A measure of freedom 2

As everyone knows or ought to know, socialism and freedom are opposites.

The more socialist a state becomes, the less freedom remains to the people.

Under President Obama the US has become an ever more socialist state; and as  it has become more socialist it has become, of course, less free – though it’s still a long way from the totalitarianism which the Maoists and Alinskyites who officially advise the President would like him to aim for.

To bolster our argument we quote the libertarian free-marketeer John Stossel, who writes:

Last year, I reported that the United States fell from sixth to eighth place … in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. Now, we’ve fallen further. In the just released 2011 Index, the United States is in ninth place. That’s behind Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland [?] and Denmark [?].

The biggest reason for the continued slide? Spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. (State and local spending is not counted.)

The debt picture is dismal, too. We are heading into Greece’s territory. …

New Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republicans who now control the House, says he wants to cut spending. When he was sworn in last week, he declared: “Our spending has caught up with us. … No longer can we kick the can down the road.”

But when NBC anchorman Brian Williams asked him to name a program “we could do without,” he said, “I don’t think I have one off the top of my head.”

Give me a break! You mean to tell me the Republican leader in the House doesn’t already know what he wants to cut? I don’t know which is worse — that he doesn’t have a list or that he won’t talk about it in public.

The Republicans say they’ll start by cutting $100 billion, but let’s put that in perspective. The budget is close to $4 trillion. So $100 billion is just 2.5 percent. That’s shooting too low. Firms in the private sector make cuts like that all the time. It’s considered good business — pruning away deadwood.

GOP leaders say the source of their short-run cuts will be discretionary non-security spending. They foolishly exclude entitlement spending, which Congress puts on autopilot, and all spending for national and homeland security (whether it’s necessary or not). That leaves only $520 billion.

So even if the Republicans managed to cut all discretionary non-security spending (which is not what they plan), the deficit would still be $747 billion. (The deficit is now projected to be $1.267 trillion.)

This is a revolution? Republicans will have to learn that there is no budget line labeled “waste, fraud, abuse.” If they are serious about cutting government, they will ax entire programs, departments and missions.

I’m not confident they have it in them. …

And we are also supported in our opinion by the economist Walter Williams, who writes:

Here’s the House of Representatives new rule: “A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the Congressional Record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.” Unless a congressional bill or resolution meets this requirement, it cannot be introduced.

If the House of Representatives had the courage to follow through on this rule, their ability to spend and confer legislative favors would be virtually eliminated. Also, if the rule were to be applied to existing law, they’d wind up repealing at least two-thirds to three-quarters of congressional spending.

You might think, for example, that there’s constitutional authority for Congress to spend for highway construction and bridges. …

But there isn’t. Williams goes on to point out that President James Madison was not persuaded that there should be, though a law establishing such an authority might “facilitate commerce”, and even strengthen “the common defense“. So in 1817, Madison “vetoed a public works bill, saying: “Having considered the bill this day presented to me … which sets apart and pledges funds ‘for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,’ I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States and to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.”

Defense of the nation and the individual citizen is the first duty of government. It is the essential thing that government is for. Yet here was Madison, “the father of the Constitution”, refusing to sign into law a bill that was being promoted as an aid to defense, because he could not reconcile the nature of the expenditure with the Constitution.

“What about handouts to poor people, businesses, senior citizens and foreigners?” Williams asks. And to that too Madison gave an answer:

Madison said, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

Some of his successors took the same view as Madison: if the Constitution does not authorize a dip into the public purse for this or that purpose, then neither should Congress:

In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill to help the mentally ill, saying, “I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. (To approve the measure) would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded.”

President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill for charity relief, saying, “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.” …

But, someone may ask, doesn’t the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution allow tax-payers money to be spent on “compassionate” projects?

To this President Thomas Jefferson had an answer, Williams tells us:

Suppose [Williams writes] a congressman attempts to comply with the new rule by asserting that his measure is authorized by the Constitution’s general welfare clause. Here’s what Thomas Jefferson said: “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

And he adds these words of Madison:

“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.”

The Constitution was designed to preserve liberty under the rule of law. It was not a set of rules for a Benevolent Association.

If  the government turns itself into an agency for succoring the poor and handicapped, it can only do so by robbing the people of liberty.

Williams quotes a warning given by President John Adams:

“A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

Which means that any governmental program of wealth-redistribution, all socialist legislation  – social security, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, sub-prime housing loans, state-provided education and health-care, government compensation for loss caused by natural disasters, government grants to sport and the arts (to take only the most obvious examples of benevolent spending)  – is unconstitutional and should be repealed and never introduced again.

Then there would be small government, low taxes, and true liberty – and money enough in every earner’s pocket to donate to charity if he chooses to.