The FedGov, under the Constitution of 1787, established enumerated (specific) and limited powers, with the 10th Amendment explicitly stating that everything else – EVERYTHING ELSE – was reserved to the States or to the people themselves.
How well is DC – the FedGov – doing here in 2021?
Those powers are these:
- power to lay and collect taxes,
- pay debts,
- borrow money,
- regulate commerce with foreign nations,
- establish uniform rules of naturalization,
- establish uniform laws on bankruptcies,
- coin money and regulate its value,
- fix the standard of weights and measures,
- provide for punishment of counterfeiting,
- establish post roads and offices,
- promote progress of science and useful arts by establishing copyright laws,
- constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court,
- define and punish piracies and felonies on the high seas,
- declare war, raise armies, provide and maintain a navy
- make rules for government and regulation of the land and naval forces,
- provide for calling forth the militia and for arming, organizing and disciplining it, and
- to make laws necessary to execute those powers.
Some people add “and provide for common defense and general welfare” which is taken from the Preamble. Many of us believe that the Preamble does NOT give ANY authority for the huge number of actions which the FedGov has taken over the years using this phrase as justification. Especially since the specific powers regarding a common defense are written out in the main body of the document.
Of course, Congress and the Courts have used the “general welfare clause” as an excuse to let the FedGov do almost anything. Including very specific acts of “welfare” for individuals and special groups, as defined in modern 21st century political language. A meaning foreign to the 18th Century. (If the same method of interpretation was used in the “common defense” realm, the FedGov would supposedly have total “police powers” and ANY CRIME would be a federal one.)
But for now, let us look at just the 17 specified powers given to Congress, which are to be executed by the Executive Branch (funny how those words work together!), and judged/regulated by the Judicial Branch.
How well is the FedGov doing these things today, in 2022, here in the Fifty States? The FedGov was created to be an AGENT of the States, to provide the ability to do these things to the benefit of all the States and all of the people – at least the honest and peaceful people. States and people who would otherwise govern themselves.
Let us establish a grading scheme:
A. Excellent: carrying out the tasks necessary to exercise this power with great wisdom, efficiently, economically, and accomplishing common objectives.
B. Good: exercising this power wisely, relatively efficiently and economically, and usually accomplishing common objectives.
C. Fair: carrying out MANY (but not all) of the tasks needed to exercise this power, but with significant shortcomings in efficiency, economy, and sometimes failing to accomplish the objectives.
D. Poor: carrying out MOST of the tasks, and with lots of shortcomings: inefficiently, at excessive cost, and often failing to accomplish the common objectives.
F. Failed: failing to carry out ALL BUT A FEW of the tasks, with constant severe shortcomings (constant inefficiency, at massively excessive cost, and usually failing to accomplish the common objectives of the States).
Now, remember that “cost” is MORE than just money (wealth, treasure); it includes costs in liberty and opportunity, and frankly, blood.
And remember that the common objectives ARE those things stated both in the Declaration of Independence and in the Preamble (and other places): “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common [NOT individual or corporate/business or any other group] defense, promote the general [NOT specific or individual or group] welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” ESPECIALLY that last one.
(We can talk about what the difference between liberty and “the blessings of liberty” might be in the future.)
Think about these, and we’ll proceed to the grading in future commentaries!