To listen to the dogma of the current Republican Party, ruled by the anti-tax Tea Party, it sounds as if they think the United States is still operating under the Articles of Confederation, the first and failed constitution of the USA.
The US Confederation (note: not the Confederacy, a different organization), acknowledging the great fear the signers had in being ordered about or taxed by a supreme central authority, like a king, or a powerful central government, gave great power to the individual states of what the Articles called the “perpetual union”. In fact, Congress could send bills to the states to collect what were essentially property taxes, but only if 9 of 13 states agreed to it, and even then the states retained the power to assess and collect the taxes, which they often did not do.
The main purpose of the Confederation, that is the organized effort they would make together as a nation, was to provide a “common defence”, and to secure their “liberties” and “general welfare”. It was rather like the declaration of the Three Musketeers—”All for one, and one for all”—but only in situations specifically explained in the Articles.
The Musketeers, or states, would fight for each other, but they wouldn’t tell each other how to live their lives, or how to order about the citizens in their individual states, and collectively they would essentially be immune to paying the nation’s debts.
In addition, the Articles provide an insight into the basic assumptions the signers had about humanity and the measure of value they applied to determine who would be a citizen.
In one particular section of the Articles of Confederation, Article 4, Section I, the states defined what they understood to be a “free inhabitant”, i.e. one “entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens”. Such a person obviously could not be unfree, and so slaves were naturally excepted, but so were “paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives”.
In other words, poor people and homeless people were put on a par of ineligibility for fully-privileged US citizenship with criminals and slaves—and of course women. This should not surprise us, since the signers of the Articles of Confederation, as were the signers of the 1789 Constitution which replaced it, were of a particular economic class (wealthy landowners and businessmen), and they saw no reason to recognize people as deserving citizens who were in their eyes failures and threats to good people of property.
The “paupers and vagabonds” language did not appear in the Constitution of the United States, although the assumption about the poor and homeless being less than fully deserving citizens has for many people, especially on the right wing of American politics, remained a deeply-rooted tradition.