Walter E. Williams

If you asked President Obama or a congressman to cite the specific constitutional authority for the bailouts, handouts and corporate takeover, I'd bet the rent money that they would say that their authority lies in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution that reads: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Impost, Excises to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States." They'd tell you that their authority comes from the Constitution's "general welfare" clause. James Madison, the father of our constitution, explained, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions." He later added, "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 said, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." That means only those powers listed.

The Constitution provides, through Article V, a means by which the Constitution can be altered. My question to my fellow Americans whether they are liberal or conservative: Has the Constitution been amended to permit Congress to manage the economy? I'd also ask that question to members of the U.S. Supreme Court. I personally know of no such amendment. What we're witnessing today is nothing less than a massive escalation in White House and congressional thuggery. Secure in the knowledge that the American people are compliant and willing to cast off the limitations imposed on Washington by the nation's founders, future administrations are probably going to be even more emboldened than Obama and the current Congress.


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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