Pres. Obama signed an executive order forming the new bureaucratic entity. According to a White House press release, the White House Rural Council will:
Coordinate programs across government to encourage public-private partnerships to promote further economic prosperity and quality of life in rural communities nationwide, and will be responsible for providing recommendations for investment in rural areas and will coordinate Federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including agricultural organizations, small businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments.
“Strong rural communities are key to a stronger America,” Obama said. “That’s why I’ve established the White House Rural Council to make sure we’re working across government to strengthen rural communities and promote economic growth.”
The White House Rural Council will address numerous broad policy areas, including jobs training, expanding agricultural markets, increasing access to credit in rural areas, promotion of biofuels production and community based renewable energy, improved access to health care, education, infrastructure investment, and increasing access to broadband.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will chair the newly formed council.
“The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America’s rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining, and thriving economically,” a White House press official said.
“In other words, the President intends to create a whole host of new unconstitutional programs, meddle with and further distort the free market, pass out cash to his political cronies, and otherwise poke his nose into the lives of country folk,” Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said. “But seriously, people who live in rural America should be thrilled. I mean, the government has done such a stellar job at creating a utopia in America’s urban centers, it certainly deserves a shot at the heartland as well.”
In fact, the President lacks any Constitutional authority to create such a council. The policy areas Obama seeks to address in rural communities all fall into the category James Madison described as “those objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” All things properly left to the states and the people.
Proponents of such sweeping federal intervention will certainly appeal to the “general welfare clause” in the Constitution’s preamble. Never mind that Madison explained the words must be understood within the context of the enumerated powers connected to them; the concept of directing federal dollars to certain geographical regions flies in the face of the actual meaning of the term.
One purpose of the Constitution was to, “promote the ‘general Welfare’ – as opposed to the welfare of particular individuals, regions or interests – which was a central goal of public trust theory,” constitutional scholar Rob Natelson wrote in his book The Original Constitution – What It Actually Said and Meant.
“The federal government long ago abandoned any pretense of constitutional restraint,” Maharrey said. “Until state lawmakers and executives, along with the American people, stand up and demand that the feds butt out of areas they have no authority to meddle in, we will continue to see the creation of these kinds of overreaching programs.”