Walter E. Williams

James Madison is the Constitution's acknowledged "father," and here's what he had to say: "With respect to the two words ‘general welfare', I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers 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."

Thomas Jefferson echoed similar sentiments, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."

Mandated housing expense payroll deductions and exercise were simply hypothetical examples. A congressman, who took his oath of office seriously, would argue a congressional mandate for exercise and payroll deductions for housing expenses are not among those powers "specifically enumerated."

What about mandated payroll deductions for retirement expenses? What about mandated gallons per flush for our toilets? What about prescription drugs for seniors? In short, what about the thousands of congressional mandates and the three-quarters of the federal budget for which there's no constitutional authority?

You might say, "If our Constitution provides no authority for programs near and dear to the hearts of so many Americans, the heck with the Constitution."

If that's your perspective, you're in good company. The Courts, Congress and the White House beat you to it. Long ago they said, "The heck with the Constitution."

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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