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Mission Statements.


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This is a lesson on how to pick your battlegrounds by careful selection of your source materials. So I catch this on FB from one of my Left-leaning friends:

it isnt in the constitution

Let’s take this apart and show him where he’s so far off base that he’s not in the same ballpark.

To start, this is the preamble to the Constitution, which the second definition reads, “the introductory part of a statute, deed, or the like, stating the reasons and intent of what follows.” In other words, a mission statement. As an “introductory part,” it does not lay out the method, nor the part of the government tasked with achieving this goal.

When we look at the phrase in question, “…promote the general Welfare,…” we need to realize our Founding Fathers (FF) used very specific words to show their intent and meaning.

When we look up the definition of “promote” the first one makes it pretty clear: “to help or encourage to exist or flourish; further:”

I see this as “creating or expanding the conditions under which the program/company/person can improve in some measurable way.” The term “general” means to extend this to all affected equally, without favoring some of them.

But you see, the meme says, “…will pay for its citizen’s health insurance.”

To show why this is BS, we only have to look to the prior statement in the Preamble, “…provide for the common defense,…”

“Promote” and “provide” are obviously two different words. They also have two separate and distinct meanings. The seventh definition of provide is defined as, “to make arrangements for supplying means of support, money, etc.” I picked that one specifically because right after the above, it reads “(usually followed by for)” which we have in both phrases under examination.

So, Provide actually means “pay for or directly furnish,” Promote means “create conditions under which it is possible to flourish.”

Hm. I don’t see this as the best way to make your point.

Now, if the meme maker had gone into the Constitution itself, they might have found under Article 1, Section 7 Clause 1, we find “…and provide for the common defense and general welfare…”

“AHA!” you might say. That validates the meme! But wait, there’s more! The full quote for that is, “…and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;”

When our FF wrote about individual citizens, they used the term “the People.” If they had meant for Congress (after all, this is Article 1 we are talking about here) to provide for the People, I’m moderately sure they would have used that term in the Preamble.

I am also well aware of the Madison (not to “meet the infinite needs of the general welfare”) vs Hamilton (which to have Congress spend money on the People was okay) debate which culminated in the SCOTUS case United States v. Butler (1936) which pushed the interpretation of the phrase “general welfare” into the Hamilton camp.

Really, if you are confused about this, all you have to do is look at the very documents the FF used to explain the Constitution to the Citizens of the United States: The Federalist Papers. The last five paragraphs of Federalist 41 speaks eloquently on this part of the Constitution. Admitted, while it was published anonymously under “Publius” on January 19, 1788, it is assumed that Madison wrote it. That section is too long to quote here, follow the link.

In conclusion, this meme doesn’t have a leg to stand on. First of all, the OP picked the wrong part of the Constitution to build their argument upon, second the guy who wrote the Constitution thinks their argument is bullshit. It is not the intended purpose of the federal government (through the Constitution) to provide for individuals, rather promote the conditions under which they may flourish.

When the federal government spends money directly on its citizens, it’s called “Bread and Circuses.”