Week of June 6, 2016
Department of Health Medical Marijuana Program Update
DATE CHANGE: Dog License and
Rabies Compliance Checks in Lebanon County
Bills Signed into Law by the Governor
Met-Ed Electrical Safety Demonstration for First Responders
Dauphin and York County Town Hall Meetings
Column: When Government Goes Beyond its Boundaries
From the very first Congress, debate has raged as to what powers, duties, and responsibilities these words and the Constitution itself allows. This argument was especially contentious when the first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed a national bank.
Congressman James Madison (often called the “father of the Constitution”) argued the Constitution granted government only limited and enumerated powers and no others. Otherwise, government could do anything it wanted “and pay out of the Treasury of the United States.”
Thomas Jefferson, the first Secretary of State, agreed with Madison (but recommended President Washington sign the bill anyway as the legislature – thought to be the dominant branch of government – had approved it). Jefferson cited the yet-to-be-adopted 10th Amendment: “To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power.” Jefferson added the “necessary and proper” provision of the Constitution applied to government’s enumerated powers only.
Hamilton won the day, arguing: “The powers contained in a constitution of government, especially those which concern the general administration of the affairs of a country, its finances, trade, defence &c ought to be construed liberally in advancement of the public good.”
In the 225 years since the creation of the First National Bank of the United States, the federal government has grown from four Cabinet Secretaries (Attorney General, State, Treasury, and War) to 15: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, and Office of the Attorney General. This bureaucracy is supported by at least 2,000 subsidy programs, billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded systems, thousands of pages of red tape (aka “regulations”), and various government-owned, government-subsidized enterprises.
Some form of government impacts every phase of our lives from the time we wake up until after we go to bed. As all levels of government have grown, so too have their boundaries – sometimes going far beyond the so-called “core government functions”: defense, public safety, interstate commerce, minting of currency, and infrastructure.
For example, the citizens of Flint, Michigan have suffered high levels of lead in their water. As the City of Flint was failing to ensure the safety of its drinking water, it was offering a host of other municipal services, including: nutrition and wellness programs (including the “Mayor’s Wellness Challenge”), expanded public benefits (including Medicaid), recycling programs, voter registration efforts, holiday events and summer festivals, various donation drives for neighborhood and community initiatives (including “Love Your City” and the “New Ideas Challenge”), housing assistance, carbon monoxide detectors, various clean up events, public service recognitions, biking trails, and basketball, walking and running, and other physical activity events (Flint was named the “Playful City USA” in recognition of its opportunities for physical activities). Flint was also honored as “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico, which Congress is deliberating whether to bail out or to allow to declare bankruptcy due to its $70 Billion debt, is now facing the reality of having had its government grow faster than the ability of its taxpayers to cover ever-rising costs.
Puerto Rico has cut spending, raised taxes, limited services, and laid off tens of thousands of government workers – all at a time when its economy is facing a Zika virus outbreak, its unemployment rate is nearly 12%, and its poverty rate is 45%.
These are just two examples of governments moving outside the boundaries of core functions. The results are negatively impacting their citizens each and every day. They should be both a reminder and a warning whenever there’s a call to expand government services – especially while claiming: “we can afford it.”
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