In response to Republican complaints about the economic stimulus plan, President Barack Obama simply responded, “I won.” Perhaps taking a cue from Obama’s callous remarks, Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, when asked if he was concerned about Republican attempts to block passage of the legislation, curtly answered, “No.”
The Democratic leadership forced the package through Congress without allowing for debate and without even giving the opposition sufficient time to read and evaluate the bill. It passed in the United States Congress by a vote of 246-183 in the House, with all Republicans opposed, and 60-38 in the Senate with three moderate Republicans providing crucial support. President Obama signed the bill yesterday. Described as costing $787 billion dollars, the Congressional Budget Office reports the actual cost will be $3.27 trillion dollars, stemming from an estimated $744 billion it will take to pay for the additional debt the legislation will create and $2.527 trillion in increased spending from new and expanded programs spawned by the bill.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said that the legislation was poorly crafted and hastily designed, and that passage of the bill “will mark the day when our generation decided that we were not capable of enduring the consequences of our own actions and therefore future generations must shoulder the burden that we could not find the courage to bear ourselves.”
But the threshold question should be, is this legislation constitutional? Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution authorizes Congress to tax and spend only “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.” Because the Act in question only increases our indebtedness and does virtually nothing for our common defense, we must look at its impact on the “general” welfare. Congress’ expenditures must by definition be for the general welfare of our nation as a whole, not the specific welfare of individuals, regions, or certain socio-economic or political groups.
An examination of the provisions of the economic stimulus plan reveals that it is pure pork, much of it designed to further left-wing causes. More than $3 billion goes to ACORN, a community organization already under federal investigation for voter registration practices. Thirty million dollars goes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in the San Francisco area to restore wetlands and in part to protect the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse. Then there is $200 million for a designated coal fired power plant in Obama’s home state of Illinois, $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $200 million to provide computers to community colleges, and over $650 million to help consumers buy digital TV converter boxes. One billion dollars is allocated for educational programs, including courses on sexually transmitted diseases. As someone once said, a billion here and a billion there and the first thing you know, you’re talking about real money.
As anyone can plainly see, this is not legislation for the general welfare of our nation and certainly not bipartisan legislation, but a Democrat attempt to target specific groups and individuals doing little to promote jobs. Some might argue that there are still billions of dollars provided to state agencies, private industries and individuals, which will provide temporary relief. But such measures will not provide a long-term solution to an extended recession, as those in charge of state and private programs will have an excuse to continue wasteful and inefficient programs.
And we must never forget that what the federal government aids, it can and will eventually control. Expenditures for state education, highway and bridge construction, transit and rail improvements, housing, and clean air and drinking water may sound good, but these are not responsibilities of the federal government under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. And with this stimulus plan providing federal dollars for these projects, the federal sphere of authority continues to expand while state and local authority continues to shrink.
The plan also includes subsidized health insurance, federal aid to state Medicaid programs, funds to help modernize health information technology, and aid for programs that combat AIDS, STDs, tuberculosis and other diseases. But to ensure that money is being spent wisely, those medical treatments will be tracked electronically, providing the federal government with full access to our medical records and, again, intruding further into our rights of privacy. And federal health czars will monitor all medical expenses to make sure that all treatment is “meaningfully spent” and “cost-effective” as defined by the Obama administration.
To add insult to injury, there is also a thinly veiled attack upon our Christian freedom. The United States Supreme Court in Widmar v. Vincent has already ruled that if a state university makes meeting rooms available to certain student groups, it must make those facilities available to religious student groups without discrimination on an equal access basis. The stimulus plan includes aid to public and private universities for renovation of buildings but specifically prohibiting those universities from using these renovated buildings for sectarian instruction or religious worship. This is a blatant attack on the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech, free exercise of religion and equal protection of the law.
The economic stimulus plan does provide some tax relief, which is sorely needed, but how long will it be before the same Congress again increases those taxes to pay for the massive indebtedness created? As a matter of fact, when Republicans suggested a halt to all tax hikes during the recession, Obama responded that we couldn’t make any hard and fast rules about that. The stimulus plan is more than an assault on our pocketbooks – it is an assault on our Constitution, our freedom and our faith.
Obama did win. But with his first proposal, the American people lost.