Federal Relief Aid and The Constitution

Techniguy 09-25-2005

When this country was founded, it began as colonies which became cities. Cities joined together to become states, and eventually, those states untied under a common banner to become the United States of America. Each level of government retained it's own sovereignty and right to make laws for it's people but also agreed to conform to the laws of higher levels of government. When a city passes a law, that law applies to the whole city. When a state passes a law, that law applies to the whole state. The founders of the constitution understood that when they wrote the document and intended the same for the federal government. Federal laws are to apply to all the states equally, no exceptions.

Article IV, Section 2 states: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states." That means that federal laws should apply to all states equally. The constitution does not permit the federal government to make laws that apply only to one, or certain states and not to others. All states are united under one set of federal laws that apply to all. This is important to remember as you read on.

There is another law in the Constitution that prohibits the federal government from spending taxpayers' money without that money being used to support the provisions of a law.

Article I, Section 9 states: "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."

The federal government is authorized by the Constitution to do certain things, and to pay for those specified duties with money collected from the taxpayers. In Article I, Section 8 it states: "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States".

Among the powers granted by the Constitution to the federal government are:

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish post offices and post roads;

To promote the progress of science and useful arts... (Patents & Copyrights);

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States…;

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States…;

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

These are the things that are authorized by the Constitution, to be done by federal government, and laws passed under these provisions are to apply to all states and territories of the United States of America, which brings us to the problem of paying for hurricane damage by Katrina and Rita.

Obviously, Congress cannot simply give our money away to private interests damaged in the storms, but that is exactly what they intend to do. To justify their charitable giveaway of our money and still comply (sort of) with the Constitution, they must pass a law that will authorize the money to be spent. The founders of the Constitution never intended for Congress to pass laws just so that they could spend our money. Money is authorized to be spent to support laws for other purposes, not merely to justify their own appropriation. But this is what Congress is doing to give the appearance of it being constitutional.

There is another factor here that Congress is overlooking, the one I referred to earlier regarding Article 1, Section 9. If Congress makes a law to allow them to give 62 billion dollars, or 200 billion dollars to Louisiana for damage reconstruction, then that law must apply equally to all states and they are required by the Constitution to give the same amount to all other states as well, or that the allocation be shared with all other states. Federal law is federal law and must apply to all states equally.

Congress cannot Constitutionally pass a law that applies only to one or two states, and therefore any allocation of money from the federal treasury to disaster relief aid in certain areas of the country is unconstitutional. The only exception would be for the reclamation of federal land, but not private property and certainly not charity to citizens of one area but not another. Those expenses are the responsibilities of the individual states, not the federal government.

But sometimes the states do not have the financial resources to deal with the recovery expenses and need the federal government to step in. The first legislation that dealt with disaster relief was passed by the federal government in the form of the Congressional Act of 1803. This act was in response to a fire that did extensive damage in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As recovery efforts severely taxed community and state resources, Portsmouth's citizens sought federal relief. Between 1803 and 1950, more than 100 disasters of various types across the nation were fought with federal resources.

On September 30, 1950, Congress passed the Federal Disaster Relief Act. This act was designed primarily to allow the federal government to provide limited relief to the states during times of man-made or natural disaster. This act included assistance to alleviate hardships and damages as well as to repair essential public facilities after a major disaster, and to encourage states to develop a disaster plan.

Another example was the 1993 Midwest flooding that damaged highway facilities in a nine-state area. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) responded by authorizing more than $170 million in emergency relief funds. Then in 1994 after the Northridge earthquake in California, FHWA worked with the California Department of Transportation, to reopen vital roads within 87 days. All repairs were completed in a record 291 days and at a cost of about $400 million. President Clinton declared southern California a disaster area, making residents eligible for federal assistance. Low-income residents could qualify for up to $12,200 in disaster grants.

But notice in the above examples, with the exception of the Clinton grants, all of this federal relief aid went to the states to repair public facilities, not private property. My impression is that the billions of taxpayer dollars for New Orleans will be used primarily to rebuild privately owned property. That is what we have insurance policies and insurance companies for.

In January 2005, President Bush pledged 350 million American tax dollars to victims of the Asian tsunami while private donations exceeded $700 million. The US was criticized for the federal government not giving more, but they don’t understand our system. In their countries, they don’t have large private charities, all of their charity comes from the government. America doesn’t work that way and is based on the private enterprise system. In all, Americans gave over a billion dollars to the Asian relief aid. What other country gave half that much? But did our federal government have the constitutional right to give our tax money away like that?

And now, already $62 billion has been approved by the President and Congress to pay for damage caused by Katrina, and this figure will climb much higher when Rita is added to it. How much would it actually cost us if funds went only to government and public lands and not to private property? President Bush and the current Congress has been on a spending spree that we simply cannot afford, but if you read the World Socialist Website they will tell you “the administration will not allow the disaster to entangle the federal government in significant financial commitments. Beyond the most immediate and basic rescue efforts, the immense human problems arising from the hurricane will be left largely in the hands of local authorities, who have no access to the tens of billions of dollars required to meet the needs of those affected, particularly in New Orleans.” Are they interested in more adhesion to the Constitution, or just complaining that our federal government isn’t spending enough to subsidize low income socialists?

How long are we going to allow Congress and the President to disregard the Constitution and hijack the federal treasury to finance special interest projects not authorized by the Constitution? Americans are the most generous people in the country and will gladly give all they can to help others in disaster areas. We do not elect federal representatives for the purpose of forcibly taking money from us to give to others, that is not their job under the Constitution. Nor is it the responsibility of the Federal Government to pay for damage to private property under jurisdiction by the states. There are other ways to raise money for these relief efforts, all of which are voluntary as it should be. It is only the federal government who takes the voluntary contribution factor out of the equation and forces us to pay for others’ expenses. Just another example of the spreading disease of socialism that is taking over our country. The founders would never approve, nor do those who understand the intent of limited federal government under the Constitution.

As someone recently said, why not give our Constitution to Iraq, we’re not using it anymore.



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