The campaign season is on!
That means over the next few weeks, candidates for federal office will spend millions of dollars trying to convince you that their particular slate of programs will “turn the country around.” They’ll propose job creation programs, health care programs and programs to help balding men grow hair.
And boy, will we argue. We’ll argue about the cost of the proposed programs. We’ll argue about the feasibility of the proposed programs. We’ll argue about the fairness of the proposed programs.
But seldom will you ever hear anybody stop and ask, “Hey, does the federal government actually have the constitutional authority to implement this?”
Believe it or not, that used to matter.
In fact, it used to stand as the most important question. Because no matter how good the idea is, and no matter how great the program might turn out to be, if the federal government lacks the power to implement it, it should never see the light of day.
In his last act as president, James Madison vetoed a bill that funded programs he favored. In fact, they were programs he lobbied for. The legislation was a public works bill that would have provided money for federal road and canal construction. Even though Madison believed strongly that the federal government should involve itself in improving the transportation system, he vetoed the bill, arguing that the people must first amend the Constitution to grant the federal government the power to implement such programs.Details