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The Constitution also gives Congress the power, but not the duty, to spend money to provide for not just the common defense, but also the "general Welfare."That clause, with that interpretation, renders almost all the rest of Article 1 Section 8 utterly meaningless. And therefore, by longstanding precedent, must be considered invalid. And there is LONG precedent for that position: "This specification of particulars [the 18 enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8] evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.” - Alexander HamiltonThe question is: is that clause a "tax and spend" clause, or merely a "tax" clause? And if the former, how broad is the "spend" portion?In the legal environment of the Articles of Confederation, there was a clear need for a "tax" clause. Under the AoC, the federal government could only ask the states to contribute money. Those requests were rarely met in full.And a "spend" clause? Well, the states that DID contribute, often put strings on it - "we'll contribute half what you asked for, on condition that you spend half of our contribution on digging a canal from here to there to improve our access to markets." Such a constraint was likely legally unenforceable; but if the feds agreed to it and got the money and then didn't spend it as promised, how would that state (and other states) respond to the next federal request for contributions?A "spend" clause was needed mainly to say that a state couldn't put additional, extra-constitutional restrictions on federal spending. There is an alternate interpretation saying that meaning of the "general welfare" qualification is that the federal government can't tax the entire federation for a project that benefits only one portion of it - the project as a whole must benefit the entire federation.Now imagine, for a moment, if the clause in question did not include the word "spend".Would that mean that the federal government could, per clause 12, "raise and support Armies," and per the next clause also "provide and maintain a Navy," but not spend any money on the Army and Navy?If your answer is no, then the clause as it actually exists is not the basis of the federal government's authority to spend money.
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