President George W. Bush just approved funding for limited embryonic stem-cell research. And he recently praised the 11-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act. Bad calls.
Bush banned federal funds for cloning or for embryonic stem cells created solely for the purposes of research. Bush intends to allow federal funding on research for 60 stem-cell lines already in existence, but "created from embryos already destroyed." In his address to the nation, Bush said, "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem-cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos."
What about crossing a "fundamental Constitutional line"?
Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution reads: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States ... " Does this "general welfare clause" allow federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research, or, for that matter, for virtually any non-defense purpose?
The principal author of the Constitution, James Madison, certainly thought that this "general welfare clause" allowed the expenditure of federal funds only for purposes specifically described and outlined. This includes the power to coin money, establish rules for naturalization, regulate interstate commerce, conduct a census, establish post offices, support the military, establish copyright laws, and a few other purposes.
Economist and columnist Walter Williams points out that other presidents vetoed "humanitarian" bills, finding no allowance for them in the Constitution. In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill to provide monies for the mentally ill, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity ... (It) would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded." In 1887, President Grover Cleveland vetoed an appropriation to help drought-stricken Texas counties, saying "I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan to indulge in benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds ... I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution."
But what about something like federal monies for roads connecting the states? Surely, the Constitution allows this.
In 1822, Congress drafted a bill to use federal funds for roads inter-linking several states, including President James Monroe's home state of Virginia. But, according to Monroe's biography on www.americanpresident.org, "Although Monroe personally supported the idea of internal improvements, he balked at the federal government's role in the American System being proposed by Congressmen Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. They wanted a series of federally financed projects designed to improve and update the nation's roads, bridges, and canals. Monroe worried, however, that federal payments for such internal improvements would expand even further the power of the federal government at the sake of state power. Where would the limits be drawn?" Monroe cast the only veto of his presidency against the bill.
Bush's willingness to spend $250 million of taxpayers' money for embryonic stem-cell research reflects a statist, collectivist view of government. Recently, this "limited government" president praised the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 11-year-old monstrosity that allows the government to intrude even deeper into the private sector. Never mind research showing that under the ADA, unemployment for the disabled increased 12 percent.
According to the Los Angeles Times, "During the Clinton administration, unemployment of working-age people with disabilities has soared from a horrendous 66 percent to a disastrous 75 percent. For those with severe disabilities, for example, those who cannot walk, the unemployment rate, once 87 percent, is rising." Ignoring this data, President Bush said, "As people with disabilities find more opportunities to use their gifts and talents, we also become a stronger, more productive nation."
As we evolve into Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," we quite properly debate the moral, philosophical and scientific bases for in vitro fertilization, cloning, fetal tissue research, embryonic stem-cell research and other medical breakthroughs. But of the federal government's role in all of this, the Founding Fathers say, "What role?" Whether it be affirmative action, the Americans with Disabilities Act or embryonic stem-cell research, Founding Father James Madison explained, "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 ... 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."
Embryonic stem-cell research? ADA? Hey, we don't need no stinkin' Constitution.