Lacey Smith

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Focus on Freedom: The Preamble (Pt. 7); General Welfare Clause (Pt 2 of 2)

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Last Focus on Freedom post I went over part of the general welfare clause.

I defined each word and encouraged you to evaluate it in context of the rest of the Constitution.

This post focuses on what the Founders had to say.

Here are a few of their quotes on this topic:

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Albert Gallatin

“Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

James Madison in a letter to Edmund Pendleton

“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 in a letter to James Robertson

“With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

Finally, from Federalist No. 41 (also written by Madison, but as part of a then-anonymous group of authors):

Some…have grounded a very fierce attack against the Constitution, on the language in which it is defined. It has been urged and echoed, that the 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,” amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.”

It is clear when we read the words of our Founders that providing for the general welfare was intended to be limited to the enumerated powers provided in the later sections and articles.

We must understand this and we must recognize every time the government oversteps on our “behalf”.

It is rampant twisting of this clause that has brought us Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and put us in our financial crisis.

It is time to pull back and come to a real understanding of the general welfare, encouraged but not guaranteed by the Constitution.

Focus on Freedom: The Preamble (Pt. 7); General Welfare Clause (Pt 1 of 2)

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Somehow (operator error, eh hem) this didn’t get published this weekend… So here it is today.

This post on the Preamble covers one of the most abused clauses in the whole Constitution: “promote the General Welfare.”

It’s repeatedly thrown around when we talk about taxes, social security, regulation and, most recently, government-legislated health care.

Here’s the problem with that: While the Preamble provides us a powerful tool for understanding our liberties and the role of government, it does not actually grant any powers or mandate any actions.

The Preamble provides general purposes, which the main body of the Constitution then provides enumerated powers for.

This is one clause that must be looked at both separately and as a whole.

First, separately, it’s important to look at each word.

Promote means “to help bring…into being” and to ” to contribute to the growth or prosperity of”. Promote does not mean “mandate” or “guarantee”.

General means “involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole” and “involving, relating to, or applicable to every member of a class, kind, or group” (emphasis added).

Welfare means ” the state of doing well especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity”.

So “promote the general welfare” means to contribute to the growth of the state of doing well of the whole or every member of the group.

It does not guarantee that each member will do well individual or that even the whole group will do well, but that the government will encourage well doing.

We also need to look at this clause as a whole, both within the context of the Constitution and as with the understanding of what the Founding Fathers said.

First, we must remember that our rights come from God, not the government. Whatever our government does must be to protect and preserve our natural rights.

What can be better for the general welfare of humanity than freedom for all men?

Also, the Federal Government is Constitutionally restricted to the powers expressly given it:

“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” (10th Amendment)

This is an exceptionally violated clause and for years it was ignored. Now, with the emergence of the Tea Party and the growing popularity of the Constitution, this amendment has taken a more central role.

Read the following articles and what the federal government is supposed to do is rather clearly laid out.

In this context, it appears that the general welfare clause may have been overstretched just a little bit.

Next Focus of Freedom post will outline what some of the Founders said about the General Welfare clause and how that shows the limits of this goal.

Democracy at its worst

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Every time I hear someone call America a democracy, I cringe. America is not a democracy and people’s assertion that it is one shows me how uneducated our citizenry are.

In fact, our Founding Fathers were very apprehensive about democracy. A quote frequently attributed to Thomas Jefferson asserts that “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

Whether Jefferson said it is questionable but if it’s true is undeniable. Democracy has no respect for the minority.

But democracy is more insidious than that. It does not simply take away the rights of any minority. In fact any small minority when gathered together can take advantage of democracy to hold the majority hostage.

This happened last night, and was democracy at its worst.

This photo was taken by KSL of the protesters yesterday.

A small group of people – a few hundred – gathered yesterday in support of a man who committed a crime. He was practicing civil disobedience and was arrested and charged for it.

Yesterday, he was sentenced to two years in prison. His supporters didn’t think that was fair and so they gathered on the sidewalk near the courthouse.

When they were allowed to continue protesting, these people forced a confrontation with officers: they spilled off the sidewalk and onto one of the busiest, and narrowest, intersections in downtown Salt Lake right during rush hour.

They stopped traffic and, worse, the Trax trains from coming and going through the hour. For nearly an hour the police allowed them to hold up hundreds of others before giving them the option to move or be arrested. 23 people chose to go to jail.

Now I was more than a little annoyed that my 5-7 minute commute (which is already longer than it should be thanks to UDOT’s inability to program lights), took at least twice that long. More than that, I was annoyed at these people’s utter disregard for anyone else.

These people had no respect and no care for anyone else. Their agenda was more important than anyone else.

Later last night, I heard one of the members of the group explain that he hoped the people they had delayed appreciated what his group was trying to accomplish.

He said they were trying to restore our democracy and that his group was trying to do something for all of us.

There are legitimate reasons to protest. I’m currently organizing a rally. It’s one of our rights – to peaceable assembly – and it’s one of the things I love about America.

But we lose that right when we cross the line into harming other people.

And this post is not about peaceable assembly. It’s about democracy.

What that group did yesterday was democracy. The riots in Egypt was democracy. The guillotining in France during the French Revolution was democrcay.

There are so many bad aspects to it and I am glad we live in a republic.

It’s an important distinction we should know  by heart and be able to explain and defend. Whenever someone talks about democracy it should make us really uncomforable.

Democracy is mob rule. Last night I experienced it at its worst.

Thank goodness for the republic!

Honoring pioneers

In Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Today is the observance of Pioneer Day here in Utah (yesterday was the “actual” holiday). It’s a state holiday observed less formally by people in Idaho and some other western states, especially in places founded by  or with a large population of members of the LDS church.

It’s a day to honor not only pioneer ancestors but also patriots. In some ways, Pioneer Day celebrations, known as the Days of ’47 (which have lasted all month), are an extension of Independence Day. I am absolutely in favor of that. Any opportunity to celebrate America is one I’ll take advantage of.

This holiday gives us an opportunity to contemplate the sacrifice and blessings of our predecessors.

This is my first Pioneer Day holiday in Utah (we were out of town last year) and while I grew up celebrating it in Idaho, it’s a much bigger thing here.

It’s given me a chance to really think about all the things I’ve been given, living in modern America.

First, and most importantly, I am free. I have the ability to pursue the American Dream (which is not owning a house with a white picket fence, being extremely wealthy or many of the other materially-driven ideas our society has recently suggested it is).

If I work harder, out-think others and take risks, I may end up very wealthy. In the mean time, I have the ability to work hard and prosper, raise my kids how I see fit, own a gun, have 30 pairs of shoes in my closet (which makes me incredibly rich by the standard of the whole world), move across the country, choose my own career and dozens if not hundreds of other things that I could not do if I lived in most other countries.

This is a gift given to me by ancestors of my bloodline and faithful fathers who are parents of this great nation.

Second, I have a deep love for this country and an understanding of civic duty. This was passed on to me by wise parents who also love and honor their country.

Our sense of duty did not start with my parents, though. I found this story while I was searching for information about my mom’s grandparents; even at 95, my great-grandparents made voting a high priority. I also recently found a pension record from a grandfather on my dad’s side for service in the Civil War.

Third, I have stories of courage and strength. My pioneer ancestors include handcart pioneers. I few years ago I went with a church trek in southern Idaho. We pulled handcarts through the mud, up hills and, at the end, barefoot. I didn’t pull a handcart through the snow or up a mountain, thank goodness, but some of my ancestors did.

Whenever I think about that experience, I appreciate my shoes a lot more, but I also honor and appreciate my grandparents so much more. This is just one of many examples of courage and strength left behind for me. I rely on these stories; knowing what they conquered helps me face my struggles and pushes me to be more than I am.

Finally, I hold a deep and abiding faith passed on to me from pioneers and patriots. It is a belief that God  has a plan for me, knows me better than anyone else does or ever could and guides my life. He also watches over this nation and govern in the affairs of men. He is heavily involved in this country and in the cause of freedom.

We are recipients of what we were given by those who came before us. Today I honor the pioneers who gave me freedom and left me with a rich heritage. I stand on their shoulders and could only be what I am because of who they are. I will forever be grateful to them: Blessed, honored pioneers.

It’s time for a balanced budget amendment

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

America is facing a serious budget crisis. It has been building slowly since the 1930s (when Social Security was introduced). It’s been addressed a few times since then but there have never been any real long-term solutions.

Now we are facing $14 Trillion in debt, and a $1.4 Trillion deficit that grows every second. We are not Greece, yet, but we are well on our way.

Congress is finally doing something about it, but really only because the country is about to hit the debt ceiling where we can no longer borrow. Otherwise, the debt would continue to climb without any real changes.

Likely, the debt ceiling will get raised in exchange for minor budget cuts but nothing will really change. The government will continue to spend and the debt will grow until we hit a new ceiling and this process will repeat.

Of course, all this could have been prevented if a balanced budget amendment had been passed during the 1995/96 budget showdown, or any of the times it had been proposed in the past.

Now again there is a balanced budget amendment on the table as part of the Cut, Cap and Balance Plan. It cleared the House yesterday, as expected, but will probably not make it out of the Senate. If it does, President Obama has promised to veto it.

In fact, despite all the evidence that Congress cannot control itself or the budget, our president does not think we need a balanced budget amendment.

Here’s Obama in a press conference last Friday:

If you go to CBS’s website, the president that our problem is “we cut taxes without paying for them…institut[ed] new programs like a prescription drug program for seniors that wasn’t paid for, we fought two wars, didn’t pay for them…”

And, Mr. President, in a few years there will be a very expensive new insurance plan for the whole nation that is not paid for.

We do need a national balanced budget amendment. At the very least, Congress should send the amendment to the states and let us decide.

There’s no question that we must get our spending under control.

Unfortunately we can’t do it all at once and the only way to guarantee that the budget cuts passed now get put into effect long term is if there is a Constitutional amendment that forces Congress and the President into doing it.

We’re on an unsustainable path. Pres. Obama is wrong. We do need to do something radical.

I don’t know if Cut, Cap and Balance is the only way to solve the problem, or even the best way, but it is a way. And it’s a good way. It’s time for the U.S. to have a balanced budget amendment.

What have you done for your country lately?

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Today’s blog is all about a you. You, the very busy stay-at-home mom; you, the full-time college student; you, the young husband; you, the retired grandparent.

I’ve been talking for weeks about all the problems, things that concern me, and what I think the solutions are.

Over and over again I have encouraged you to do something. Now I want to know: what are you doing?

The solution is the average American person.

In John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address he said, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

It’s an extremely famous (and frankly over-quoted statement), but there is some truth to it.

What can you do for your state, your country, your fellow Americans?

I’m not asking what you can do for your government, what you can give up to the government, but what you can give for your country.

Here are some ideas.

You can teach your children to understand and love liberty. This may be the most important thing you can do!

You can learn and then share information about the Constitution.

You can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

You can vote against an initiative that lessens your liberty (this includes tax increases and initiatives that provide the government, including school districts, with taxpaer dollars without accounability).

You can encourage your representatives in D.C. to pass the Cut, Cap and Balance Plan.

You can organize a rally for Restoring Courage and stand with Israel.

You can run for office.

You can speak out at a City Council meeting.

You can campaign for a candidate you believe in.

You can read the Federalist Papers and other Revolutionary era material.

You can start a blog.

You can fly a flag.

You can volunteer at a homeless shelter.

You can vote.

You can do all of these things because you are an American. There are not a lot of places in the world where you are so free to do all these things. It’s a privilege as much as it is a responsibility.

These things are not available to many people in this world and they would give so much to be able to do what we choose not to.

What are you doing? I want to know. Please share your stories with me. Let’s inspire each other and then do more.

Focus on Freedom: The Preamble (Pt. 6)

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Week six of our review of the preamble and so far we’ve gone over three general purposes of the U.S. Constitution.

I’m hoping that you’re gaining a better understanding of what the Constitution is designed to do and where (and how far) we have overstepped.

The next aim of the Constitution, as laid out by the preamble, is to “provide for the common defense…”

This purpose is shared by many, but sadly not all, governments and is necessary to maintain sovereignty. If a government does not protect its public, it will eventually fall to either foreign influence or internal uprising. This is especially true if that government actively seeks to destroy a group of their population rather than protect them.

Providing for the common defense is a role the federal government is uniquely suited for, possibly more so than any other.

In Federalist No. 4, John Jay writes:

“As the safety of the whole is in the interest of the whole, and cannot be provided for without government…. let us inquire whether one good government is not… more competent than any other given number whatever.”

Essentially, he’s suggesting that Americans consider if the individual states or one central government would be better able to protect the people.

He then spends the rest of the paper providing reasons a single unified government was more capable of defending the new America than many individual states.

I don’t think most regular Americans have any issue with the federal government being in charge of the military.

Frankly, this is not one of the places that the government has overstepped as egregiously, either.

It is necessary to have some amount of standing army, as Alexander Hamilton argues in Federalist Nos. 24 and 25. We must also defend against terrorism, sometime on their own soil.

The problem with all this comes in when we defend others and then stay too long. It is when we station troops in some place completely able to defend themselves.

Not having intelligence information, I cannot say with certainty, but the DMZ in Korea seems like a place where we are no longer providing for the common defense of America but instead acting as the world’s police.

I also worry that in times to come, the federal government will use this clause to “protect” us out of our self protection.

If the government reasons that it’s job is to protect us and individual gun owners are harmful to that end, it may use that to try to restrict our gun rights even further.

At no point in the Federalist Papers addressing this subject was the idea brought forth that providing for the common defense was a domestic issue. This clause deals singularly with foreign dangers and international warfare.

Providing for the common defense allows us to secure our borders, wage traditional war and fight terrorism. It permits us to maintain standing armies to accomplish those ends. No more and no less.

Babysitters or government? I can’t tell the difference

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm

What do these three things have in common: my apartment complex swimming pool, coloring my hair and light bulbs?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it. … …

…………no guesses?

Ok. There were a few guesses when I posted this question yesterday. And they got pretty close to the answer.

All of these things, and hundreds of others I could mention, have one thing in common: they are somehow regulated by the government.

Right now it’s really ticking me off.

As we’ve gone through the Constitution’s preamble, I’ve repeatedly pointed out the purposes of government. Two weeks from now the Focus on Freedom post will be on the “promote the general welfare” clause, which is possibly the single-most manipulated phrase in the Constitution.

I am so sick of the government looking out for me. I have had. it.

Let me explain.

Just over a year ago, we moved into our apartment. We love just about everything except the eyesore of a pool.

When we moved in, the managers told us that they didn’t know when the pool would open up since it needed some work. It didn’t happen last year and when we were talking with them again, they explained that legally they couldn’t open the pool.

A few years ago Utah had a major crypto outbreak and so the government sweeping legislation including a law requiring all pools have two drains. Ours only has one.

The complex we live in is small, with only 32 apartments and many of the tenants likely would not use the equally small pool. Until recently, it was green, algae filled and a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Apparently that was better.

Also yesterday, I had to drive out to the beauty college where we usually get our haircuts. I have an appointment to get my hair cut and colored on Thursday, but before I could do that I had to have a patch test (putting hair color chemicals on your arm to make sure you don’t react).

Although I have colored my hair many times and have never had any serious reactions, I still had to have it done because the state required it since the school is state-funded.

I’m not even sure colleges and universities should be government funded, but I am sure I didn’t need the patch test and it still should’ve been my choice. I didn’t have a reaction, by the way.

Finally, the light bulb thing… This is not something regulated by Utah. No, it’s much bigger than that.

In 2007 Congress passed energy legislation that included new standards for light bulbs. It will essentially put a slow end to incandescent light bulbs.

The House failed to overturn the law yesterday.

This law was supposed to create more jobs and spur green energy. Instead, one of the unintended consequence of this law is that light bulb factory jobs have been shipped to China.

Besides losing more jobs overseas, these new bulbs cost anywhere from 430% to 5710% more. That’s not a small price increase.

Government “experts” claim that by 2015 households could save $50 a year because of the new law. I don’t know if this calculation is before or after the cost of the more expensive light bulbs, but it’s going to have to save me a lot more than $4.17 a month to be worth the switch.

Not only do they cost more, I don’t like them as much. They’re dangerous when broken and the quality of light is not as good. Manufacturers have also made the traditional incandescent bulb much more efficient in the last four years.

So here’s the major question: how is this in any way the government’s business??? How have all of these things fallen to the governments?

The overstep is ridiculous. I don’t know if there is anything in our lives government doesn’t have their hands in.

Enough is enough. It’s time for government to get out of our live.

What do these things have in common?

In Uncategorized on July 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm

What do these three things have in common: my apartment complex swimming pool, coloring my hair and light bulbs?

Post your comment below. I will be handing out a prize to someone drawn randomly if I get more than 10 guesses.

And if you’re subscribed and refer someone to my page and they subscribe (they’ll have to let me know), there will be something in the mail for you too!

The answer will be posted tomorrow.

Obama’s faith

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

The talks over the deficit and debt ceiling continue in Washington today. There seems to be no compromise forthcoming despite a looming deadline.

As usual, there has been closed-door summits, press conferences, name-calling, blaming and playing chicken. Despite Obama’s campaign promises, it’s business as usual.

In the president’s press conference today, he said that he would not accept a deal that didn’t ask anything out of him (one of the wealthy). Basically, he said he has all this money he doesn’t need and there are others who do need it.

So, Obama reasons, he and others like him should pay more taxes because they don’t need the money and the government definitely should help out those that do by taking more from the rich. It’s the typical liberal argument.

I have a better idea, or ideas, for what Obama could do with all that money he doesn’t need.

First, he could give up his salary as president. He makes $400,000 annually. While $1.6 million won’t make a dent in the $14 trillion budget deficit, it’s a start.

Or, if he needs some of that money, he could take what he doesn’t need and start a charity. Then instead of going through the whole bureaucratic system the money could go directly to those who need it.

Pres. Obama could personally invest personally in green energy, agriculture or housing. He could provide the seed money for dozens of start-up companies.

Those start-up companies could eventually provide jobs for thousands of people. That’s sort of a best-case scenario, but it IS a possibility.

The government, on the other hand, can never do what private companies and private investors can.

You know, I don’t know enough about “trickle-down economics” to say whether or not I believe that they work. What I do know is that any jobs created by the government are created on the backs and shoulders of taxpayers.

Government needs to be cut across the board. Then we can cut taxes for everyone, especially the rich who create jobs.

Obama’s faith in government is completely misplaced. It always has been and always will be part of the problem. Solutions come from free people, not those reliant on government.

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