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
(Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the US Constitution)
Few phrases appear to have been incorporated in the Constitution of the United States with more foresight than “promote/provide for the general Welfare”.
While there are large and important debates about what sort of spending might be permitted by this clause, there should at least be agreement that it is the welfare of the United States corporately, rather than special interests, that is to be provided for.
Why then, when Congress passes an appropriations or spending bill, is so much expenditure directed towards special interests?
Why do we find politicians gaming the political system for personal financial benefit?
Is it any wonder that a similar lack of patriotic concern for the General Welfare characterizes so much of Wall Street, academia and public discourse?
More generally, fiscal profligacy is undermining US public, corporate and household finances. The problem is not with the American people, who have shown themselves willing to vote for fiscal conservatives; it is with the American elite – on the left and the right – who consistently fail to balance budgets and pay down debts. (Note that “to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence” precedes the General Welfare clause, suggesting that these two purposes are anterior to the latter. Logically also, where the nation is either bankrupt or under foreign control the General Welfare will necessarily not be being provided for.)
Trump, Mnuchin, Sanders, Biden, Pelosi and McConnell could solve this problem overnight if they were to lock themselves in a room and not come out until the McConnell-Pelosi Fiscal Prudence Pact – an absolutely binding commitment on both the Republicans and Democrats to reducing the national debt by a $1 trillion a year – had been signed. This could lay the groundwork for the definancialization of the economy, the restoration of sound money, and the facilitation of the rebuilding of American industry.
But tragically, in none of these areas is there a will to elevate the General Welfare over special interests, and it is our children who will be paying the penalty for this profligacy.