Social Programs

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
The justification for social programs is the debatable phrase "Promote the General Welfare of the United States" in the US Constitution.

I have been reading a modern version of The Federalist Papers which were written by the writers of our Constitution. They were trying to persuade the states to ratify the Constitution. Thus far, I have not come across a discussion of this phrase ... Which was important enough to be inserted in two sections of the Constitution.

beenthere

Joined Apr 20, 2004
15,819
The phrase is not debatable, but the scope of the meaning is. It was most likely meant to justify general taxation to support standing armed forces. Protecting the entire populace does seem to fit into "general" welfare.

The meaning becomes progressively more diffuse as you approach the individual in the populace. Still, as a for instance, feeding hungry individuals might be seen as promoting the general welfare if the alternative is allowing them to starve, or enforcing involuntary incarceration in a Victorian era-style workhouse. Fewer riots that way.

The purpose of multiple legislators and courts is to further the big social experiment we are a part of in the U.S. What is good for the country has been open to debate since the Continental Congress first sat.

thingmaker3

Joined May 16, 2005
5,084
Does anyone have access to a two hundred year old dictionary? How was the term commonly used in that era?

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
Preamble to the US Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.

Note that the phrase "promote the general welfare" is one of five separate phrases. The writers also inserted the phrase "provide for the common defense." These phrases were provided as the purpose of ordaining and establishing the US Constitution.

This link [below] provides the Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Social Security program. Here is a quote from the link:

f we are to review in this Court the question whether Congress has served the general welfare in fact, I am frank to admit that we face a tradition of 150 years of practice that is against the making of old-age relief a matter of national welfare. But I would call your attention to the fact that old-age welfare has been a constantly widening concern. The matter of the care of the old was at one time a matter for the family only. It became gradually a matter for the town poormaster if the family failed. From the town poormaster it became a matter for the county with its poorhouse, and then the State, because of failures of counties, intervened, and now we argue that it has become a matter of national welfare and this old-age-pension system was set up in the hope that it would make true the promise to men that if they were thrifty and industrious and self-disciplined their age would be spared at least extreme poverty. This plan does no more than spare extreme poverty, and may not in many instances do that. This plan was that if the workman during his productive years would contribute to the Treasury of the United States, then the Treasury of the United States in his unproductive years would contribute to his necessities.

How Social Security Was Defended by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson

I think it proves your point about the ever changing interpretation of the phrase "promote the general welfare."

The Federalist Papers has a dictionary in it, but the phrase "general welfare" is not in the dictionary.

agentofdarkness

Joined Oct 9, 2007
42
TIt was most likely meant to justify general taxation to support standing armed forces. Protecting the entire populace does seem to fit into "general" welfare.
Wouldn't protecting (as is against enemies) be covered under "provide for the common defense"? "Provide for the common defense" is much more specific than "Promote the general welfare". Why would the same thing be written twice in the same sentance? Promote the general welfare must mean something different.

beenthere

Joined Apr 20, 2004
15,819
One of the very delicate things to justify was the right of the central government to impose taxes on all the populace. Remember that the states wished to have the preponderance of power, including the ability to impose taxes.

Historically, you can possibly make the case that the framers of the constitution were primarily concerned with the establishment of a national army and navy. The French and Indian War plus the successful revolution against England would have made the utility of such a national force evident.

They were successful. But the issue of state vs. federal did not get resolved to everyone's satisfaction. That was an important thread of the impulse to the Civil War and the formation of the Southern democratic voting bloc in the last century.

At the present, the states rights proponents seem to be much less assertive. Bush is still unwilling to impose a draft to raise enough troops to get the job done in the Middle East. One might argue as to whether it's a concern for the reaction to the draft, or that he is simply caught in his own trap because it would require a substantial tax increase to fund it.

Which is off the topic of general welfare. Once the case was made for the supremacy of federal power, the camel's nose was in the state's various tents. The process of delineating where to allow the local power to be supreme and where the larger power has the right continues. Lawyers and legalisms have made the process very tedious, as every possible case seems to need guiding and defining legislation. Imagine the number of federal statutes in another 100 years.

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
One of the very delicate things to justify was the right of the central government to impose taxes on all the populace. Remember that the states wished to have the preponderance of power, including the ability to impose taxes.

Historically, you can possibly make the case that the framers of the constitution were primarily concerned with the establishment of a national army and navy. The French and Indian War plus the successful revolution against England would have made the utility of such a national force evident.

They were successful. But the issue of state vs. federal did not get resolved to everyone's satisfaction. That was an important thread of the impulse to the Civil War and the formation of the Southern democratic voting bloc in the last century.

At the present, the states rights proponents seem to be much less assertive. Bush is still unwilling to impose a draft to raise enough troops to get the job done in the Middle East. One might argue as to whether it's a concern for the reaction to the draft, or that he is simply caught in his own trap because it would require a substantial tax increase to fund it.

Which is off the topic of general welfare. Once the case was made for the supremacy of federal power, the camel's nose was in the state's various tents. The process of delineating where to allow the local power to be supreme and where the larger power has the right continues. Lawyers and legalisms have made the process very tedious, as every possible case seems to need guiding and defining legislation. Imagine the number of federal statutes in another 100 years.
I think that the military is a necessity for the general welfare. I agree that the issue throughout the history of this nation was preserving the sovereignty of the states.

In my message written on Saturday November 10th, I quoted a part of the decision of the Supreme Court. It raises an important question: Does the federal government have the right to intervene in any issue not tackled by the states? Modern liberal thinking is that the federal government has this right. Modern conservative thinking is that this constitutes an infringement of state sovereignty.

Dave

Joined Nov 17, 2003
6,970
I cannot comment specifically on the meaning of the word "Welfare" in the US, but in recent times "Welfare" in the UK has taken on a whole new meaning. Whereas it orginally meant using the collective resources of the state and its citizens to ensure a cradle-to-grave society for health, education etc, it has now become an institutional right where people believe that society owes them a living. I could tell you many a story that would make you blood boil. Sorry for digressing.

Dave

HarveyH42

Joined Jul 22, 2007
426
I really hate the social programs, and don't really think that was what was intended. I can accept that everyone should be able to get medical help if needed. But just handing out cash to pretty much anybody who asks... Just seems like there are more people taking advantage of these programs, then actually have no other option.

Churches and many other 'non-profit' charities are tax exempt, because the claim to provide the same services, as the social programs. Seems like most of the people running these things draw a nice paycheck, not just a comfortable living.

I don't think most people truely enjoy going to work, and would prefer just doing what they please, and get a check in the mail every month. The social programs need to be greatly reduce, so people will get out and do something to improve they're own situation.

beenthere

Joined Apr 20, 2004
15,819
I might suggest that it is more interesting down the ladder to test the applicability of "general welfare" to situations above the personal level. To my mind, taxes are collected with the intent of the federal government using the monies to provide for the general welfare. I'll ignore more local taxation for this.

Transportation has long been a area where federal money have been spent. Canals, roads and bridges were all expensive items. States might support building roads inside their borders for local trade, but would baulk at a multistate project like the transcontinental railroad. We might agree that the federal transportion network has promoted the general welfare.

Tangled up in just this example, though, are federal regulations that affect the individual in more personal ways. Like roadside signage standards, requiring the further expenditure of tax monies that do not improve the quality of the highway. Or even seat belts in cars. The seat belts definitely impinge on personal freedom and add to the cost of the car.

Seat belts are debatable. If you have medical insurance, where does the general welfare come into the picture? Your injuries in an accident are paid for by you insurance. Why should the potential extent of your injuries be of interest except to your family?

My mind is a bit boggled by the other examples I can come up with. There may be very few cases where the federal program that does benefit all of the populace does not also get freighted down with some expensive restriction or mandate that impacts us as individuals (instead of as indistinguishable members of the general populace).

The law of unintended consequence is always a factor. Suppose we adopted, as national policy, the principle that no federal law can affect one individual in any way differently from any other? That might be the ultimate in fairness, but can you imagine actually drafting such legislation? But it might force the congress to only pass laws that can be demonstrated to promote the general welfare, and no further.

It is interesting that the issue of welfare, as applied to payments made to individuals, generates so much anger. Especailly in the light of somebody like the now ex-CEO of Merrill Lynch walking off with $161,500,000 dollars in his pocket after sinking better than$8,000,000,000 into the mortgage fiasco. Why should he be entitled to $160 million for a gross failure on his part, and some rather trivial individual be denied a few thousand for his? You might say that the$160 million is just chump change in today's financial picture, but then, how many families would that chump change feed? Why doesn't it rise to national outrage for the CEO's failure. That money he takes with him comes out of my and your pockets just as much as the funds for welfare programs.

Well, this drifted all over.

Dave

Joined Nov 17, 2003
6,970
Some interesting takes on welfare from elsewhere in the world from the UK.

Can I ask: do you guys in the US have an equivalent to Incapacity Benefit?

How widely is this welfare used/abused?

Dave

thingmaker3

Joined May 16, 2005
5,084
I thought federally funded roadwork was paid for by the Department of Defense. Isn't that why the WWII design bypasses exist? To go around bombed out cities with the convoys?

Dave: do you have access to a 220 year-old dictionary? The US and the UK shared the same language in 1787.

Dave

Joined Nov 17, 2003
6,970
Dave: do you have access to a 220 year-old dictionary? The US and the UK shared the same language in 1787.
I do as it happens! "Welfare" isn't one of the words that has a modern meaning. The languages of the UK and US have digressed much in that time, and although there are fundamental similarities there is plenty to identify them both. In recent years there has been, what the traditionalists call, and Americanisation of British English(I'm not a traditionalists btw).

Dave

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
Some interesting takes on welfare from elsewhere in the world from the UK.

Can I ask: do you guys in the US have an equivalent to Incapacity Benefit?

How widely is this welfare used/abused?

The original welfare program passed during the Johnson/Kennedy Administrations was abused, but I don't have any statistics to back my statement. The welfare assistance is temporary today. It's goal is to help people become productive.

DSS: Welfare Reform -Temporary Family Assistance

Dave
We have workmen's compensation. I think it is paid for by the employer and provided by a private insurance firm. The unemployed also recieve income [unemployment benefits] for a limited amount of time. This is also paid for by the employer. If I become unemployed and I apply for unemployment benefits, any company that employed me during the last three years has the right to block those benefits.

The original welfare program passed during the Johnson/Kennedy Administrations was abused, but I don't have any statistics to back my statement. The welfare assistance is temporary today. It's goal is to help people become productive.

John

Dave

Joined Nov 17, 2003
6,970
We have workmen's compensation. I think it is paid for by the employer and provided by a private insurance firm. The unemployed also recieve income [unemployment benefits] for a limited amount of time. This is also paid for by the employer. If I become unemployed and I apply for unemployment benefits, any company that employed me during the last three years has the right to block those benefits.

The original welfare program passed during the Johnson/Kennedy Administrations was abused, but I don't have any statistics to back my statement. The welfare assistance is temporary today. It's goal is to help people become productive.

John
Thanks for the comments John. So there is an equivalent to Incapacity Benefit? The only reason I ask is because this is one of the most abused benefits in the UK. Whilst many people rightly claim this benefit for wholly legitimate reasons, it is one of those that has gained popularity amongst the workshy because of its perceived longevity (compared to other UK benefits); I am aware of some who have been on Incapacity Benefit and its other incarnations for ~20 years (yes you read that right). It almost appears as though the government is complicit in the Incapacity fiasco because it keeps the official unemployment figures down.

The flip-side is that Incapacity Benefit does not work when it should: I could tell you a story of my brother who had a leg-complication from a botched NHS operation on his leg. The remedial action was to fit an Ilizarov Cage (Google Search it, it is both a medical marvel and an engineering triumph, but incredibly traumatic for the patient). His incapacity entitlement for him, his 4 month pregnant missus and their pre-school daughter was less than £5!! How does he cover his mortgage, rates, and basic living costs. There is someone else in the (distant) family who drunkenly took a car a crashed it - from his self-inflicted injuries he now receives £180 a week and has all his living expenses (rent, council tax etc) covered. There is no incentive for him to ever return to work. Truly disgraceful.

I agree with your final statement: "It's goal is to help people become productive."

Dave

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
It is interesting that the issue of welfare, as applied to payments made to individuals, generates so much anger.
Welfare generates anger because people think anyone who does not work is lazy. I once had a friend who would brag about all he had done each day while chatting on a citizen's band radio. When people asked where he worked, he would admit that he didn't have a job. People became angry when he made up excuses for not taking a job within a tenth of a mile of his home. They never realized that this person was hiding his problems to avoid rejection and isolation.

I did not realize that until one day I invited him over to watch a movie. Part ways through the movie, he asked what time it was. I pointed to a clock on the wall. He glanced at the clock and repeated his question. He could not read or write. A few weeks later, he told me about a flat tire he had repaired. Now everyone gets annoyed over a flat tire, but this guy wouldn't talk about anything except the flat tire. My impression was that he temporarilly became dysfunctional because of that one experience.

People are very good at hiding any problem that might cause others to turn away. This same act of hiding problems leads others to believe that these people are lazy.

John

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
The flip-side is that Incapacity Benefit does not work when it should: I could tell you a story of my brother who had a leg-complication from a botched NHS operation on his leg. The remedial action was to fit an Ilizarov Cage (Google Search it, it is both a medical marvel and an engineering triumph, but incredibly traumatic for the patient). His incapacity entitlement for him, his 4 month pregnant missus and their pre-school daughter was less than £5!! How does he cover his mortgage, rates, and basic living costs. There is someone else in the (distant) family who drunkenly took a car a crashed it - from his self-inflicted injuries he now receives £180 a week and has all his living expenses (rent, council tax etc) covered. There is no incentive for him to ever return to work. Truly disgraceful.

I agree with your final statement: "It's goal is to help people become productive."

Dave
In the US, your brother would have been able to sue the facility and doctor that botched the operation.

Was your brother able to obtain legal assistance and challenge the decision to pay so little? Does he have any legal recourse with regard to the botched operation?

chesart1

Joined Jan 23, 2006
269
I really hate the social programs, and don't really think that was what was intended. I can accept that everyone should be able to get medical help if needed. But just handing out cash to pretty much anybody who asks... Just seems like there are more people taking advantage of these programs, then actually have no other option.

Churches and many other 'non-profit' charities are tax exempt, because the claim to provide the same services, as the social programs. Seems like most of the people running these things draw a nice paycheck, not just a comfortable living.

I don't think most people truely enjoy going to work, and would prefer just doing what they please, and get a check in the mail every month. The social programs need to be greatly reduce, so people will get out and do something to improve they're own situation.
If you ever applied for welfare, you would realize that it isn't as easy as you imply. The social programs do not raise people above the poverty level unless those people are committing fraud to obtain extra funding.

With regard to religious organizations. It is not unconstitutional to tax these organizations as long as all religious organizations are taxed. The establishment clause does not prohibit federal taxation. It prohibits federal favoritism.

Dave

Joined Nov 17, 2003
6,970
In the US, your brother would have been able to sue the facility and doctor that botched the operation.

Was your brother able to obtain legal assistance and challenge the decision to pay so little? Does he have any legal recourse with regard to the botched operation?
We tried to have the botched operation (which was considerably more than just an Ilizarov cage; his lower leg is constructed from the lat in his back after the muscle died) assessed. However, as is often the case, the assessment by an independent (read into that what you will) within the NHS found that this was an accident on "the balance of probabilities" - the most he received was from a whip-round at the local football club.

The subsequent decision to pay so little was from the assessment of his "incapacity" which was not deemed to be more than what it was worth. We have beaten this to death with no success. The cynic would suggest that the reason he didn't get any form of decent benefits pay-out for his time incapacitated was because he was self-employed - not that this should have any bearing on it.

Anyway, I don't wish to derail your discussion on US welfare, my discussion is one for another time.

Dave

thingmaker3

Joined May 16, 2005
5,084
I do as it happens! "Welfare" isn't one of the words that has a modern meaning.
But what was the meaning when the preamble of the US constitution was written 220 years ago? That definition could grant insight into the Federalists' intent.