The Progressive Movement

Dr. Harold Pease - Contributing Columnist

We have spent some time on how the Progressive Movement hurt our black communities and how some of their leaders have provided solutions to rescue their people — not the race baiters selected by the media to be the only black voice, like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. Their common message: “Blacks are worse off now than they were before government began ‘helping’ them.” Their solution, “We need the government out of our lives.” Such can also be said of other races or groups that bought into the Progressive Movement’s nanny state. It has hurt all America.

The irony is that such hurt would not be the history of any group had we remained loyal to the Constitution. You recall that black leaders complained that the Progressive Movement left them less educated, less employable, less family oriented and more on welfare, and more both the perpetrator as well as the victim of crime. We have covered each of these previously. Truth is, the Constitution does not permit a federal involvement in education, employment, family matters, welfare, or local crime. Yes, let me say it again, the words — or anything like unto them — education, employment, family matters, or crime are not found in the Constitution. The word welfare is in the Constitution but not in the sense of gift giving. Nor is there an amendment to the Constitution that gives the federal government a role in any of these areas.

Article I, Section 8 has 18 paragraphs where federal authorization is permitted and these are grouped into four specific areas: the power to tax, pay the debt, provide for the general welfare, and provide for the common defense. All other areas of authority were left with the states as per the wordage of Amendment 10, “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 Founders knew that all governments like to grow and absorb decision-making power to them. They always have and always will. To prevent this they made a list of the areas of federal jurisdiction with the understanding that all areas not mentioned belonged to the states. All convention delegates understood this and curiously placed all federal power in one sentence with 18 paragraphs. The strange construction was to make it even more difficult for future power grabbers to isolate and enhance a power. Everything had to be considered in the context of the one sentence. Not many know what you have just learned.

As mentioned the Founders gave the federal government only four areas of power: taxes, paying the debts, providing for the general welfare (that’s not the same as providing the general welfare), and providing for the common defense. That is it my friends. All of it! All four powers are identified before the first semi colon in Section 8, Article I. That following are simply qualifiers of these four. “But all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the U.S.” These were different types of taxes. There were no qualifiers on paying our debts. The Founders rejected the normal practice following a revolution of nations reneging on the debts caused by a previous government, even though it would have been easy to do so in our case as the value of the dollar had descended to seven cents.

Now to the heart of why Section 8 is so long and so hated by big government advocates, in our case the Progressives. The Founders did not dare to leave the phrases “general welfare” or “common defense” for future power grabbers. No telling what they could do with these vague concepts. So they restricted them further to prevent them being enlarged. Notice that clauses 2-9 itemizes what they meant by general welfare and clauses 10 to 17 itemizes what they meant by common defense, this to keep government harnessed.

For now let us stay with general welfare since most of the Progressive Movement deviations from the Constitution would fall under this area. Listed are 14 powers, five dealing with borrowing money, regulating its value, and dealing with counterfeiting. The other nine included naturalization, bankruptcies, establishing post offices, protecting inventors and authors, establishing “tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court” and “regulating commerce with foreign nations and among the several states.” Notice also that these provided for all equally and approximately at the same time, the general welfare, not specific welfare designating privileges for some at the expense of others.

My point again!! The words — or anything like unto them — education, employment, family matters, or crime are not found in the Constitution. The Progressive Movement ignored the 14 powers detailing general welfare in Article 8 and defied Amendment 10 of the Constitution adding the five areas of federal intrusion so hurtful to our black communities. In doing so it has done much damage to these and other groups incorporating the “nanny” principles and to the Constitution. If these could be made constitutional with any logic possible, anything could, and any pretense of a government with limited powers ended.

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Dr. Harold Pease

Contributing Columnist

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