Enumerated and Implied Powers

Standard 6.3: Enumerated and Implied Powers

Distinguish among the enumerated and implied powers in the United States and the Massachusetts Constitution. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T6.3]

FOCUS QUESTION: What is the Difference Between Enumerated and Implied Powers?

This standard looks at the differences between enumerated and implied powers in the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions.

    1. INVESTIGATE: The Enumerated and Implied Powers of the U.S. Constitution

    The enumerated powers of the federal government are listed in Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Among the 18 direct powers given to Congress are the power to levy and collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, coin money declare war, and support an army and navy (for a full list, see Key Constitutional Grants to Powers to Congress).

    The 18th power gives the federal government the ability to create and enact laws that are “necessary and proper” for its use of the other 17 powers. The Necessary and Proper clause (sometimes called the “Elastic Clause”) gives Congress implied powers; that is powers not named in the Constitution, but necessary for governing the country. Historically, the way Congress has used its implied powers has led to important developments in law and society.

    Media Literacy Connections

    Discussion Questions: 

    • If there was a national minimum wage implemented, how would that affect your hometown? What is the minimum wage now and how could it differ?
    • Should the minimum wage be raised? Create a pros and cons list of a high minimum wage, how would this affect small or mid-sized businesses? Who would face the most consequences and benefits of this increase?
    • What are some implied powers of the internet? Who grants these implied powers, the consumer or creator?

    Additional Resources: 

    Suggested Learning Activity

    • Role-Play
      • Explore the examples of how Congress has exercised its use of implied powers in the article The Implied Powers of Congress.
      • Then, in small groups, propose a law that is necessary and proper for the federal government. 
      • As a class, discuss and debate the proposed laws and vote on which ones should be approved as an official government power. 

    Online Resources for Enumerated and Implied Powers

    2. UNCOVER: Federal Minimum Wage Laws and the Implied Powers of Congress

    Minimum wage laws are an example of both Congress and state governments using their implied powers to enact change in society. “Minimum wage laws establish a base level of pay that employers are required to pay certain covered employees” (Legal Information Institute, Cornell University).

    In 2019, the federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour. That same year, 29 states and the District of Columbia had higher wage rates; seven states had moved to $15 an hour. The minimum wage rate in Massachusetts was raised to $12 per hour, effective January 1, 2019. For much of United States history, however, there was no such thing as a minimum wage or a minimum wage law.

    Employee Rights
    Employee Rights Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, United States Department of Labor, Public Domain

    Massachusetts passed the nation’s first minimum wage law in 1912, followed by Oregon in 1914. But a 1923 Supreme Court decision struck down the District of Columbia’s minimum wage law as unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment. Public attitudes about the law’s usefulness changed and so did the opinion of the Supreme Court when they declared a state minimum wage law constitutional in 1937 (West Coast Hotel v. Parrish).

    Following that decision, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed, and Congress passed, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, setting the minimum wage at $0.25 an hour ($1.00 in 1938 is worth $17.45 in 2019 dollars). The Fair Labor Standards Act also set the maximum work week at 44 hours and banned child labor.

    Suggested Learning Activities

    3. Engage: Should the Nation Adopt a Living Wage Rather Than a Minimum Wage?

    A Living Wage is the minimum income needed for an individual or a family to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, health care, and other needs (What is a Living Wage? from Global Living Wage Coalition). A living wage is based on the reality that most people cannot live adequately earning a minimum wage.

    Waiting for a Living Wage
    Waiting for a Living Wage Poster 1913, by Catherine Courtauld, Public Domain

    A Living Wage Calculator from Massachusetts Institute of Technology demonstrates the gap that exists between minimum wage and a living wage. In 2019, a single adult with one child earning $11 an hour minimum wage actually needs to earn $29.66 an hour to support her or his family.

    Suggested Learning Activities

    • Play & Discuss
      • Play the simulation game Spent and try to live on a monthly budget with limited financial resources.
        • What did you have to give up to make it through the month?
        • What do you think should be the living wage in your community?
    • Research and Report
      • Find out how much money people earn in different jobs and occupations at the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
        • Which jobs provide a salary at or above living wage? Which jobs do not? Why do you think this gap exists?

    Online Resources for Minimum and Living Wage Laws

    Standard 6.3 Conclusion

    The United States and Massachusetts constitutions have both enumerated (directly stated) and implied (assumed to exist) powers. INVESTIGATE outlined what those enumerated and implied powers are in the federal constitution. UNCOVER looked at the history of minimum wage laws as an example of the implied powers of the federal government. ENGAGE asked whether our country should adopt a living wage rather than a minimum wage as people's living standard.