U.S. Constitution redux
From John Mize: Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org
When was the last time you took a good look at your nation’s Constitution? Your covenant with those in Washington DC. The document whereby you consent to be governed by your elected officials. Are there parts more important than others? What does it mean to you, as a citizen of the United States. How did it affect you this morning? My dictionary defines “constitution” as, among other things, “the system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, corporation, or the like, is governed.” Fundamental. Basic. Our founders were some pretty brilliant guys. They didn’t load us down with a thousand pages of legal morass. They made it simple: a preamble and 7 articles. The preamble tells us what they were doing and why. The articles spelled out how it all would work. They even saw how it would need to be changed over the years. As a matter of fact, they added 10 changes right away, when some prominent founders felt that the principles of indiviual liberty were not addressed. These 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights and to this day they remain fundamental symbols of the freedom and character of our nation; they are held sacred in every American’s heart. Well, at least most of them are.
Everyone has seen them. How many times have you heard the phrase, “My freedom of speech was violated?” Ever seen a bumper sticker referring to somone’s gun and the state of rigor mortis? How about a newpaper reporters rant on freedom of the press? Many people have recently got their hackles up over the 4th , 5th and 6th amendment rights of suspected terrorists. The right to a trial by jury, no excessive bail, the enumeration of rights, all make front page headlines daily. And rightfully so; it is our duty to rail against injustice in this country. But what about the tenth amendment? When is the last time you heard an everyday Joe, standing by the water cooler at work, complaining about the daily violation of his 10th amendment rights ? The tenth amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Each time a bill is passed by Congress, or an executive order of the president is carried out, who is shouting from the rooftop,” Where is your authority?”. For it is your authority, if it is not specifically addressed by the constitution.
“Well, that is just ridiculous!” you say. “Judicial review exists doesn’t it? The Supreme court would never let one of the other two branches violate my constitutional rights? Would they..?” Suddenly the light bulb goes on and you don’t sound too sure. Have you ever heard of a case called Plessy v. Ferguson? The supreme court decided that racial segregation was not only constitutionally accceptable, but morally correct. That decision was a direct violation of the 14th amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” The court applied judicial review once in 1896 and then again in 1954, each time coming up with a different answer to the same question, on the same constitutional amendment. But what was the constitutional authority for the law to begin with? “Well that was a long time ago…that could never happen today!”
Yes, it does. The Federal government usurps the authority reserved for the states and the citizens daily, without a change in the constitution. This is how it works: The federal govt passes a bill and hands out some of your hard earned money to support, say, public schools in Virginia. Great idea right? No one is against education. After a few years the states use this money and work it into the operating budget of the school system, making them dependent on the money. The federal gov’t then follows up. “You know what,” they say, “we don’t like the way you are educating your children in VA. We need you to do it this way instead.” (This way depends on the current party in power, and has no correlation to the will of the majority of the people of VA.) None of their business right? The constitution doesn’t say anything about the federal government having the right to tell Virginians how to educate our kids! “OK, then” the Federal Government says, “We will just discontinue that money we have been giving you”. But that money is paying to keep the lights on in our schools! “Not my problem.” Ok, we’ll do it your way, just this once… But it isn’t just once. You can apply the same scenario, to highways, public utilities, parks….stimulus bills. Anything to which the central governmentt can attach strings.
So, how important is The Bill of Rights to you? Do we allow one little section to be ignored? After all, it is only one of 27 amendments? Which ones are deserving of our righteous anger? Which minority will be the next victim of a decsion like Plessy v. Ferguson? Blacks? American Indians? Protestants? Catholics? Jews? It brings to mind something said by Reverend Martin Niemoeller, a german Lutheran pastor arrested by the gestapo in 1938:
“ In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.”
So I ask again, “How important is The Bill Of Rights to you, personally?” The next question is, “Is it important enough to get up and do something about it?” If you are answering the way I did, it is time to do something about it!
Thomas Jefferson wrote,
“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”
The issue is still the same. But what can you do? First of all, kow that you are not alone. On April 15, 2009 an estimated 1 to 1.5 million Americans turned out for the National Tax Day Tea Parties at over 850 separate events nationwide. We are awakening as a nation. It is now your turn to act. You can personally hold the elected officials you vote for responsible for their actions. It is your duty to know what your elected officials are voting for and against and it is your right to to know why. Call them, write them, fax them, email them, but make sure your voice is heard. And when you are relegated, or brushed off, you can work to replace them. But what to do first?
A good place to start is with HR 450, a bill currently before Congress:
“Each Act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that Act. The failure to comply with this section shall give rise to a point of order in either House of Congress. …”
Another one of those deceptively simple bills. All it would do is force Congress to obey the tenth amendment. It is common sense, Thomas Paine would have approved. However, only 19 Congressional representatives have had the guts to put their name on it and become a co-sponsor, according to Govtrack.us (as of April 21, 2009). Why not use this as a litmus test for your representative? Ask them to become a co-sponsor of the bill, or explain in writing why they will not. If they agree and add their name to the legislation, you have a worthwhile representative who respects the ideals our country was founded on. If they say no, or brush you off, you have a congressperson who has violated their oath to “preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It is time for them to go. You must immediately begin working to remove them from office, no one else is going to do it for you. If they actually respond no and tell you why, send their response to the papers, the radio stations, the television statements, post it on your facebook page, put it anywhere, but shout it from the rooftops. Let your voice be heard. And let the power given you, by your Constitution, be felt at last by those who need to know that you will be silent no more.
- John Mize
But What Will It Do For Me??? April 23, 2009
- John Mize
A friend of mine was reading my most recent article, “U.S. Constitution Redux” and made a very interesting observation. “You know, when we are ‘discussing’ politics ( I use quotations around discussing, as our conversations tend to be loud, wide ranging, socially lubricated affairs), you are constantly demanding details. Where are your details? How, exactly, will this piece of legislation make my life better?” I bit back my normal, reflexive response, which would have been, “Well isn’t it obvious?”, and filed it away for further reflection, as we were not in ‘discussing’ mode at the time.
Later that night, as I lay trying to sleep, his words kept coming back to me over and over. The article in question was very basic, reviewing the simplicity of the Constitution, the importance of defending the Bill of Rights, and a call to action to defend the 10th amendment by supporting HR 450, “The Enumerated Powers Act”. In my arguments I pointed out some of the more egregious violations of the Constitution devised by Congress. But where were the details? I am a salesperson by trade, and I would never dream of selling a product by talking about the negatives. I would find out what is most important to my customer, and then show them each feature, pointing out the advantages. I would then drive home my point by explaining to the customer how the benefits of each advantage would personally apply to them. It works… I am a good salesman. So, why not apply this skill to HR 450? Here we go:
One very positive aspect of HR 450 is that it will reduce the number of bills being introduced in Congress. According to MSN Encarta well over 11,000 bills are currently introduced each session of congress (averaged over 53 years). Many are obviously unconstitutional, but they still take up the time and talents of our congressional representatives, their staffers, our attorneys, and our courts. Many are simply fluff. Few are relevant and have constitutional authority. HR 450 will require each bill to be vetted, or ran through the filter of the US Constitution before it even approaches the floor. This will make our entire government more efficient. Instead of being passed by the House and Senate, signed into law, put into effect, violated, and then challenged through the court system up to the Supreme court… it will never make it to a vote. So the benefit to you? More efficient government.
Would you like to have the option of investing the money you make the way you see fit? What kind of return are you getting on the forced retirement savings the Social Security Administration requires of you. Are you a hunter? With HR 450 the government could nevert take away your rifle. Would you like to enjoy a nice cuban cigar? Sorry Charlie, Uncle Sam says no, for now. How about bills S.773 and S. 778 currently before the Senate? These bills would allow big brother to monitor your every move on the internet, under direct control by the President. ( Not that that doesn’t happen now, this would just make it ‘legal’, at least ‘legal’ if you are determined to ignore the Bill Of Rights.) HR 450 will stop it from happening. How do you profit? Less government intrusion in your private life.
Passage of the Act will also create simpler, more streamlined bills, and eliminate some pork. While riders and the like may never go away, having to cite constitutional authority for a bill will encourage legislative authors to concentrate on one issue at a time. This in turn will make it more clear to the average voter what their candidate stands for and make it exceedingly difficult for candidates to distort each other’s voting record. Benefits to you: fewer misleading election ads, and legislation you can understand. Ok, let’s see. So far we have: more concise legislation, less government intrusion and more efficient government.
Would saving money be an important benefit? All of the above features will combine to save millions, perhaps billions of tax dollars each year ( and if you can’t see the truth in that, email me and I will put together some numbers, but it is pretty obvious). But the real savings will come from the federal government obeying the 10th amendment and letting the citizens and the states handle many things which are not constitutionally supported. Look at the cost of programs like the Community Reinvestment Act, whom many believe is responsible for the sub prime mortgage boom. Is it more expensive to install smoke detectors or rebuild the house after the fire? Think it over and we will come back to that.
Let me stop for a moment and make myself perfectly clear. I am not pronouncing judgement on any bills which should not have been passed. The worth of those programs is not being debated here. Many of those unconstitutional acts created programs of value and were passed with only the best of intentions. They just do not belong under the umbrella of the national government. The government does many things well, but managing social programs, banks, and other businesses belong in the hands of the states and citizens, as the Fed does not exactly have a great track record here. And as my sales team likes to remind me, ‘It’s not their job!’
What would be the effects of a law which forced not only lawmakers, but every citizen to understand their Constitution better? Let’s say a citizen formed a group urging a federal ban on whatchmacallits. They raise money, hire a lobbyist and finally get a congressman who will author and propose the bill. Well, the congressman writes a simple, concise law banning the whatchamacallit. Before he stands up in the House to propose it, he picks up his handy pocket Constitution and discovers…Congress has no authority over whatchamacallits! The angry citizen who started it all goes to the news media and a local news story runs that Congress will not consider the ban. Another citizen is watching TV, and says, “I HATE watchamacallits, why won’t they pass a law?” He picks up his old government textbook and discovers that while whatchamacallits are reprehensible, this issue belongs at the state level! We now have an interested, engaged public, conversant with the law of the land, electing representatives who will abide by the law of the land. Would that make your life better my friend?
To sum up, HR 450 would make government more efficient, decrease the amount of government intrusion in you life, make newly proposed bills more concise, save taxpayer money, all the while improving the quality of our lawmakers and the knowledge of their constituents. Sound good? When do you want it delivered?
The cost I admit is substantial, it would be much easier to go on with your life and let the Washington elite make all the decisions for you. However, very little of value comes without cost. It will require you to work to keep your rights. You need to call or write (or both) your congressperson and demand to know if they will co-sponsor the bill or explain in writing why they will not. You should also call and write the chairpeople of the House Judiciary and House Rules Committees as that is currently where the bill is and where it will die if nothing is done. A few calls to the Speaker of the House should be added to the total. The most important part is to not give up until you get an anwer, and then broadcast that answer to the world whatever it is! I know I am asking a lot, but ask yourself, is it worth it? Are you worth it…? As I asked earlier…would you rather buy the smoke detector, or rebuild the house?
Great, I promise you have made the right decision. Now, let’s sit down and get it on paper!
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