote the lesser of two evils. But at his brother Robert's funeral, Ted Kennedy quoted his late brother: "Some men see things as they are and say 'why.' I dream things that never were, and say 'why not.'"

I say "why not."

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate