Where is the Constitution?
In the conversations of companies too big to fail, government healthcare and “jobs created or saved,” the Constitution appears to have been obliterated. However, despite rumors of its demise, the Constitution is alive and well.
Congress, however, views it as a speed bump en route to completing their agenda. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution defines the role of Congress. James Madison worried that the Constitution gave too much power to the government. He wanted to ensure the powers of government were “few and defined.”
This doctrine of enumerated powers is woven throughout the Constitution to prevent the government from overstepping its boundaries. As an extra measure of protection against an oppressive government, the Bill of Rights was authored two years later. According to the Constitution, the intent of government was to perform only those tasks which allowed liberty to flourish and the people to plan and live their lives accordingly. So, how did we get to the madness of today?
Let’s take a step back. Historically, when government attempted to expand its powers, Congress stopped those efforts and the legislation did not leave the House or Senate. If the proposals did get to the President’s desk, he vetoed them. If the President did not veto the legislation, the courts would hear the matter. At each step in the process, the Constitution was the benchmark against which legislation was evaluated. Additionally, the 10th Amendment clearly states that “the powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.” In short, the government only has those powers granted to it by the people through the ratification process (Article 5). As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “it was the natural tendency for government to grow and liberty to yield.”
Incrementally, governmental powers have grown and liberty has yielded, not through ratification but via election and the actions of those elected officials. Political expediency, poll numbers and charismatic speeches of vague promises have railroaded the legality and legitimacy of the Constitution.
Another of the enumerated constitutional powers of Congress is the “power to lay and collect taxes, duties…and provide for the…general welfare of the United States…” Do healthcare, bailouts and stimulus funds “provide for the general welfare?” Before answering, read what William Drayton of South Carolina stated in 1828, “If Congress can determine what constitutes the General Welfare and can appropriate money for its advancement, where is the limitation to carrying into execution whatever can be effected by money? How few objects are there which money cannot accomplish…” Today, we are subjects of the “General Welfare” clause which is used to justify the spending frenzy of the Obama administration.
So, to answer your question, “Where is the Constitution?” It is not only alive and well but also still very relevant over 220 years later. Challenge your congresspeople to use the document as a basis and benchmark for their legislation instead of simply as a framed doument posted on the wall for showcase purposes.
For additional information, please read the testimony of Roger Pilon (VP, Legal Affairs, Cato Institute) before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security on October 25, 2005.