We have taken our Constitution for granted for far too long
March 13, 2014
In a 2009 press conference, Nancy Pelosi answered, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” when asked, “Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?”
Do you think she meant that members of Congress earnestly reviewed their enumerated powers to determine the constitutionality of the mandate — and how could you presume otherwise — or that the insurance mandate legislation is of such paramount importance that enumerated powers notwithstanding, we must move forward? Intellectual honesty will dictate the correct answer.
The federalist won in favor of the U.S. Constitution, assuaging the fears of the anti-federalist with arguments such as those posed by James Madison in Federalist No. 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected …”
The powers Madison references are those enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. And to add further specificity, the 10th 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.”
Nevertheless, how prescient was Robert Yates, pseudonym Brutus, when he published in Anti-Federalist No. 1, “… it is a truth confirmed by the unerring experience of ages, that every man, and every body of men, invested with power, are ever disposed to increase it, and to acquire a superiority over everything that stands in their way. This disposition, which is implanted in human nature, will operate in the federal legislature to lessen and ultimately to subvert the state authority, and having such advantages, will most certainly succeed.”
Federalist optimism notwithstanding, Yates correctly anticipated the extensive overreach of our government today.
We citizens have taken our Constitution for granted far too long, and the consequence has been a severe erosion of our liberties. To cite a very recent example, the (un)Affordable Care Act now regulates workforce size; small businesses must now submit justification to IRS under penalty of perjury if they lay off employees that place them in another category of the law. Can anyone seriously say this is Constitutional? I think not.
And if an employer did reduce the workforce to escape the Obamacare mandates, one could legitimately construe this provision as a way of silencing the employer to avoid adding further damage to the already dismal reputation of the act.
The legislative branch, as magician, has too often played the shell game, making the liberty pea disappear. Or Obama arbitrarily changing his signature legislation 27 times to date, rewriting the law on the fly, and instructing the insurance companies to disregard the law regarding the cancellation of policies. Or the Supreme Court, specifically Justice Roberts, abdicating judicial responsibility, deciding constitutionality based on the federal government’s power to tax, therefore greasing the skids for Obamacare, and all the attended directives the law dictates.
There are those on the left who will frankly assert that the phrase “General Welfare,” appearing in the Preamble to the Constitution and section 8, and the “necessary and proper” clause, grants Congress the power to make any law it feels necessary to provide for whatever it considers the general welfare of the country. This clearly demonstrates the left’s inversion of our founding principles, i.e., liberty as primary and government power second and subservient.
The enumerated powers are not written in Sanskrit, they have simply been ignored by all branches of our government. We must no longer accept this pretense to a constitutional republic.
The fence, which is the enumerated powers, clearly delineating the powers vested in our national government, must be reconstructed and fortified. The Enumerated Powers Act, (H.R. 1359) would be an excellent first step to reviving the practice of constitutionally limited government.
This act would require: “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.”
To continue down our current path inexorably advances us to the unrestrained and arbitrary use of government power, which leads to socialism’s boneyard, where liberty goes to die.
Manny Montes lives in Lake of the Pines.