Amen, Grover

Filed under:Right On — posted by Anwyn on September 6, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

And amen.


  1. One side of me says when the only person in history to serve as two separate Presidents (he was our 22nd and our 24th) speaks, I should listen. The other says that bellyaching over the constitutionality of any expenditure that doesn’t violate a specific prohibition of the Constitution is a classic case of conflating “I don’t like X” with “X is unconstitutional.” The constitutional provision in question, Article I, Section 8, gives Congress a plenary power “[t]o lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to … provide for the … general Welfare of the United States.” Contrary to popular opinion, the power to tax and spend is not tied to the commerce power, the power to raise armies, the power to declare war, or any other enumerated power of Congress; it’s a separate enumerated power in its own right. Short of getting courts into the business of deciding which expenditures do or do not promote the general welfare of the country, how could any federal expenditure violate a provision as broad as this one? [Of course Cleveland was right to veto the expenditure if he didn’t think it actually promoted the general welfare, but that’s more of a policy preference than a constitutional directive; Presidents can and should veto any legislation they think is a bad idea.]

    I see a similar debate on socialized medicine, with many of my ideological brethren asking what part of the Constitution allows Congress to tax us all to death to pay for that. My answer is the same. If enacted, the chances of any of these bills being struck down by a court (or even of the conservative justices voting in dissent to strike it down) are as good as nil. So rather than lecturing people on why Obama’s bad policies violate the Constitution, I think we should focus on the fact that they are bad policies.

    Comment by Xrlq — September 7, 2009 @ 6:07 am

  2. I’m actually not a huge fan of hanging the argument on the Constitution either–but that’s not what Cleveland does in that paragraph. Out of two sentences, four clauses, only one clause mentions the Big C, and the next clause begins “and I do not believe” … somebody once told me that’s called “arguing in the alternative.” :) Three out of the four clauses are what he believes about policy and why. The Big C is just thrown in there as insurance.

    Comment by Anwyn — September 7, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  3. In other words I’m a fan of his rhetoric in that paragraph, not of a constitutional argument per se.

    Comment by Anwyn — September 7, 2009 @ 8:11 am

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