A Constitutional Budget.

During this entire budgeting and continuing resolution process, there are two words that will never be put together. They are “constitutional,” and “budget.” Why? Because no one in Washington wants to be restrained by the Constitution when it comes to getting money, spending money, and especially spending money they don’t have. Which is why we are some $20 trillion in for the National Debt. But it never had to be this way.

It’s one thing to talk about the Constitution. It’s quite another to actually live by it. The Supreme Court doesn’t. They assumed judicial review, a power they were never supposed to have. Presidents have gotten us into wars that were never declared. And Congress has spent us into a debt from which we may never recover. But if we ever get serious about paying off the National Debt, it can be done. And the simple answer, as in most cases, is to look to the Constitution.

How much a Constitutional Budget would cost?

So I got to wondering how much a Constitutional Budget would cost? The easy part is finding the Constitutional Budget items. It is Article 1, Section 8, of the delegated powers to Congress. Assigning a dollar figure to those items was the challenge. The numbers listed are the best available information I could find.

The latest summary budget information comes to us from Kimberly Amadeo from the website, The Balance.

“In fiscal year 2018, the federal budget is $4.268 trillion. Most of this (63 percent) pays for mandated benefits, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The U.S. government will receive $3.916 trillion in revenue. That creates a $352 billion deficit for October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018. Spending breaks down into Mandatory ($2.696 trillion), Discretionary ($1.243 trillion) and Interest on the National Debt ($329 billion). (Source: “2018 Budget,” Office of Management and Budget, March 16, 2017. “Mid-Session Review Fiscal Year 2017,” OMB, July 15, 2016.)”

And now it’s my turn…


The Constitutional Budget.

Article 1, Section 8.


Clause 1: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

IRS Budget average for the last several years: $12 billion. Source: the General Accounting Office website.

Customs and Border Protection FY 2014 budget was: $12.4 billion. Source dhs.gov. However, only a small part of their responsibility concerns collecting duties. Say 10%, which is a guess. So the estimated cost of collecting duties is: $1.2 billion.

The clauses regarding common defense and general welfare are from the Preamble, and are not specifically budget items.


Clause 2: To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

From the website, The Balance, mentioned above, interest on the National Debt: $329 billion.


Clause 3: To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

International Trade Administration: $495 million. Source, House Appropriations Committee, 2017.

International Trade Commission: 131.5 million. FY2016 request. Source, International Trade Commission website.

Bureau of Indian Affairs: FY 2016, $2.8 billion. BIA Office of Energy and Economic Development, I’m guessing at 10% of Bureau of Indian Affairs total budget, so $28 million. Source: Bureau of Indian Affairs website.

Interstate Commerce Commission, abolished in 1996. Replaced by the Surface Transportation Board. FY2016 budget request was $34.8 million. Source: Surface Transportation Board website.


Clause 4: To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

The Office of United States Citizen and Immigration Services, DHS, is funded almost completely with user fees so no specific budget allocation. Wikipedia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in FY 2016: $64 million. Source: DHS Budget in Brief website.

Bankruptcies are covered in the IRS budget in Clause 1.


Clause 5: To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

US Mint budget for FY 2015: $3.8 billion. Source: US Mint, FY 2015 President’s Budget.

National Institute of Standards and Technology: $865 million. Source, House Appropriations Committee, 2017.

The Federal Reserve was excluded because they aren’t federal, or a reserve, and could never be considered constitutional.


Clause 6: To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

US Secret Service Investigations budget for FY2015: $375 million. Source: Congressional Research Service.

US Securities and Exchange Commission FY 2017 request: $1.78 billion. Source: Securities and Exchange website.


Clause 7: To establish post offices and post roads;

The U.S. Postal Service now funds itself.

Federal Highway Administration budget for FY2015: $39.8 billion. Source: Department of Transportation website.

Federal Aviation Administration (air mail) budget request for FY2016: $15.83 billion. Source: Department of Transportation website.


Clause 8: 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;

US Patent Office: $3.2 billion. Source, House Appropriations Committee, 2017.


Clause 9: To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

The federal judiciary received $6.7 billion for FY 2015. Source: United States Courts website.


Clause 10: To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

US Coast Guard Operating Expenses FY 2016: $6.8 billion. Source: US Coast Guard Budget in Brief website.

Offenses against the law of nations would be covered by the Department of Defense listed below.


Clause 11: To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

Comes from the operating expenses of Congress below.


Clause 12: To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

Clause 13: To provide and maintain a navy;

Department of Defense 2017 budget allocation: $587 billion. Source: The Washington Post


Clause 14: To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

Comes out of the operating expenses of Congress below.


Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

Clause 16: 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;

The independent state militias, which according to the Second Amendment, are “necessary to the security of a free state,” have been federalized into the National Guard. One could argue the federalized National Guard is against this section, and against the Second Amendment guarantee of non-federal, well armed and equipped, state militias. The federal expense of the National Guard is under the Department of Defense listed above.


Clause 17: 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, dockyards, and other needful buildings;—And

In FY 2013 the District of Columbia spent $2.8 billion in federal funds. Source: DC Fiscal Policy Institute.

Military buildings would be in the Department of Defense budget. The Federal Building Fund from the General Services Administration for FY 2015 was $679 million. Source: General Services Administration website.


Clause 18: 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 cost of operating Congress and the Legislative Branch according to the website Skeptics Stack Exchange, in FY 2014 is $5.8 billion.

It would be impossible to determine the cost of the Executive Branch until it was determined which agencies and departments were constitutional, and most of those are probably already covered in this article.

Robert Keith Gray, in his book, “Presidential Perks Gone Royal,” put the total Obama budget in 2012 for the White House, Air Force One, vacations, extra staff and Czars, and all their extravagances, at $1.4 billion, way higher than normal.

The cost of the Administration of Foreign Affairs: embassies, consulates, and all operating expenses for FY 2013: $8.8 billion. Source: Department of State website.


Disclaimer: The numbers are all over the place, and the sources are too. There is no one online line item source for all the federal agencies and departments where I can just look up all the appropriations. There should be. Do you own comparison, run your own numbers, and see what you come up with.

Grand Total for a Constitutional Budget: $1.029 trillion dollars. Slightly less than a quarter of the $4.268 trillion requested for the FY 2018 Budget listed above. Which means at this time, our federal budget, is about 75% unconstitutional. Think about that the next time you hear any news report or discussion of the Federal Budget, the National Debt, or raising the Debt Ceiling.

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