Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Leftist Acknowledges the Un-American Premise Behind the Welfare State

It’s no secret that the Democrats hate the Republicans’ drive to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare. But rarely does anybody on the Left exhibit such blatant nerve as former Democratic U.S. Congressman Steven R. Rothman of New Jersey. Last March (2017) Rothman authored a NJ Star-Ledger guest column asserting that Paul Ryan wants to destroy America's social safety net, not just Obamacare. The hyperbole of that patently false statement—modern Republicans are welfare statists—is nothing new. What is unusual (though not unheard of) is this statement from Rothman:

[A]ll Americans of good will and conscience must stop our Congressional representatives from taking the un-American and immoral step of hurting the programs that 99 percent of Americans rely on to live a decent life. 
After all, the provision of the U.S. Constitution that sets the righteous goal for our government to "promote the general welfare," has come to be interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Congress' broad authority to tax and spend for the general welfare of all Americans, not just the rich.

Where does the money for these programs come from? You got it, the very Americans—the productive Americans themselves—whose earnings are confiscated to fund the programs. Most Americans don’t need these programs so long as they could keep their own money. (For those who do need them, there is always private charity.) Rothman twists things around: It is the government that relies on Americans to support its programs, not the other way around.

I left these comments, slightly edited for clarity:

A more morally inverted and un-American—in fact, anti-American—statement can not possibly be uttered, revisionist decisions of the Supreme Court notwithstanding.

America is the first country to be founded on the principle that each individual possesses inalienable individual rights to live by his own judgement in pursuit of his own goals, values, and happiness, free from coercive interference from others, including others in their capacity as government officials. That’s what limited government means—a government limited to protecting individual rights, not mob “rights.” This—the principles that leave Americans free to deal with each other on a voluntary basis, or not at all—is what makes America the moral country; a country of rationally selfish individualists, not sacrificial altruists each forced into unwanted dependence on and subservience to each other with no hope of escaping the mob’s iron grip.

Yet Rothman completely inverts the American system. He falsely claims that the “general welfare” clause stands, not for the protection of individual rights equally and at all times for all people, but for mob “rights,” in which the group, not the individual, is the standard of moral value. On this blatantly un-American collectivist premise, society can, through the all-powerful state as its representative, chain everybody into government programs in violation of the rights of any individuals who might otherwise choose not to join.

A socialist government program is not about the general welfare. It is about the welfare of some at the expense of others, and the power of the few over the lives of the many. The only thing “general” about socialist welfare state programs is the chains that bind all together and leave none with their rights. After all, rights can be boiled down to this: the freedom to say no, and go one’s separate way if one chooses. This freedom doesn’t protect the rich and powerful. It primarily protects the weakest among us—each of us as individuals. Under the American system, the rich have no power to coerce even the poorest individual, until and unless the government hands them that power by failing to protect the individual’s inalienable rights. In Rothman’s reactionary conception, no one has the right to say “no” to his neighbor or his government.

The American system embodied in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which has come to be known as laissez-faire, or “let us alone”, capitalism, is designed to protect the life and liberty of the common person from mob and government alike. Rothman responds “Wrong! The American System is not about individualism. It is about collectivism, in which all are chained and enslaved to all, and dependent on all, via omnipotent government.” The fact that most of us are already partially chained via one government program or another shows how far the social statists—who disingenuously label themselves “Progressives”—have repudiated everything America stands for.

To wrap the rise of socialist tyranny in the American Flag: What can be more disingenuous than that! Rothman apparently believes that Americans have become so ignorant of the political, intellectual, and moral exceptionalism of American history and its Founding principles that he can get away with uttering such anti-American trash. But, he’d be wrong. Many of us see his rhetoric for what it is—a counter Revolution against America. Support the welfare state if you want to. But don’t pretend there is anything American about it. The Founders and Framers of the Constitution established a system for people from the world over to escape chains—to seek genuine freedom, not the chance to submit to a new form of tyranny. Rothman’s statement should be a wake-up call to all who have any remaining reverence for America.


The “General Welfare” clause refers to the maintenance of the social conditions of liberty that enables people to flourish by their own efforts and voluntary interactions with others, within the scope of the enumerated powers granted to the government by the Constitution. As CATO’s Roger Pilon explains, “Article I, section 8, grants the Congress only 18 powers. Nothing for education, or retirement security, or health care: Those responsibilities were left to the states or to the people, as the Tenth Amendment makes clear.” It is a sanction for the state to promote the freedom of each individual to pursue and provide, by his own effort, his own welfare. The General Welfare Clause is not a sanction for the government to provide specific welfare benefits.

Related Reading:

The "Right to Be Left Alone" Applies to More than Religion

Constitutional Distortions- the "General Welfare" Clause

Minimum Wage Doesn't Belong in the Constitution--or Law

Obama's "Bridge": 21st Century Tyranny Cloaked in America's Founding Ideals


Mike Kevitt said...

Like the general welfare clause, the interstate commerce clause is also interpreted and applied backward, and the concept of a monopoly is perversely twisted. I don't grant that the purveyors do it by mistake. They know exactly what they are doing. It's criminal intent and criminal action and they know it, and they don't care. We need lots more than the Founding Documents. We need them properly interpreted in writing and fully enforced.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

"They know exactly what they are doing."