Thursday, August 18, 2011

U.S. Constitution: Federal Spending, The Founding Fathers, and Andrew Jackson

"No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable. ... Cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible: avoiding occasions of expence [and] avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt ... not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear." --George Washington, December 3, 1793

By Douglas V. Gibbs

Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution grants all legislative powers to the U.S. Congress. Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution authorizes only the Congress to originate any bills that raise revenue. Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 grants to the U.S. Congress the power to collect taxes. Article I, Section 8, Clause 2 gives the Congress the sole authority to borrow money on the credit of the United States.

The idea of a perpetual debt in the United States was originally conjured up by statist Alexander Hamilton, who was also the country's first Secretary of the Treasury. He believed that the government should be able to manipulate the economy at will, and that debt was good for bringing in additional funding so as to be able to afford big government programs, while also forcing the States to remain a part of the union - after all, if the States are obligated to the repayment of a national debt, they will not secede from the union. In other words, he saw a national debt as a means of holding together the union.

The other founders, people like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison, believed that an excessive national deficit was a dangerous thing. Any debt accrued, they believed, should be repaid by the administration that incurred the debt, or at very worst, by that generation. Also, the United States, they believed, should only borrow when necessary, which in most cases would be to fund a war, since military operations are an expensive endeavor.

In the early decades of this nation, the U.S. made it a deliberate policy to pay off the national debt entirely. The seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, used as the platform for his campaign that he would pay off the debt entirely. During his campaign in 1824, Jackson called the debt a "national curse."

Once elected, Andrew Jackson succeeded in paying off the national debt. We were debt free as a nation for over two years. That time period to this day is the only time in history the United States, or any other major country for that matter, has been debt free.

Though a Democrat, and often considered the father of the modern Democrat Party, Jackson was a Jeffersonian through and through. He believed in a laissez faire approach to politics - in other words, the smaller the federal government, the better.

Like Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson was not a big fan of the banks, speculators, and the "money interest." He saw the banks, and a federal bank that issues the currency, to be more dangerous than a standing army, so he campaigned to put an end to the Second Bank of the United States, as well. Born poor, Jackson had enough encounters with banks and debt to understand the dangers of both.

Jackson considered a national debt to be a "monied aristocracy," and saw the growing debt as a means for federal tyranny to ultimately destroy the liberty of our country.

Andrew Jackson took residence in the White House with a national debt that began at $125 million at the end of the War of 1812, and had so far been reduced to $48 million. To get the debt down to zero he decided to not go along with federal funding for "internal improvements" (now known as infrastructure projects), saying that it was the States that should be responsible for any improvements within their own borders. This very same attempt by Congress to create federal spending for internal improvements had also been vetoed by James Madison in 1817, but Madison's reasoning was simply that federal involvement in roadways and boatways was simply unconstitutional. The federal government had no authority to use federal funds for such projects.

By the end of 1834, Jackson reported in his State of the Union message that the country would be debt free as of Jan. 1, 1835, with a Treasury balance of $440,000. Government revenues that year would be twice expenses.

A debt free America did not last long. The politicians, using changing economic events as an excuse, resumed their heavy government spending ways. An economic slowdown later ensued, and revenues dropped by half. The national debt returned, but this time it would never go away again.

Now, under Barack Obama, we have a national debt in the trillions. Obama has spent more in the last two and a half years than all past presidents, combined. Though there is no hope of completely paying off the debt, as Jackson had accomplished, in the near future, a reduction of the debt has become a necessary need. Current levels of spending, which includes an atrocious array of entitlement programs, foreign aid packages to countries that even profess themselves to be our enemies, and ridiculous projects like a neon light museum in Las Vegas, are unsustainable. We are reaching a point where we just don't have the money to continue these spending levels. If we don't cut spending now, the fate of Greece may be in our future.

The founders saw a national debt that is transferred to the next generation as immoral. They viewed unconstitutional federal spending as illegal. The founders would not approve of today's level of spending, or the size of our national debt.

We should not approve of it either. This is why we must continue to vote in people committed to reducing the national debt, not liberal statists determined to continue to increase the debt until this nation faces complete economic collapse as a result.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

No comments:

Post a Comment