What does the General Welfare Clause really mean?

Posted on May 9, 2011

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The Myth

The Constitution grants the Federal Government the power to forcibly confiscate wealth from one group of individuals and transfer the wealth to another group. The method authorized for this confiscation of wealth is taxation and the method for its distribution is welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare. This transfer of wealth is authorized by the General Welfare clause of the Constitution. 

The Truth

The general welfare clause has absolutely nothing to do with the confiscation of wealth from one group of individuals and the transferring of it to another. Progressives have completely distorted the meaning of that clause.

 This clause only grants congress the power to collect taxes for the promotion of a general state of well-being for the country as a whole provided the money collected will only be spent by congress according to the powers granted to congress.

The Facts

 This clause authorizes congress to collect taxes from  various sources to pay off national debts, provide for common defense, and the general welfare.

This clause is the first in Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution. The section is titled the powers of congress. Nothing in this clause authorizes congress to spend any money. The rest of the section spells out the areas where congress has the power to spend the taxes whose collection is authorized in clause 1. These items spelled out in the remaining clauses of the section all pertain to paying off debts, providing common defense and general welfare of the nation.

Progressives have completely ignored the definition of the phrase “general welfare” that was universally accepted by the framers of the constitution. They have substituted the 18th century definition of  general welfare with a modern definition that is the polar opposite of the original.

From the period well before the writing of the constitution up until the 1930s general welfare as used in the constitution was defined as the overall state of wellbeing of the nation as a whole.

Handing out money to individuals the government has labeled as in need is the modern definition of the word welfare. It wasn’t until the new deal under FDR that the US government began using the justification that the general welfare clause authorizes the US Government to spend money this way.

 In 1937 FDR threatened to expand the Supreme Court and stack it with progressive judges. After this the Supreme Court became more compliant regarding the constitutionality of progressive ideas. At this point the Supreme Court abandoned all notions of being tied to the original intent of the framers of the constitution.

After 1937 the Supreme Court began ruling redistributive progressive policies are constitutional violating the original intent of the founding fathers, the true meaning of the constitution, and their oath to uphold the constitution.

Any study of the writings of the framers of the Constitution along with the vast majority of the founding fathers will show the redistributive programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Welfare, and Obamacare are clearly unconstitutional.

Any study of free-market economics will show that these programs do real harm to economic wellbeing of the nation as a whole, those individuals who have their wealth confiscated, and those who receive handouts and other forms of welfare.

The Proof

The definition of General Welfare from just 40 years after the ratification of the Constitution:

Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government (Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828).

Article 1 Section 8 Clause 1 of the Constitution

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; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States:

Article 1 Section 8 which lists the powers of congress

The 10th Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Transcripts of the Convention debates

Federalist Paper 41 written by James Madison

Ratification debates of the Constitution.

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