Thursday, September 10, 2009

What does the Constitution say the Federal Government can do?

People are coming out in droves to respond to a government out of control. Their anger is correct, but their solutions to the problems we face are often often off the target. The problem is not that the federal government subsidizes certain businesses, it is their "choice of businesses that is the problem." It is not the income tax, we are told, but who we tax and at what amount. Frankly, we have millions of Americans who are enraged at the current state of affairs, but most of them don't offer solutions per se, just a different and new list of problems.

In my view, the federal government should merely do what is explicitly stated in the US Constitution. Any more than that, it is breaking the law. With that, here are the seventeen enumerated powers to the Congress according to Article I, section 8 of the Constitution:
"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; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;"

"To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"
"To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;"
"To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;"
"To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;"
"To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;"
"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"
"To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;"
"To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;"
"To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;"
"To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;"
"To provide and maintain a Navy;"
"To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;"
"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;"
"To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;"
"To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;"

"And 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."

As one can see, the list is very short and specific, except for that some what open ended last clause. The Founding Fathers were concerned how this would be interpreted, which led them to modify the Constitution with the Tenth Amendment, which states "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."

The debate about what the government can and cannot do is pretty simple and can be found in your US Constitution. Hold your elected officials accountable on what they can and cannot do.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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