Healthcare bills, energy bills, rules on how much water toilets can use, regulations on acceptable light bulbs, education bills and most every topic Congress discusses these days go far beyond what the Founding Fathers envisioned as the role of government.
As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 14, “In the first place, it is to be remembered, that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.”
And what are those enumerated powers? Most can be found in Article I of the Constitution. Briefly they are: power to lay and collect taxes, pay debts and provide for common defense and general welfare, borrow money, regulate commerce with foreign nations, establish uniform rules of naturalization, and uniform laws on bankruptcies, coin money and regulate its value, fix the standard of weights and measures, provide for punishment of counterfeiting, establish post roads and offices, promote progress of science and useful arts by establishing copyright laws, constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court, define and punish piracies and felonies on the high seas, declare war, raise armies, provide and maintain a navy and make rules for government and regulation of the land and naval forces, provide for calling forth the militia and for arming, organizing and disciplining it and to make laws necessary to execute those powers.
There are very few others found in other places of the Constitution.
As Madison wrote, anything the government does beyond those enumerated powers means government is overreaching. And it’s this overreach that has finally begun to draw the ire of many—including those who now consider themselves a part of the Tea Party movement or who identify with it.
Our Founders wanted to limit government because they saw how oppressive it could become. The future they saw and warned against is our present.