Subsidies, Welfare and Charity

Before we discuss the pros and cons of reducing the funding of the National Foundation for the Arts, or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, perhaps we should discuss if there should be any federal funding at all.
Just this last week we celebrated the birthday of James Madison, whose pen scratched the US Constitution. I can’t imagine that anyone knew the Constitution better, and he remarked on Congress giving $16,000 to an otherwise group of displaced people: 

“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.”

If Madison could not find the article, I suggest that neither can you.

That is not to say that individuals and deserving groups should not get assistance or subsidies, only that the proper venue for giving aid is the state, and the 10th Amendment passes that responsibly to them:

“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.”

We have spent the 240 years since the signing of the Constitution, finding ways to disobey the law. We have tortured the words to mean what the words do not mean, and the concepts to do what they would not do given the plain English meaning of the words.

Can the Republic be recovered? It is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean it should not be tried. The best hope is that Trump can avoid being institutionalize (no sure bet, there) sufficiently long for him, or his current VP to appoint three or four Supreme Court Justices. A strong Constitutionally based SCOTUS, seated for decades could reestablish a Constitutionally based nation.

I am not sanguine that it could happen. Federalizing an issue is the first answer proposed to every problem, and the Feds have only been too quick to accept the problem, because it gives them the opportunity to employ more people and expand power. That process has continued almost without slowing.

Everyone knows of Dave Crockett, almost for his heroic death at the Alamo as anything, but few recall that after his famous frontier days and before his martyrdom at the Alamo, he was a three-term Congressman from Tennessee. Read this speech he gave on the HouseFloor, (edited for space):

“Mr. Speaker — I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the suffering of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House…

“I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to so appropriate a dollar of the public money….

“Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”

Crockett was a man of principle. No Congressman took him up on his challenge, and none has since while wildly voting money from the Treasury.

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