The 108th Congress convenes today, and once it starts up our pocketbooks are no longer safe from federal filching of funds. Already President Bush has presided over a federal budget growth of over 7% for the last two years. Republican president or not, this growth is causing fiscal conservatives to see red. Whatever happened to fiscal responsibility? Every time the government votes to pay more for a program, it is declaring open season on our wallets. Government doesn’t produce wealth; it can only tax and take the money from the people who do produce wealth in the country. And what does the government spend our taxed money on? Frivolous things that the government has absolutely no right to spend money on!

The Constitution is clear about what Congress can do. Article I, Section 8 outlines exactly what the duties of Congress are. If it ain’t in this list, Congress can’t do it. But that hasn’t stopped members of Congress from doing it anyway. Look carefully at Section 8 and tell me where Congress received the authority to spend money on the arts, Social Security, prescription drugs, Medicaid, Medicare, and the myriad other programs where our taxes are spent.

Article I, Section 8

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

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 an 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, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

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, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

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.

The federal government would not have the gut-busting budget of today, over 2 trillion dollars, if Congress had restrained itself to the duties outlined in the Constitution. But it should be pretty obvious that Congress has no intention of following the Constitution. You know it. I know it. The American people know it. Well, Americans may not know it – or if we do, we’re apathetic to care. After all, isn’t it time for American Idol?

In addition to the federal legislature convening today, the various state legislatures are starting up this week, too. If you think your pocketbook is looking threadbare from federal pilfering, then get ready for the states to get their share of your money. When I lived in Washington, I was glad to see that there wasn’t a state income tax, but the state still got its money out of me in the form of numerous taxes and fees. One way or another, government will vacuum your cash.

What are we to do? First, we need to pay attention to what the government is doing, both local, state, and federal. And when we notice they are doing things they shouldn’t, we need to become loud and boisterous in our complaints. A general distrust of government is healthy — it keeps them on their toes and their hands out of the cookie jar. On the ride home today, I heard a paranoid talk-show host wonder if the government was actually bussing the homeless out of Washington D.C. down south where it is warmer, or something else. (Insert your own paranoid pause here!) If I could have called in, I would have yelled, “Soylent green is made of people!”

Be concerned, but don’t be paranoid.

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