28 September 2015
WHAT IS SO WRONG WITH A “DO-NOTHING” CONGRESS?
With the departure of Speaker Boehner, the “livid left” has once again trumpeted its disdain for what its denizens call the do-nothing Congress. What they are really doing is expressing their continued disdain for the United States Constitution.
Why do I rant? Well, anyone who reads the Constitution and studies the Constitutional Convention will quickly realize that the Framers intended for the Congress to do very damned little. First, they intentionally strictly limited the powers of the central government. It was to do those things, and only those things, that needed to be uniform in order for the Nation to survive: provide for the National defense, institute a single foreign policy, provide a postal system and a system of roads to connect the States, introduce a single currency, and set up a uniform system of tariffs to control the importation of foreign goods.
Everything else was left to the States as the best source of government for the people. Want to introduce an expensive and far-reaching system of public welfare? Do it, but don’t insist that your neighboring states adopt your plan. Want to fund and organize a system of public education? Great. Do it. Pay for it with taxes you raise locally. Manage it by a system of local school boards that will decide what needs to be taught. They are right there and know best what the children of their locality need to be taught. Want to allow workers to organize in unions. It is your State. Have at it. Once again, don’t insist that the other states follow your lead. The voters of those states can decide for themselves. And for Heaven’s sake, keep Washington, DC out of your State, except to the extent that it has been delegated powers in the Constitution.
To ensure limited federal government, the Framers loaded the Constitution with protections for the people from the government. First and foremost was the system of checks and balances, the system that President Obama and the Democratic Party find so loathsome today. In order to enact a law, majorities in both Houses of Congress and the President must agree. If a proposed law cannot garner that support, the Constitution says, in effect, it is probably a bad idea and should not be imposed on the people and the States. Give the President the authority to veto a bill that has made it out of Congress. If the super-majorities needed to over-ride a veto cannot be reached, it was probably a bad bill and should not have been enacted into law. And give the Congress, especially the House, the power of the purse.
“The power of the purse.” The great check on tyrannical power that my generation had to understand. If, somehow, a bill was enacted into law, and the voters changed the makeup of the Congress, the Legislative Branch could limit or prevent the Executive from carrying out a particular law by with-holding funding for that purpose. Today, we incorrectly call that “shutting down the Government.”
Why do I say “Incorrectly?” It is because the professional politicians in Washington, with their three-day work weeks and lengthy recesses no longer frame, debate, and enact individual spending bills for the various departments of the Executive Branch. They could, but that means that the first business of the federal government will be to stay in Washington and work out those spending bills. Instead, it is considered better from a political point of view to lump all spending authorizations into a single omnibus bill that “must be signed.” Recently, the Republican Party has balked at that blatant attempt by the Democrats to perpetuate the bread and circuses system it has imposed on America. Constitutionally appropriate that might be, but people like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Presidents Clinton and Obama, have placed party above Country and have, instead, resorted to a beautiful—if corrupt—public relations campaign to mislead and outright lie to the American people about the Constitutional duties of the Legislative and Executive branches.
Because we spend so much time in high schools teaching about truly unnecessary subjects, what my generation knew as “Civics” has pretty much disappeared from the curriculum. When I graduated from high school back in the ancient days of the early 60’s, there were only two tests that students in Illinois were required to have passed in order to graduate: one on the United States Constitution and one on the Illinois Constitution. Today, Pennsylvania has a whole series of tests administered all through elementary and middle school to measure reading comprehension and math proficiency. High School students take three “Keystone Tests” in Algebra I, Literature and Biology. Observe, if you will, gentle reader, that our students will probably have read all sorts of obscure literature but not the Constitution. Now, I am all in favor of a solid classical education which exposes our students to the great prose and poetry of the English language, and even some of the garbled 20th Century junk that is passed off as great literature, but the sweetest use of the English language that I have ever read is still the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Our students can tell you all about the Harlem Renaissance and their rights under the Constitution, but don’t have a clue about how the Constitution is supposed to work, that rights come from our "Creator", not the Constitution, and that their ignorance is harmful to the future of our Nation.
So, I implore the great American people to insist that we replace Langston Hughes with James Madison as required reading. Only if Americans really understand the Constitution and the system that protects us our freedoms to read and write and sing and pray and speak without fear of policing by the Government in Washington will we truly be free.