The Instigator
Carsten2013b
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
TruthHurts
Con (against)
Winning
4 Points

The United States Constitution does not give Congress the power to help the poor and needy

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
TruthHurts
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/14/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,314 times Debate No: 58966
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (9)
Votes (1)

 

Carsten2013b

Pro

The federal government of the United States has, for nearly a century supported programs generally for the poor and the needy. While the results of these programs are continuously argued about between Republicans and Democrats, one thing that doesn't really get mentioned is the constitutionality of these programs. I am here to debate in opposition to the claim that these social welfare programs are a legitimate power of Congress under the Constitution in accordance to the intent of the writers and proponents of the Constitution.

Resolved, that the United States Constitution does not give Congress the power to help the poor and needy.

The following shall be the definitions and rule of this debate.

Definitions

The U.S. Constitution: The United States Constitution and all of its Amendments.

Social Welfare: A governmental provision of economic assistance to persons in need. This can come into the form of Bail Outs, Food Stamps, Federal Unemployment Benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

Rules
1) No Supreme Court Rulings
2) You must cite the Constitutional Clause you may use, but only those that pertain to the powers of Congress
3) First Round Acceptance Only
TruthHurts

Con

I accept, and will argue that the Constitution gives Congress the power to help the poor and needy, though Pro's rule against Supreme Court rulings is quite curious.

I will note that Pro has the sole BoP of this round, since Pro is making a claim against the consensus in the status quo.

I look forward to reading Pro's argument. Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
Carsten2013b

Pro

I thank Con for accepting the debate. I would like to start by stating the reason for the "No Supreme Court Cases" rule as brought up by JohnMaynardKeynes in the comments section and Con in the acceptance round. This debate, as I have stated in the introduction, has to do with weather or not social welfare programs "are a legitimate power of Congress under the Constitution in accordance to the intent of the writers and proponents of the Constitution" rather then the supporters of post-20th century living constitutionalism supported by FDR in the 1930's and 1940's. Plus, there's also the benefit of not scouring through the legal jargon of court opinions, oral statements, etc.

My argument is relatively simple. The Constitution of the United States gives Congress limited, specific powers most of which are sound in Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution (the rest are scattered throughout the document). Among these limited powers are the powers to declare war [1], establish post offices and post roads [2], and to provide for and maintain a navy [3]. Anything outside of these limited powers is put under the 10th amendment which says that "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". [4]

On the other hand, there are some, such as my contender in this debate, who claim that the Constitution grants the government to "provide for the [...] general welfare" [5] as stated in the preamble of the Constitution. The preamble is not a legally binding portion of the Constitution, rather its an explanation of the overall purpose of the document. The Congress, for example, provides for "the common defense" by the powers to declare war [6], raise and maintain an army [7], raise and maintain a navy [8], and define and punish offenses against the law of nations [9]. Similarly, the Congress provides for "the general welfare" by establishing post offices and post roads [10], to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the states, and with the Indian tribes [11], and to make rules for naturalization and bankruptcies [12].

The other clause that uses the phrase "general welfare" is known as the taxing power. It states that Congress shall have power to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;" [13] In other words, Congress has the power to impose taxes as a way to raise revenue to pay the debts of the United States (especially the Revolutionary War debts at the time of the Constitution's ratification) and to "provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States". But if you look earlier in my argument, the common defense and general welfare were talking about the enumerated powers listed in Article 1 Section 8 (and various places elsewhere within the document).

If Congress can indeed pass any regulation under the broad phrase of "promoting the general welfare", the other powers of Congress, as well as the 10th amendment would be of no use to limit Congress's power as they were intended. Even if the broad construction of the general welfare clause is used, most of the legislation pertaining to social welfare programs are not "general". Instead, they pertain to particular interests like business (such as the bail outs), individuals (such as social security and medicaid) or regional (of which I could not think of anything of the sort at the moment).

But what did the Founders have to say about promoting the general welfare? The Elliot Debates, that is, the debates on the ratification of the Constitution in the state legislatures, show a significant amount of debate. In one of the debates, George Mason, an anti-federalist in opposition of the Constitution and a delegate from Virginia, gave a hypothetical scenario where the government turned out to be oppressive and asked if a writer should expose to the people at large the abuses that the government has conducted. He asked the other delegates "Could not Congress, under the idea of providing for the general welfare, and under their own construction, say that this was destroying the general peace, encouraging sedition, and poisoning the minds of the people?" [14] He also added that "Congress should have power to provide for the general welfare of the Union, I grant. But I wish a clause in the Constitution, with respect to all powers which are not granted, that they are retained by the states. Otherwise, the power of providing for the general welfare may be perverted to its destruction". [15]

George Nicholas, a friend of James Madison and a federalist in favor of the Constitution and a delegate from Virginia (I believe) responded to George Mason's concern and said that "The opposers of the clause, which gave the power of providing for the general welfare, supposed its dangers to result from its connection with, and extension of, the powers granted in the other clauses. He endeavored to show the committee that it only empowered Congress to make such laws as would be necessary to enable them to pay the public debts and provide for the common defense; that this general welfare was united, not to the general power of legislation, but to the particular power of laying and collecting taxes, imposts, and excises, for the purpose of paying the debts and providing for the common defense, that is, that they could raise as much money as would pay the debts and provide for the common defense, in consequence of this power". [16] George also made reference to the Necessary and Proper Clause (or the "sweeping clause" in the debate) which states that Congress shall have the power 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". [17] George stated that "The clause which was affectedly called the sweeping clause contained no new grant of power. To illustrate this position, he observed that, if it had been added at the end of every one of the enumerated powers, instead of being inserted at the end of all, it would be obvious to any one that it was no augmentation of power. If, for instance, at the end of the clause granting power to lay and collect taxes, it had been added that they should have power to make necessary and proper laws to lay and collect taxes, who could suspect it to be an addition of power? He then proceeded thus: But, says he, who is to determine the extent of such powers? I say, the same power which, in all well-regulated communities, determines the extent of legislative powers. If they exceed these powers, the judiciary will declare it void, or else the people will have a right to declare it void."

I would put more information in, but I'm out of typing room to produce anything substantial, so I'll wait for the next round. Your turn Con.

Sources
[1]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11
[2]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7
[3]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 13
[4]: Amendment 10 to the Constitution
[5]: Preamble to the Constitution
[6]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11
[7]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 12
[8]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 13
[9]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 10
[10]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7
[11]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3
[12]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4
[13]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1
[14]: The Elliot Debates, Volume 3, Page 442
[15]: The Elliot Debates, Volume 3, Page 442
[16]: The Elliot Debates, Volume 3, Pages 442-443
[17]: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18
[18]: The Elliot Debates, Volume 3, Page 443
TruthHurts

Con

Thank you, Pro. I shall first lay out three distinct points in support of my side of the case. I will attempt to be simple and concise in my arguments.

A quick note: Pro has the exclusive BOP in this round. All I must do is cast doubt upon his claims, and I shall win the debate.

I. The Constitution explicitly allows for help to the poor and needy.

I generally dislike semantic arguments, but, based on the resolution provided, I have to give one here. My opponent's resolution is, "The United States does not give Congress the power to help the poor and needy." My opponent also defines social welfare. However, he never explicitly connects the two together. Thus, I simply have to negate the actual resolution.

With this in mind, the Constitution obviously provides for powers that help the poor and needy, including coining money, providing post roads and offices, and raising an army, among other provisions deliberately noted in Article I, Section 8. These help the poor and needy because they help everyone. Coinage helps to facilitate trade and economic growth, post offices and roads allow for quicker and more accessible communication for all, and national defense helps everyone retain their rights and physical safety.

Thus, in this sense, the Constitution allows for help to the poor and needy because the Constitution has provisions that help everyone.

II. The Circumstances behind the Constitution necessitate a more flexible interpretative approach.

Remember that the Constitution was created to replace the Articles of Confederation, which was inadequate because it lacked any effective method of governance [1]. What this means is that the Constitution necessarily empowers the federal government, often in ways that are implied, rather than explicitly noted. Remember, it is literally impossible for the writers of the Constitution to imagine any possible scenario the government could require power in. This means that, with the background of the Constitution in mind, we should default to flexibility.

What really seems to be the case is that my opponent has a dislike for implied powers, since he does not find that the federal government has the power to spend as it pleases, via the power of the purse. If this is the case, then my opponent should surely find the printing of paper money unconstitutional, since it is not explicitly provided for [1].

III. The Constitution actually does provide for welfare programs.

What we must live with is the fact that the "general welfare" provision in Article I, Section 8 is ambiguous. I will submit that, at the time of the drafting and the ratification of the Constitution, that my viewpoint was at least represented. This means that there exists at least one viable path for general welfare to include welfare programs.

Let's note the text in question:

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." - Article I, Section 8

However, several other provisions are necessary here:

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time." - Article I, Section 9

"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."

These two clauses permit the "power of the purse," that is, the ability to spend, provided the money is explicitly designated in law, and allow for the passage of any laws that are necessary for the government to conduct its abilities.

What we must note is that the first implies that Congress can spend as it pleases, provided the money is appropriated in an explicit manner.

More importantly, the necessary and proper clause, writes Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 44, is created so as to give the government more powers than explicitly enumerated. He claims that a full enumeration would have been impossible [1]. This means that, should the government require government programs, such as tax breaks and subsidies, to fulfill some purpose, perhaps interstate commerce, the intent was to allow this.

However, we must come back to the phrase "general welfare." Well, consensus was not present with regards to this. Alexander Hamilton writes that, "The terms "general Welfare" were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a Nation would have been left without a provision.[3]. This substantiates what should be common sense; if the framers had intended general welfare to simply relate to the enumerated powers, then putting general welfare in the Constitution in the first place would have been redundant.

Rebuttals

"Anything outside of these limited powers is put under the 10th Amendment..."

This is not the case. Here, Pro is ignoring both 1) implied powers, and 2) the necessary and proper clause, both of which give the government the required flexibility, since it would have been impossible to enumerate every single power the government could possibly have, as noted by Hamilton.

Remember, if Pro really wants strict construction, then he must defend that paper money is illegal, since Article I, Section 8 only allows for "coin money," and Section 10 commands that "make anything but gold and silver legal tender in the payment of debts."

"Congress provides for the 'common defense' by...raise and maintain an army...and...navy."

What about the Air Force?

"Congress provides for "the general welfare..."

To dispute on face, does it not seem redundant to explicitly note "general welfare," but really just mean other provisions listed elsewhere? Alexander Hamilton, as mentioned earlier, noted as much.

"Make rules for...bankruptcies."

Excuse me, but a bankruptcy helps the poor and needy by allowing for the liquidation of debt for those who cannot pay [4]. This is an example of explicitly helping the poor and needy.

"lay and collect taxes..."

Since tax breaks and Social Security are within the realm of taxes, and are methods of government welfare programs, it appears that the Constitution allows for such programs [5].

The opinions of random framers...

Yes, some framers preferred a strict view. Yet, others, like Hamilton, preferred a broader view. This means that, at the minimum, legitimate debate existed, and that Pro cannot meet his BOP.

Sources:

1. http://www.policyalmanac.org...
2. http://www.constitution.org...
3. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu...
4. http://www.uscourts.gov...
5. http://www.washingtonpost.com...
*All Constitution references from:
http://www.law.cornell.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
Carsten2013b

Pro

Thank you, Con. To start with, concerning the BOP (Burden of Proof), this is my first, formal debate with someone, so my apologies for being a bit inexperienced, to put it simply.

I shall give a rebuttal of Con's claims (though I admit that I do agree with some of them) and clarify some things that should have been done in the beginning. As I said, this is my first formal debate, so once again, my apologies for not being 100% prepared, even though I should have been. I would also like to note that one of the sources I am using is a Kindle book accessed via my iPad's Kindle app. Due to the lack of page numbers, the "location" numbers shall be referenced instead. The location numbers are out of a grand total of 6,700.

My opponent states that "the Constitution explicitly allows for help to the poor and needy".

Indeed, I do define social welfare as "A governmental provision of economic assistance to persons in need. This can come into the form of Bail Outs, Food Stamps, Federal Unemployment Benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc." Also true, I did not explicitly connect the two together, though that was my intention. It is true that coining money, providing post roads and offices, and raising an army, among other provisions mentioned in Article I, Section 8 do help the poor and needy and everyone on Con states, an I am in full agreement of his statement for this part of the debate.

A minor thing I would like to note about is the use of the term "post roads". As Robert Natelson, a distinguished and one of my favorite originalist constitutional scholars explains, "The eighteenth-century term "post road" did not include every path over which the mail might travel. The meaning was more specific then that. A "post road" was a major throughfare built for speedy travel between distinct localities, distinguished from lesser highways in which it featured stations (called "posts" or "stages") for hiring and changing horses." [1]

My opponent states that "the Constitution actually does provide for welfare programs".

Is is true that my opponent's viewpoint was at least represented, though it was a minority view only held by at least two people (as far as I know), Alexander Hamilton, and Justice Joseph Story, though I want my focus to be on Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was a Federalist, one of the main authors of the Federalist Papers, and one of the few (if not the only) big government type founders. He probably was a secret monarchist as he posted about the pros of the English system, [2]

The Constitution does say that "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.", but it simply means that Congress has to pass a bill in order to appropriate this money in order for the government to conduct its abilities. Think of it as a budget, per say. That being said, this clause doesn't explain how the government provides for welfare programs. Neither does the necessary and proper clause. According to Robert Natelson, "During the Founding Era (as today), the doctrine of incidental powers (a.k.a. implied powers) gave an agent some discretion in how he carried out his duties. However, this discretion was limited in three important ways. First, the agent could only act for the purpose of carrying out the principle powers. [...] Second, [...] Third, incidental powers never included authority as important as the listed powers." [3]

Now, to answer my opponents rebuttals. Unfortunately, due to the limited charter count, I cannot respond to all of them.

"What about the Air Force?"

The United States Air Force has existed through various entities since 1907 (starting with the Aeronautical Division of the Army Signal Corps) [4] and only became a separate entity in 1947. Although the Constitution does not explicitly state that Congress shall have the power to provide for and maintain an Air Force, the technology just wasn't there at the time. From what I see, there are two ways that the Air Force could be constitutional. First, a Constitutional Amendment providing for an Air Force, or second, abolishing the Department of the Air Force and replacing it with the Navy, Marines, and Army having their own specialized Air Forces for their own unique needs.

Douglas MacArthur, then-General at the time, stated in 1931 that "The Naval Air Force will be based on the fleet and move with it as an important element in solving the primary missions confronting the fleet. The Army Air Forces will be land-based and employed as an essential element to the Army in the performance of its mission to defend the coasts at home and in our overseas possessions, thus assuring the fleet absolute freedom of action without any responsibility for coast defense." [5]

"Since tax breaks and Social Security are within the realm of taxes, and are methods of government welfare programs"

I rebutted that latter half above earlier in my post. As far as tax breaks go, yes, I do believe that tax breaks are constitutional using the doctrine of limited implied powers. Social Security, on the other hand, while it is a tax, the Constitution does not express power for a program like Social Security. While the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness of Social Security is for another debate, Social Security is not a constitutional tax. Though Congress has the power to collect taxes, it only does so for "pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States", that is those powers that are enumerated to Congress.

"Yes, some framers preferred a strict view. Yet, others, like Hamilton, preferred a broader view."

True, there was, at minimum, a legitimate debate on the subject. But, as I have stated earlier, Hamilton's view was in the extreme minority of his time. During the founding Era, it was the 28 year long (1801-1829) Anti-Federalist presidential administrations (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams) that prevailed against the 4 year (1797-1801) presidency of John Adams [6] (12 if you count the No Party President George Washington who, at times, had Federalist leanings).

Unfortunately, due to the lack of time that I have, I wasn't able to complete my side of the debate as I had intended.

Sources:
[1]: The Original Constitution: What it Actually Said and Meant by Robert Natelson, Location 1742
[2]: James Madison's Constitutional Convention Notes, June 18th, 1787
[3]: The Original Constitution: What it Actually Said and Meant by Robert Natelson, Location 1444
[4]: http://www.airforce.com...
[5]: The Army and its Air Corps: Army Policy Toward Aviation 1919"1941 by Dr. James P. Tate, Page 78.
[6]: http://americanhistory.about.com...

All Constitution References From: http://www.archives.gov...
TruthHurts

Con

This is an easy Con ballot. Here is why:

Remember two things (one of which I have explicitly maintained throughout the debate):

1) I do not have to defend the constitutionality of every single government action to help the poor and needy. If I have shown that even one is constitutional, the resolution is negated.

2) Pro has the BOP in this round to show, beyond doubt, that the Constitution does not give Congress this power.

With this in mind, Pro has actually conceded this debate.

I. Enumerated Powers help the poor and needy.

Due to my opponent's lack of connection between social welfare programs and helping the poor and needy, I only needed to show that one enumerated power helps the poor and needy. Since these powers help almost everyone, the poor and needy are necessarily helped.

Pro concedes as much, saying, "It is true that coining money, providing post roads and offices, and raising an army...do help the poor and needy."

I win the round here.

Note: I found the information about post roads quite interesting.

II. The Context of the Constitution necessitates a flexible approach.

Pro never rebuts this portion, meaning this flows through to Con. I win the debate here as well, since I have shown that the purpose of the Constitution was to create a more powerful and flexible federal government, in contrast to the ineffectual one created by the Articles of Confederation.

I will, for ease of reading, throw in the argument regarding the viewpoints held by the drafters here. Pro concedes that at least two framers, namely Hamilton, held the view I am advocating. That is all I needed to prove, that legitimate debate existed, meaning that the actual message of the Constitution and the passages in question, are up for debate. I have done this, and win here as well.

III. The Constitution Allows (at least some) Social Welfare Programs.

All I needed to show was that, in at least one way, the Constitution allows for one of these programs. I have done this.

I would like to throw in one of my opponent's rebuttals here, first, to demonstrate how, in a roundabout way, I have one this debate:

"There are two ways the Air Force could be constitutional..."

I threw this in as a trap. There is a really simple way that the Air Force is constitutional: the Necessary and Proper Clause. Since the Founders could not foresee everything, it was necessary to include a clause that allowed the government to be flexible. The Air Force is justified under the necessary and proper clause, with the context of the common defense clause.

What this means is that, like the 'general welfare' clause, the common defense clause is somewhat elastic, and to be executed through the power of the purse and the necessary and proper clause. Pro was never able to resolve this, or the fact that it would be redundant to only mean later mentioned powers. I win here.

The other place I clearly win is when my opponent concedes, "I do believe that tax breaks are constitutional using the doctrine of limited implied powers." My opponent directly concedes the debate here, since tax breaks ARE a form of social welfare [see earlier source material], but indirectly concedes that implied powers exist, especially since, in this debate, the idea of limited implicit powers is unclear.

Conclusion

I have, therefore, won this debate on all three fronts, showing that the Constitution helps the poor and needy, that its context necessitates flexibility, and that at least one social welfare program is constitutional. Even if you, somehow, do not buy that, there is no way that Pro could have met his BOP.

I would like to thank Pro for this interesting debate, and sincerely hope he continues on this site, as he is very skilled. Also, floor, I apologize for lack of sources in this round, as I felt none were necessary.
Debate Round No. 3
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by JohnMaynardKeynes 2 years ago
JohnMaynardKeynes
Article 1, Section 8

"The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;"

http://www.law.cornell.edu...
Posted by JohnMaynardKeynes 2 years ago
JohnMaynardKeynes
Even Scalia doesn't take that position lol.
Posted by TruthHurts 2 years ago
TruthHurts
I'm actually really interested to read how Pro thinks welfare programs do not concern the general welfare, though I fear I may be in for a Scalia-esque rant.
Posted by KhalifV 2 years ago
KhalifV
I think it's fairly obvious the framers wanted to promote social well-being
Posted by JohnMaynardKeynes 2 years ago
JohnMaynardKeynes
*he

Oops lol.
Posted by JohnMaynardKeynes 2 years ago
JohnMaynardKeynes
@Khalif: That's why we said no Supreme Court rulings; because the Supreme Court has designated the general welfare clause can be broadly interpreted.. He could reference the view of several framers that it didn't have this intent -- and all Con would need to do was show there was a genuine debate over it, and because Pro has the BOP, he couldn't possibly win.
Posted by JohnMaynardKeynes 2 years ago
JohnMaynardKeynes
"No Supreme Court rulings."

Lol, this isn't a serious debate.
Posted by KhalifV 2 years ago
KhalifV
preamble: "general welfare" :)
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by jh1234l 2 years ago
jh1234l
Carsten2013bTruthHurtsTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:34 
Reasons for voting decision: The arguments go to Pro, as he has met his burden of proof. Con's only valid rebuttals: Public works and taxes were unsatisfactory.The public works moves the goalposts to absolutely anything that somehow benefits the poor in any way, even though it's not welfare or made to benefit the poor and needy. The taxes argument was refuted with the purpose of the taxes. However, Pro did have several minor issues with his arguments, such as an adhominem fallacy that states that Alexander Hamilton's arguments were wrong, as he somehow secretly supports the english system. (This is the reason for the conduct and s/g points) Con also had better sources, from .edu websites to news websites, while pro relied on the constitution itself, leaving little room for anything beyond personal intepretaton.