To the editor:
In the discussion over whether a public health care option is good policy, the question of constitutionality is being overlooked. The legal grounds for such spending will be based upon an expansive reading of the General Welfare clause, but is that the correct reading? James Madison interpreted the clause narrowly, construing it as limiting Congress’ power to spend.
This view of the clause prevailed until Franklin Roosevelt threatened to pack the Supreme Court with six new justices. At that time the court made an abrupt about-face and held that the clause actually expanded the spending power of Congress beyond the enumerated powers.
It is only by this expansive interpretation that Congress can propose a public option as it is not an enumerated power. If we are to maintain the idea that the Constitution creates a government with limited powers, then the construction of a clause which, for all practical purposes, grants unlimited power to Congress to spend cannot stand. Before we examine the wisdom of this health care policy we should first revisit the implications of abandoning principles of limited government in favor of an expansive reading of the General Welfare clause.