"Promote the general welfare" -
1 - Doesn't actually specify any power for the government. Its a purpose of the government and the constitution contained in the preamble, not a specific requirement, prohibition of enumeration of a power. Arguably it has no legal/constitutional force, and if it does its a matter of limiting government action to that which supports the general welfare, not a grant of power to do anything which is claimed to support the general welfare. If it was the later it would be pretty much a "the US government can do whatever it wants (as long as it claims it benefits the general welfare of the US)" clause. If we had such a clause the detailing of the limits of federal power that takes up much of the constitution would be rather superfluous, and the 10th amendment would have little meaning.
2 - Its in the preamble along with "and secure the Blessings of Liberty".
3 - Welfare in 1787 didn't mean large state welfare programs.
4 - The preamble also says "insure domestic Tranquility", would your liberal friends accept the argument that the government is empowered to do anything that shuts down protest or controversy in order to make things more tranquil? Hopefully not.
What does Promote the general welfare mean?
In: United States History, US Constitution, Definitions and Word Differences, Society, Welfare
Misrepresentations which remind me of amateur biblical exegetes, picking out a few words of the bible and extrapolating meaning ad infinitum.
"promote the general welfare" is simply a justification listed as to "why" a constitution was required. The only meaning you can take from it is quite literal - (remember this is the preamble) - that the document itself is asserted to "promote the general welfare":
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Translation: "The people of the US are writing this document as a covenant for a bunch of reasons. We think that everything that follows this preamble is going to achieve these things"
The Preamble does not grant any particular authority to the federal government and it does not prohibit any particular authority. It establishes the fact that the federal government has no authority outside of what follows the preamble, as amended.
Mentioned in the United States' Preamble to the Constitution, "Welfare" means health, happiness, prosperity or well-being. The country has an interest in promoting or maintaining the well-being and liberty of its people.
A common misconception is that the "General Welfare" mentioned in the constitution is synonymous with our modern "welfare" programs.
Congress was granted the power to promote the general welfare of the nation by the Constitution of the United States. It means that Congress should provide laws that are in keeping with the principles of the self governed. It means that Congress may provide legislation that acts in a general best interest of a nation.
Actually, the General Welfare clause, as it became known, was a limitation of federal power written into the Preamble. Benjamin Franklin, during the Constitutional Convention, proposed a tax for canals. Canals were important for businesses to receive and ship merchandise.
Gouverneur Morris of New York argued that it wasn't right to tax the whole people while only those towns that had canals would benefit. This started a discussion about the powers of the federal government to tax.
They finally came up with the General Welfare clause which the Founders meant that unless the whole people of the United States would benefit from the tax, you should not promote it. Only the general, or the whole, welfare of the people should benefit from the tax.
In those days they did not call what we now call welfare, welfare. They called it "poor relief". The concept of the term "welfare" for poor relief was unknown and is a false modern interpretation.
Meaning and application
The Preamble serves solely as an introduction, and does not assign powers to the federal government, nor does it provide specific limitations on government action. Due to the Preamble's limited nature, no court has ever utilized it as a decisive factor in case adjudication, except as regards frivolous litigation.
Main article: Taxing and Spending Clause
The United States Constitution contains two references to "the General Welfare", one occurring in the Preamble and the other in the Taxing and Spending Clause. It is only the latter that is referred to as the "General Welfare Clause" of this document. However, it has been argued that, in the case of the United States Constitution, the statement regarding the "general welfare" was not then and is not now intended to give plenary power to the federal government. These clauses in the U.S. Constitution are exceptions to the typical use of a general welfare clause, and are not considered grants of a general legislative power to the federal government as the U.S. Supreme Court has held:
* the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution "has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments"; and,
* that Associate Justice Joseph Story's construction of the Article I, Section 8 General Welfare Clause—as elaborated in Story's 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States—is the correct interpretation. Justice Story concluded that the General Welfare Clause is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification on the taxing power which included within it a power to spend tax revenues on matters of general interest to the federal government.
Thomas Jefferson explained the latter general welfare clause for the United States: “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.”
In 1824 Chief Justice John Marshall described in obiter dictum a further limit on the General Welfare Clause in Gibbons v. Ogden: "Congress is authorized to lay and collect taxes, &c. to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States. ... Congress is not empowered to tax for those purposes which are within the exclusive province of the States."