There has been much controversy over President Trump’s proposed budget and the revision of health care. Much of the proposed spending in Trump’s budget and previous budgets is not supported by the Constitution.
The 2016 federal budget, submitted by Barack Obama, was $4.147 trillion which was 21.5% of GDP and resulted in a deficit for the year of $503 billion. The total federal deficit is almost $20 trillion. Although the President submits or suggests budgets, it is the duty of Congress to appropriate the money. In my opinion, a large part of federal spending is unconstitutional.
The Constitution of the United States grants certain powers to Congress and Executive Branch. Over the years, Congress has greatly exceeded its Constitutional authority. Federal agencies have created thousands of regulations and spent trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on things for which they had no authority to do so. These regulations have the force of law, but only Congress can make law. There is a movement to change the constitution with a balanced budget amendment. Such an amendment would be unnecessary if only Congress and the President would enforce the Constitution.
Below are the Constitutionally enumerated powers of Congress. Nowhere in this enumeration can I find the authority for the federal government to have Departments of Education, Labor, or Energy. I see no authority for the Environmental Protection Agency, nor the requirement that citizens buy health insurance. Some may also argue that our whole welfare and medical care systems are unconstitutional. And, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”
The principal authority of Congress is specified in Article I of the Constitution.
Article I, Section 8 : The powers of Congress:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; — And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Other Authority granted to Congress by the Constitution:
Article IV, Section 3, clause 2: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.”
The 16th Amendment: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
See any justification for Departments of Education, Labor, Energy, or Environmental Protection Agency etc. there? Of course, strictly speaking, there is no justification for Social Security or Medicare either. “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.” —James Madison (1792)
The 10th Amendment also limits the powers of Congress: “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.”
The Heritage Foundation opines: Those who claim the Department of Education is Constitutional say that it promotes the general welfare of the United States, however, this phrase in the preamble of the Constitution does not grant or prohibit power to Congress, that is not its purpose. The preamble simply describes the Constitution and what the document itself was designed to do, and is not actually a binding decree of the Constitution.
The Department of Education was founded using the preamble as the basis for its Constitutionality, but due to what’s stated above, it is clear that it is not. Thomas Jefferson considered the federal government’s involvement in education to be unconstitutional. In 1862, James Buchanan warned that giving education to Congress would create a vast and irresponsible authority. Both he and Jefferson were right. (Source)
Another type of unconstitutional spending occurs when agencies make unauthorized payments. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says in part: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” That provision was invoked in a lawsuit House of Representatives v. Burwell, which involved reimbursements the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had been paying to insurers to keep out-of-pocket costs artificially low for patients with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty line. Congress refused to appropriate the funds for this scheme, but HHS reimbursed the insurers anyway, whereupon the House sued the Obama administration. The judge ruled that the payment of such reimbursements without congressional authorization “violates the Constitution.” (Source)
The essential idea of the Constitution is that the federal government has limited powers, as stated in the 10th Amendment. It’s time to return to the original meaning of the Constitution and downsize the federal government where it is politically possible to do so. Let each State decide how to handle its own business. States might be more circumspect and accountable to their citizens than is a far-off federal government. (Or, they might become California.)
I’m sure you can think of other instances where the federal government is spending taxpayer money on things not authorized by the Constitution.