Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iraq war funding bill fiasco masks collusion between Bush and Democrats

by Jeffrey Robbins

If you know any Democrats under the delusion that if they add control of Executive Branch in 2008 to their control of Congress that it will mean the exit of the US from Iraq, shake them down with the fact that BOTH sides of the aisle are voting FOR items that indicate the "powers that be" on both sides plan a much longer stay.

Did you know we are building an Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq? The massive new embassy, being built on the banks of the Tigris River, is designed to be entirely self-sufficient and won't be dependent on Iraq's unreliable public utilities. The 104-acre complex — the size of about 80 football fields and ten times larger than the average size of a US Embassy — will include two office buildings, one of them designed for future use as a school, six apartment buildings, a gym, a pool, a food court and its own power generation and water-treatment plants. The current U.S. Embassy in Iraq has nearly 1,000 Americans working there, more than at any other U.S. embassy.

Original appropriations for the Iraq Embassy complex were nearly $600 million, but some sources project overruns will bring it to $1 Billion before it even opens. Maitenance and operation costs are unknown and will be an ongoing expense. If we weren't planning on staying very long term, why vote for this? Why not amend to ex out this cost from a bill? After all, we do have a temporary Embassy established in Baghdad, ironically in some of Saddam's former Republican Guard complexes. Why not simply continue using that space? Surely an attempt would have been made to shoot this plan down. Or, "it must have been a close vote, I am sure the Dems tried." Um, no. On May 5, 2005 the bill funding this project passed 368-58. A nail biter. The Senate on May 11, 2005 got the same bill for signing and after what I assume was much labored debate, passed it 100-0. Hmmm.

How about a vote pushed by, among others, Ron Paul (R-TX) on May 17, 2007 in the House. This vote, using language taken directly from the War Powers Act, would have prohibited an attack on Iran without specific authorization from Congress. Surely, the interested anti-war Democrats and consistently Constitutional Republicans would have resoundingly voted to stop the unconstitutional usurpation of power which they allowed in the first place with Iraq, stopping the chain of error. The vote didn't make it out of the House, losing 136-288. Not even close. No lesson learned here. Damned be the Constitution.

The May 22, 2007 votes mentioned by the blogger below in "Expansion of the Middle East oil war is a bipartisan imperative" were also not close. 80-14 in the Senate (note that 6 didn't even bother voting) and 280-142 in the House. Again, with astounding consistency, Congress continues its ill advised ways from BOTH sides of the aisle.

In fact, in an August 21, 2007 article on the World Socialist Web Site by Patrick Martin, he summarizes positions and notes the slow rhetorical backtracking the primary candidates are engaging in over the Summer of 2007. Of all places, the NY Times even correctly points out the movement, "As the New York Times noted last week, in a front-page analysis August 12, “Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.... The candidates are not only trying to retain flexibility for themselves in the event they become president, aides said, but are also hoping to tamp down any expectation that the war would abruptly end if they were elected.”" If their aides are admitting this much in public already, what do you think the real intent is long term?

If you are a gambling person and don't mind taking money from people being duped, I say collect the most liberal people you know and place bets with them all on troop withdrawal from Iraq assuming a Democratic Presidential win. Use carefully thought out parameters (i.e. number of troops below X by this exact date) for the bet so you will win and they can't weasel out. Then, enforce the bets. Oh, and I didn't even mention the permanent bases in Iraq potentially being built. I say temporary because the House recently did get through language on ceasing funding (previously voted FOR) on building these permanent bases in Iraq. But I have my doubts on the veracity of that recent vote. Check out details with a net search "permanent bases in Iraq."

Expansion of Middle East oil war is a bipartisan imperative

On May 22, 2007, Washington’s Democrats obediently capitulated to the Bush administration, handing Bush a war spending bill completely stripped of conditions that would, in any way, slow the administration’s relentless Middle East conflagration. In fact, the new bill is an even more egregious blank check for a massive “surge” of Bush administration violence throughout the region, opening the door for a war with Iran. New Iraq “benchmarks” pushed by the Democrats themselves will result in new atrocities and more bloodshed, funded by the Democrats themselves.

In refusing to definitively corner a scandalized Bush administration, the Democratic Party leadership has earned itself a tidal wave of rage, vitriol and disgust from Americans who harbor any illusions that the Democrats have any intention of ending the war, or “bringing the troops home”.(see Entire US government failed us on Iraq by Keith Olbermann, and Funding Iraq occupation without deadlines or time lines is a travesty)

The Democrats’ open betrayal of their own constituents, their resounding slap in the face to the vast majority of the American people (70% of whom oppose the war) lays bare the true nature of the Democratic Party, and the US government itself. Dick Cheney stated with smug confidence weeks ago that the Democrats would surrender. Now, the Democrats have not only tossed away their own credibility, and their dreams of future political gain. They have fully revitalized Bush-Cheney and the Republicans.

Bipartisan criminal consensus confirmed

The US political and economic system, ruled by consensus, is deeply criminalized. It thrives on war and oppression. It is an elite racket, sustained by resource conquest, collusion, fraud, lies, cover-up, and the indoctrination and manipulation of minds. “The people”, whose votes never count, are viewed with contempt.

The Republicans and Democrats are factions of the same criminal New World Order, funded by the same criminal interests, beholden to the same think tanks, foundations, corporations and military-intelligence-industrial interests, following the same geopolitical script, written by bipartisan consensus.

Given this reality, it is no surprise that the Democratic leadership has kept its promise to keep the impeachment of Bush and Cheney “off the table” and reach “across the aisle”. Consensus interests are at stake.

The vast majority of the Democrats, particularly the corrupt Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), want the war and bloodshed to continue.

The vast majority of Democrats are, and have always been, enthusiastic and willing partners in the “war on terrorism” and are co-architects of an ever-expanding "homeland security" apparatus.

The vast majority of Democrats do not oppose the war in the Middle East. They support its expansion and the deepening of the occupation, as long as it is “managed” properly, and under the control of a US-led international consensus.

As Michel Chossudovsky wrote in America's "War on Terrorism":

“The Democrats are not opposed to the illegal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor are they opposed to the militarization of civilian institutions, as evidenced by their 1996 initiative to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act [which has now been completely obliterated by the Bush administration, the Patriot Act, and other post-9/11 acts]. Moreover, their perspective and understanding of 9/11 and the “war on terrorism” is broadly similar to that of the Republicans.

“This ongoing militarization of America is not a Republican project. The ‘war on terrorism’ is part of a bipartisan agenda. Furthermore, successive US administrations since Jimmy Carter have supported the Islamic brigades and have used them in covert intelligence operations.”

The vast majority of Democrats do not want the troops to come home. They support the permanent presence of the US in the Middle East, as much as the Bush administration does. The largest embassy/military base in the world is being built in Iraq as you read this.

The Democrats want Iraq’s oil, as much as their neocon partners do.

China arms both sides in Iraq

Bill Gertz
July 27, 2007

Iraq's new government recently concluded a deal with China worth almost $100 million to outfit Iraqi police with Kalashnikov-design assault rifles and other small arms in a move that has U.S. defense and national security officials fuming.

The arms deal shows that Beijing is arming both sides of the Iraq conflict, as recent intelligence reports show that Chinese weaponry is being shipped to Iraqi and Afghan insurgents through Iran. Defense officials said the arms deal with Baghdad was concluded during the visit to Beijing by Iraqi President Jalal Talbani last month.

Brig. General Qasim Ata, an Iraq police spokesman, was quoted recently as saying the contracts with China were for imports of "advanced" Chinese weapons for the Iraqi armed forces.

One Bush administration official called the deal "extremely foolish."

"Buying weapons from China will accelerate the alienation of America," the official said. "Iraq purchasing PLA weapons along with the emerging PRC oil deal will contribute mightily to end game Iraq for the United States." The PLA is the acronym for China's military.

The official said the Iraqi government needs to better understand that the U.S. military is fighting and dying to give their nation the opportunity for a free and open society and government. "It is not the PLA, in fact the PLA is arming Iranians to kill Iraqis and Americans," the official said.

Disclosure of the Iraqi government arms deal with China comes as a U.S. military spokesman this week confirmed the flow of Chinese shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to insurgents, first reported in this paper June 5.

Rear Adm. Mark Fox told reporters Sunday Chinese missiles found in Iraq likely were smuggled into the country from Iran. "We have seen ordnance and weapons that come from other places, but we assess that they have come through Iran," Adm. Fox said. "There are missiles that are actually manufactured in China that we assess come through Iran as well."

China's Foreign Ministry accused the United States yesterday of misleading the public over the Chinese weapons smuggling.

Richard Fisher, a China specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the Iraqi government deal heightens the danger from insurgents.

"Soon we will face two Chinese threats in Iraq, the first from Chinese arms arriving via their Iranian allies, and second from Chinese arms captured from the Iraqi government," he said.

"From oil deals now to arms deals, we are allowing China to benefit from the stability earned with American blood," Mr. Fisher said. "China, let's recall, was helping Saddam to shoot down U.S. aircraft" — a reference to China's supplying fiber-optic communications to Saddam's military.

New nuke strategy

The Bush administration told Congress this week that U.S. nuclear weapons and the infrastructure to support them will be needed for the foreseeable future, as Russia and China continue to build up their nuclear arsenals and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea continue work on nuclear arms.

"We're going to need nuclear weapons for a while and we're going to need to make them safer and more secure," said Steve Henry, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters, in summing up the report to Congress on U.S. nuclear strategy.

The report, "National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence for the 21st Century," is a statement by the secretaries of energy, defense and state.

It stated that "the future security environment is very uncertain, and some trends are not favorable."

"Rogue states either have or seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and the risk of future proliferation cannot be ignored," the report said. "The future direction that any number of states may take, including some established nuclear powers with aggressive nuclear force modernization programs, could have a dramatic effect on U.S. security and the security of our allies."

Mr. Henry said Russia and China both are established powers with nuclear buildups under way that need watching and require the United States to keep nuclear weapons ready and to have a system in place, with both people and facilities, that could respond to any potential unsettling strategic imbalances.

On Russia, Mr. Henry said, "You can't ignore what countries say and their rhetoric, and you can't ignore what they are doing in practice."

The Russians are "aggressively modernizing their nuclear forces," he said, and China is building new strategic nuclear forces and the buildup cannot be ignored.

The United States is "a little bit unsure as to the future of their program," Mr. Henry said. "Today [China's program] is much smaller than the U.S. or that of the Russians, but how do you judge what the future may be?"

Mr. Henry also said the United States is worried that al Qaeda and other terrorists will obtain nuclear weapons, specifically getting nuclear material from rogue states, and that U.S. nuclear weapons can be used to deter those states from supplying terrorists with that material. Such states would be "held accountable" if their nuclear material is used in attacks on the United States, he said.

The report said the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea show the need for the United States to provide nuclear guarantees to key allies.

Mr. Henry said the United States is committed to reducing nuclear stockpiles but must maintain capabilities for security.

One of the most important elements of current nuclear arms strategy is developing the Reliable Replacement Warhead, a newer, safer and more reliable warhead that will be fashioned from existing warheads but will be less expensive to maintain, Mr. Henry said.

The report said without the replacement warhead, the ability of the United States to maintain its nuclear deterrent over the long term will be in question.

The United States plans to have a strategic nuclear warhead arsenal of between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012, the report said.

Tribal area terror

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, provided new details of the battle against terrorists in Pakistan's remote Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan.

In prepared testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Gen. Clapper said the terrorists are using the area to regroup.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has lost some 500 troops fighting terrorists in the region and also tried to use a political agreement with tribal leaders in the region but it "has not been successful," Gen. Clapper said.

Recent events in Pakistan are likely to spur Gen. Musharraf to take much more aggressive action in addressing the problem, he said.

The new steps include increasing funding of counterterrorist operations in the region, providing 25 U.S. helicopters and air-assault training to Pakistani troops, supplying night-vision equipment and giving $110 million in economic aid to the tribal region.

On the recent confrontation at Pakistan's Red Mosque, Gen. Clapper said, "The behavior of the extremists who had been holed up in the mosque highlighted the threat, and extremists based in the border areas have taken both the stepped up Pakistani army presence in the FATA and along the border as well as the storming of the mosque as a pretext for resuming terrorist attacks on the Pakistani security forces."

Also, Pakistani religious leaders are stepping up opposition to extremists, and in one recent meeting declared that suicide bombing violated Islamic law, he said.

Recent internal disputes among tribal leaders recently erupted into conflict between pro-Taliban tribesmen and pro-al Qaeda fighters, he said.

Americans 'lied to' about '47 million uninsured'

Bush, Hillary, Michael Moore said to greatly exaggerate stats on health care

Posted: July 19, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2007

President Bush, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore and much of the mainstream media are incorrect when they claim the number of Americans without health insurance to be 40 to 50 million, with the actual number possibly under 10 million.

So says the Business and Media Institute, a Virginia-based division of the Media Research Center, a nonprofit watchdog organization designed to bring balance and responsibility to the media.

"The actual total is open to debate," says BMI analyst Julia Seymour. "But there are millions of people who should be excluded from that [high] tally, including: those who aren't American citizens, people who can afford their own insurance, and people who already qualify for government coverage but haven't signed up."

She notes government statistics also show 45 percent of people without insurance are not completely in dire straits, as they'll have coverage again within four months after switching jobs.

"Accounting for all those factors, one prominent study places the total for the long-term uninsured as low as 8.2 million – a very different reality than the media and national health care advocates claim," said Seymour.

The BMI report notes the number of the uninsured who are not U.S. citizens is nearly 10 million on its own, invalidating all the claims of 40-plus million "Americans" without health insurance.

In a May 31 speech, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said: "It's really indefensible that we now have more than 45 million uninsured Americans, 9 million of whom are children, and the vast majority of whom are from working families."

ABC News medical expert Dr. Tim Johnson cited the incorrect data as he praised a "bold" and "politically brilliant" universal health-coverage plan on the April 26 edition of "Good Morning America."

"It's bold because it does propose to cover all Americans, including the 47 million now who are uninsured, within five years," said Johnson.

Seymour also labeled Michael Moore's new film "SiCKO" as a "propagandumentary" and pointed out the director's website claims a very high number of uninsured: "There are nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance."

She says subtracting non-citizens and those who can afford their own insurance but choose not to purchase it, about 20 million people are left – less than 7 percent of the population.

"Many Americans are uninsured by choice," wrote Dr. David Gratzer in his book, "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care." Gratzer cited a study of the "nonpoor uninsured" from the California Healthcare Foundation.

"Why the lack of insurance [among people who own homes and computers]? One clue is that 60 percent reported being in excellent health or very good health," explained Gratzer.

"Proponents of universal health care often use the 46-million figure – without context or qualification. It creates the false impression that a huge percentage of the population has fallen through the cracks," Gratzer told BMI. "Again, that's not to suggest that there is no problem, but it's very different than the universal-care crowd describes."

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group often quoted in news reports, puts the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for current government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 8.2 million and 13.9 million, far less than the mantra of 40 to 50 million.

Congress and the Constitution: The General Welfare Clause

by Gary Benoit


Each report of a committee on a bill or joint resolution of a public character shall include a statement citing the specific powers granted to the Congress in the Constitution to enact the law proposed by the bill or joint resolution.
— From the Rules of the House of Representatives

If most members of Congress were to stand by their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic" and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same," big government would disappear. It could not be otherwise, since all of the powers granted to the federal government by the Constitution are enumerated, and those enumerated powers do not allow for either the Welfare State or the Warfare State. Yet most congressmen do not grasp this fundamental principle, imagining instead an ambiguous and expansive grant of power never intended by the Founding Fathers. Apparently, most don’t even use the Constitution as a guide for the performance of their congressional duties, for if they did they would surely know the true scope of their powers — as well as those of the other branches of government.

This lack of interest in the Constitution was vividly displayed early last year when a group of "experts" appealed to the House International Relations Committee to support the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Population Assistance Program. As recounted by a congressional aide who was present, Congressman Ron Paul’s (R-TX) press secretary asked for the section of the Constitution that authorized this foreign assistance program, at which point "the room went dead — one, two, three, four, five seconds. Then one of the ‘experts,’ dazed and confused, asked, ‘The … Con…sti…tu…tion?’ More silence. Another ‘expert’ cautiously came to her rescue. ‘Just to make a stab at this, the Constitution authorizes the federal government to raise money to deal with foreign affairs.’ Another ‘expert’ quoted some U.S. Code that ‘authorized’ their legal plunder. Then, they pounced, ‘What office are you from?’ The man replied, ‘Congressman Ron Paul from the 14th District of Texas.’ Then he thanked them and sat down. His question had been answered by their initial silence."

Most congressmen on the House International Relations Committee are no better informed on constitutional matters than the "experts" — or they would presumably not support international welfare without the proper constitutional authorization — an authorization which, of course, does not exist.

The House rule cited at the beginning of this article (Rule XI, Clause 2[l], Subparagraph [4]) was adopted at the start of the current 105th Congress as a means of reintroducing the Constitution to lawmakers and their staffs. Because the House committees are now required to cite the specific constitutional powers justifying the legislation they submit to the full House, they supposedly must read the Constitution and satisfy themselves that the powers are really contained therein. Also, any congressman is now able to refer to the committee’s constitutional authorization prior to voting on a particular bill and to decide whether or not he agrees that the bill is constitutional. That is not a lot to ask, of course, of lawmakers who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution.

Presuming that lawmakers would apply this constitutional litmus test in an honest way, the Rules Committee analysis of this requirement stated that "it is expected that committees will not rely only on the so-called ‘elastic’ or ‘necessary and proper’ clause and that they will not cite the preamble to the Constitution as a specific power granted to the Congress by the Constitution." This "expectation" notwithstanding, since the adoption of the rule in January 1997, committees have on a number of occasions cited only the "necessary and proper" clause as the constitutional basis for legislation. They have similarly stretched the meanings of the "general welfare" and "interstate commerce" clauses, enabling them to justify virtually any social-welfare or regulatory program imaginable. And they have at times vaguely referenced Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the principal section enumerating congressional powers, without bothering to cite any particular power. In short, they have interpreted the Constitution not as a binding document authorizing specific powers, but as a blank check.

Of course, if lawmakers can legislate any law they want, then we have a democracy instead of a republic and there is no need for a written constitution limiting the powers of government. Moreover, if lawmakers can interpret the Constitution based on whatever liberal theory is in vogue at the moment, then the Constitution is an evolving document that holds no meaning as a fixed set of fundamental laws.

But lawmakers who subscribe to any such radical reconstruction are wrong, as can be readily demonstrated by referring to the Founders’ own writings, such as The Federalist Papers. As James Madison, father of the Constitution, explained in The Federalist, No. 45, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined" and "will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce." Its jurisdiction, he explained in The Federalist, No. 14, "is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any." All other powers are retained by the states or the people, a principle that was well understood at the time and was later reaffirmed in the Tenth Amendment.

Because federal powers are "few and defined," Congress does not have carte blanche. "No legislative act … contrary to the Constitution can be valid," Alexander Hamilton noted in The Federalist, No. 78. "To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid."

In The Federalist, No. 83, Hamilton added that since congressional powers are enumerated, "This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended."

Let us now consider specific clauses which House committees have cited in their constitutional authorization statements in order to justify their supposed "general legislative authority."

Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, also known as the "general welfare" clause, states: "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." House committees have cited this clause to justify legislation relating to vocational education, literacy programs, job training, charter schools, student loans, housing programs, welfare reform, foreign aid, crime control, child support, etc. Their rationale is that Congress has an open-ended power to pass whatever legislation it deems appropriate to provide for the general welfare, including the transfer of funds from taxpayers to private individuals and organizations.

But this broad interpretation makes no sense whatsoever, since the general statement in Clause 1 is immediately followed by a list of specific powers that Congress can exercise to provide for the general welfare. Condemning this broad interpretation in The Federalist, No. 41, Madison asked: "For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars. But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity...."

Addressing this subject during congressional debate on February 7, 1792, Madison warned that "if Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress...."

In a letter on January 21st of the same year, Madison warned: "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."

Of course, the Founders’ intent with regard to the general welfare clause has been ignored and distorted, causing Madison’s dire warnings to come true. But the modern-day interpretation was not yet in vogue in December 1831, when Madison wrote: "Beginning with the great question growing out of the terms ‘common defence and general welfare,’ my early opinion expressed in The Federalist, limiting the phrase to the specified powers, has been adhered to on every occasion which has called for a test of it."

Madison’s understanding of the general welfare clause was echoed by many other Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, who in 1817 stated that Congress does not possess "unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated...."

The phrase "general welfare" is often misunderstood by present-day Americans because of the development of the Welfare State. But at the time the Constitution was written, the phrase did not refer to giving taxpayer money to the poor, but to the general welfare of the nation. On May 3, 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill that (in his words) concerned "the constitutionality and propriety of the Federal Government assuming to enter into a novel and vast field of legislation, namely, that of providing for the care and support of all those … who by any form of calamity become fit objects of public philanthropy." Continued Pierce: "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States. To do so would, in my judgment, be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive of the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded."

On February 16, 1887, President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill to appropriate money to provide seeds to drought-stricken counties of Texas because "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."

Even Franklin D. Roosevelt, father of the modern Welfare State, acknowledged while still governor of New York that the federal government did not have constitutional authority to provide social welfare. "As a matter of fact and law," he said in a March 2, 1930 address, "the governing rights of the states are all of those which have not been surrendered to the national government by the Constitution or its amendments." After noting that Prohibition was constitutional due to the 18th Amendment, he said that "this is not the case in the matter of a great number of other vital problems of government, such as the conduct of public utilities, of banks, of insurance, of business, of agriculture, of education, of social welfare, and of a dozen other important features. In these Washington must not be encouraged to interfere." No one can properly accuse FDR of installing statist policies out of ignorance of constitutional principles!

The House Appropriations Committee routinely cites Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 as the constitutional authorization for its mammoth and often unconstitutional spending bills, including appropriations for foreign aid, agricultural programs (including food stamps), and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Clause 7 states: "No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law...." Of course! But the intent behind this requirement, as well as the power to "lay and collect taxes" to provide for "the general welfare," was that the money could be used only for constitutional purposes.

A report on the 1799-1800 Virginia Resolutions drafted by Madison explains: "[S]ubjoined to this authority [is] an enumeration of the cases to which their [Congress’] powers shall extend. Money cannot be applied to the general welfare, otherwise than by an application of it to some particular measure, conducive to the general welfare. Whenever, therefore, money has been raised by the general authority, and is to be applied to a particular measure, a question arises whether the particular measure be within the enumerated authorities vested in Congress. If it be, the money requisite for it may be applied to it. If it be not, no such application can be made. This fair and obvious interpretation coincides with and is enforced by the clause in the Constitution which declares that ‘no money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.’"

Few if any congressmen on the House Appropriations Committee apply any such standard to the legislation they draft. At the beginning of the 105th Congress, one congressman who would have applied this standard was denied a promised seat on the committee when he made known, in response to a question from the leadership, that he would not vote for any foreign aid appropriations.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, also known as the "necessary and proper" clause, authorizes Congress 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." In spite of the Rules Committee’s "expectation" that this clause would not be used as the sole basis for satisfying the constitutional authorization rule, House committees have nonetheless used it as their sole basis for funding unconstitutional agricultural research programs, dairy support payments, and small business programs.

Coming as it does after a list of specific congressional powers, this clause was obviously intended not as an undefined grant of "sweeping" powers, but as a simple declaration that Congress can make such laws as are "necessary and proper for carrying into execution" its enumerated powers. "Without the substance of this power," Madison wrote in The Federalist, No. 44, "the whole Constitution would be a dead letter." Yet this so-called "elastic clause" has been stretched to include virtually anything Congress deems "necessary and proper."

During Virginia’s deliberations on whether or not to ratify the Constitution, George Nicholas correctly observed that "this clause only enables them [Congress] to carry into execution the powers given to them, but gives them no additional power." And during North Carolina’s deliberations, Archibald Maclaine concluded, "This clause specifies that they [Congress] shall make laws to carry into execution all the powers vested by this Constitution; consequently, they can make no laws to execute any other power. This clause gives no new power, but declares that those already given are to be executed by proper laws."

This narrow definition made perfect sense since, as Maclaine also reasoned, "If they can assume powers not enumerated, there was no occasion for enumerating any powers." A report on the Virginia Resolutions drafted by Madison stated that this clause "is not a grant of new powers to Congress, but merely a declaration, for the removal of all uncertainty, that the means of carrying into execution those [powers] otherwise granted are included in the grant."

But what "means" should be employed? On February 15, 1791, Thomas Jefferson argued that "the Constitution allows only the means which are ‘necessary,’ not those which are merely ‘convenient,’ for effecting the enumerated powers. If such a latitude of construction be allowed to this phrase as to give any non-enumerated power, it will go to every one, for there is not one which ingenuity may not torture into a convenience in some instance or other, to some one of so long a list of enumerated powers. It would swallow up all the delegated powers, and reduce the whole to one power, as before observed ["that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States"]."

Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, also known as the interstate commerce clause, states that Congress has the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." Over the years the federal government’s "interstate commerce" power has been expanded to include everything from the regulation of wetlands (deemed to be part of the navigable waters of the United States), to whom a restaurant must serve, to what or how much a farmer can grow, to wage and price controls. During the 105th Congress, House committees have cited this clause to justify legislation relating to underground storage tanks, homeowner’s insurance protection, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Securities and Exchange Commission, energy policy, wildlife refuges, motor vehicle consumer protection, and labor standards.

The original intent, however, was not to manage the American economy, but to prevent the states, which were then operating almost as separate countries in a loose confederation, from inhibiting the interstate flow of goods through tariffs or other barriers. James Madison reaffirmed this intent when he wrote in a letter dated February 13, 1829 that "it is very certain that [the commerce clause] grew out of the abuse of the power by the importing States in taxing the non-importing, and was intended as a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the States themselves, rather than as a power to be used for the positive purposes of the General Government...."

Thomas Jefferson echoed the same sentiment on February 15, 1791 when he wrote that this clause "does not extend to the internal regulation of the commerce of a State (that is to say, of the commerce between citizen and citizen) … but to its external commerce only, that is to say, its commerce with another State, or with foreign nations, or with the Indian tribes."

But Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed a radically different view when he argued in a May 31, 1935 press conference that the commerce clause was written "in the horse-and-buggy age" and that "since that time … we have developed an entirely different philosophy." "We are interdependent, we are tied in together," he claimed. "And the hope has been that we could, through a period of years, interpret the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution in the light of these new things that have come to the country. It has been our hope that under the interstate commerce clause we could recognize by legislation and by judicial decision that a harmful practice in one section of the country could be prevented on the theory that it was doing harm to another section of the country. That was why the Congress for a good many years, and most lawyers, have had the thought that in drafting legislation we could depend on an interpretation that would enlarge the constitutional meaning of interstate commerce to include not only those matters of direct interstate commerce, but also those matters which indirectly affect interstate commerce." That is, change the meaning of the clause to fit the changing times — and don’t worry about the intent of the Founders.

In his statement, Roosevelt was responding to a Supreme Court decision that defined the commerce clause narrowly enough to interfere with his statist schemes, including the regulation of farm products. "Are we going to take the hands of the federal government completely off any effort to adjust the growing of national crops," he complained, "and go right straight back to the old principle that every farmer is a lord of his own farm and can do anything he wants, raise anything, any old time, in any quantity, and sell any time he wants?" Certainly no such freedoms could be tolerated in the brave new world, which is why Roosevelt dealt with the justified judicial response by audaciously attempting to pack the Supreme Court.

Since that time the Supreme Court has interpreted the commerce clause much more broadly. Yet in its 1995 Lopez decision, the Court served notice that there are limits to this broad interpretation. In that landmark case the Court found unconstitutional a federal law that relied on the interstate commerce clause for prohibiting firearms in school zones. Justice Clarence Thomas, who joined the majority, correctly noted that "our case law has drifted far from the original understanding of the Commerce Clause" and has, in fact, "swallowed Art. I, Section 8."

Although the Lopez decision should have served as a shot across the bow, it is hard to detect any lessons learned on the part of interventionist congressmen who continue to pilot our ship of state through unconstitutional waters.

So far as this writer could determine, the House committees, abiding the expectation of the Rules Committee, have at least resisted the temptation to cite the Preamble in their constitutional authorization statements. Nor should they have cited the Preamble, since it was intended to be a statement of the ends to be achieved through the exercise of powers enumerated in the main body of the document. The Preamble states: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

"Had the states been despoiled of their sovereignty by the generality of the preamble," declared Virginia’s General Assembly on January 23, 1799, "and had the Federal Government been endowed with whatever they should judge to be instrumental towards the union, justice, tranquility, common defence, general welfare, and the preservation of liberty, nothing could have been more frivolous than an enumeration of powers."

As we have already seen, of course, the same observation could be made with regard to liberal interpretations of the "general welfare," "necessary and proper," and "interstate commerce" clauses.

Jefferson observed in 1803 that "our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction." Most congressmen, with the willing participation of like-minded presidents and Supreme Court justices, have treated the Constitution as a blank piece of paper. And the people have not only allowed this radical reconstruction to occur, but have often encouraged it because of their own lack of understanding. But because the Constitution still exists and still constitutes the sole body of powers possessed by the federal government, all of the non-enumerated powers now exercised by the federal government fall in the category of usurpations that can be ended as soon as the understanding is created.

The understanding that is necessary includes a recognition that ours is a government of laws and not of men, a republic and not a democracy. Enough Americans must be brought to an understanding that Congress, acting in the name of the people for some greater good, cannot execute any non-enumerated powers, no matter how popular or tempting — unless the power in question is first granted to the Congress through the amendment process.

Of course, this does not mean that other levels of government cannot — or, for that matter, should not — execute any powers not embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Only the federal government cannot do so; the state governments can exercise powers authorized by their own state constitutions, and county and local governments can perform other functions allowed by law. But this concept of federalism, along with the concept of enumerated powers, has been largely forgotten, allowing a dangerous concentration of powers on the federal level that threatens not only the rights of the states, but the freedom of the individual.

The House rule requiring a constitutional authorization statement in committee reports could be a useful tool for building understanding among both lawmakers and constituents. What constitutional power is cited as authorization for a particular piece of legislation? Does the cited power truly authorize the legislation, or is the citation an embarrassing attempt to provide a fig leaf of cover for naked usurpation? Lawmakers should have no problem providing the claimed constitutional power(s) authorizing any bill or joint resolution when challenged, and informed constituents should not only ask such challenging questions, but inform others as to how the Constitution is being circumvented through misinterpretation.

As understanding grows, more Americans will recognize that the problem is not the Constitution or the government it created, but lack of adherence to the Constitution. And as they hear from a growing number of informed constituents, more busy congressmen will surely find the time to learn about the document they have sworn to uphold.



The Enumerated Powers of Congress

The very first sentence of the first Article of the Constitution states, "All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" — making that body the most powerful of the three branches of government. Neither the Presidency nor the Judiciary can make laws — except by usurpations tolerated by Congress. Congress could, for example, prohibit the federal judiciary from issuing usurping rulings in such cases as the infamous Roe v. Wade (abortion) decision simply by exercising its enumerated power to limit the jurisdiction of the federal courts (see Article III, Section 2). Also, Congress could employ its impeachment power in order to tame a corrupt and imperial President.

In the June 1997 issue of The John Birch Society Bulletin, constitutional analyst Don Fotheringham created an invaluable reference by listing all of the enumerated powers and duties of Congress. That list, which should be at the fingertips of every congressman, follows.

• Levy taxes.

• Borrow money on the credit of the United States.

• Spend.

• Pay the federal debts.

• Conduct tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court.

• Declare war.

• Raise armies, a navy, and provide for the common defense.

• Introduce constitutional amendments and choose the mode of ratification.

• Call a convention on the application of two-thirds of the states.

• Regulate interstate and foreign commerce.

• Coin money.

• Regulate (standardize) the value of currency.

• Regulate patents and copyrights.

• Establish federal courts lower than the Supreme Court.

• Limit the appellate jurisdiction of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

• Standardize weights and measures.

• Establish uniform times for elections.

• Control the postal system.

• Establish laws governing citizenship.

• Make its own rules and discipline its own members.

• Provide for the punishment of counterfeiting, piracy, treason, and other federal crimes.

• Exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia.

• Establish bankruptcy laws.

• Override presidential vetoes.

• Oversee all federal property and possessions.

• Fill a vacancy in the Presidency in cases of death or inability.

• Receive electoral votes for the Presidency.

• Keep and publish a journal of its proceedings.

• Conduct a census every ten years

• Approve treaties, Cabinet-level appointments, and appointments to the Supreme Court (Senate only).

• Impeach (House only) and try (Senate only) federal officers.

• Initiate all bills for raising revenue (House only).

These are the powers of Congress; there are no non-enumerated powers. Leaving nothing to inference, the Constitution even specifies that Congress may pass the laws "necessary and proper" for executing its specified powers. Congressmen have simply to study and apply the Constitution in order to restore sound government. That most fail to do so is not the fault of the Founders, but of the people who elect the congressmen and send them to Washington.