It has come to my attention some letter writers in The Telegraph and posters at Macon.com, have taken umbrage with the use of the word “socialism” in describing the worsening state of affairs in our nation today — from exorbitant, crippling regulations and taxation to abuse of the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution.
In the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our Founders cited the transcendental functions of government in describing the natural and inalienable rights of men — e.g., the protection of life, liberty, property and the freedom to pursue our health, occupation, religion and happiness to our hearts desire.
Legal contracts in commerce were sacrosanct and a binding obligation to be fulfilled with the force of law as to secure liberty and prosperity business and commerce. But what about the much cited clause in the Preamble to the Constitution, i.e., “promote the general welfare”?
The clause brings us back to the specified powers of government granted in the Constitution for the “well-being” of the nation as a whole, not for a politically favored group because of a particular background or socioeconomic status.
What are examples of general welfare? Consider necessary infrastructure — construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, seaports and airports. These are legitimate government functions necessary for travel and commerce, from which we all benefit as a nation. Thus, it is a necessary duty of government, preferably state and local governments. It is “general welfare” not socialism.
“Specific welfare,” on the other hand, is aimed at certain groups of citizens and not the population as a whole, promotes wealth redistribution, the taking of the fruits of the labors of some to give to others. It promotes envy and class warfare. It is not “general welfare,” it is socialism.
What are examples of specific welfare? Government housing, food stamps, “universal” health care, extended benefits for an idle portion of the population at the expense of the hard-working portion of the segment — this is socialism.
But what about Medicare and Social Security? On the one hand, they are compulsory, Ponzi schemes that we are forced to contribute to, yet, these programs have become ingrained in our thinking that they promote our security and well-being in old age. They are socialistic policies that should be made voluntary, as in the unalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of our own health and happiness. Frankly, since it affects all, an argument could be made that they are not socialistic but tending to the general welfare.
And what about public education? In my opinion as it stands today, it is a socialistic endeavor (one of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto). Why?
Because it is given preferential tax treatment by state governments, and those making sacrifices to send their children to private schools are heavily penalized, shouldering for their own children’s education as well as that of others.
It is supported largely by property taxes, so once again, one group of people (who have placed their life investment in the real estate value of their home) carries the burden disproportionately.
Do I think it could be made a “general welfare” benefit? Yes, and it should be because we all benefit from better-educated children and a skilled, well-trained labor force.
But the points above should be corrected, at least by making funding of public education more equitable by providing tax credits for those sending children to private schools and easing the burden on retirees by funding it via a flat income tax rate or excise taxes. Otherwise, as currently implemented, public education has a nagging socialistic streak.
Miguel A. Faria, M.D., lives in Macon.
This commentary was published in The Macon Telegraph on December 4, 2011.
Copyright ©2011 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.