Hard to celebrate a Constitution that's increasingly violated
I did not celebrate Constitution Day (Sept. 17), primarily because I did not know how to do so. The federal government requires colleges to do something on that day to qualify for Title IV grant monies which - if people really read the Constitution - they would find the government has no authority to award.
Some years back I was asked to give suggestions for a meaningful program. The assigned administer and I pondered several options, none of which seemed fitting or particularly meaningful. Still, we should do something - ignorance on this
Where do we start? Virtually no one reads this document anymore and neither major political party feels particular harnessed by it as the Founders intended. Few college courses require it being read in full and few universities have a class specifically dedicated to it - not even law schools. I know no one in my profession that actually had to read the entire document for a Ph.D.
Should I talk about the total disregard of the list in Article I, Section 8, by which the government is limited in making laws? The Founders created the list so that government could not rule wherever it pleased, as in other countries. Or perhaps I could discuss the 10th Amendment, which was to strengthen the argument that all powers not specifically mentioned remain with the states and with the people - an amendment that is flagrantly violated almost daily by a renegade, constitutionally inept or ignorant Congress.
Should I talk about the separation of powers created by the Founders so that one branch made the law, another enforced the law, and yet a third adjudicated the law - a separation that we used to honor? If I did, I would also have to talk about the present corruptness of the separation. For the last 60 years, an unelected bureaucracy has made most federal laws because Congress got lazy and allowed other organizations to fill in the details for them. Now called rules and regulations instead of laws, they still exact a punishment if a business or individual is out of harmony. The Federal Register, wherein they are housed, adds a half-inch thick of new rules daily.
Also, I would have to mention that presidents make law by executive orders, most with no actual legislative authorization. Signing statements, popularized by the Bush Administration, distort laws passed by Congress by removing portions the president disagrees with. The Obama Administration created a new level of administrators called “czars” (purposely skirting Senate confirmation) to manage areas where no Constitutional authority exists - last count was 34. Congress remains silent to this abduction of her power.
The Supreme Court also makes law by ruling in such a way as to give existing law a new meaning never envisioned in its origin; or by giving its approval to law having no constitutional base - as for example national health care. Justice Clarence Thomas admitted that some justices attempt to ascertain what the Founders had in mind before ruling; others he asserted, “just make it up.” This certainly would be an interesting presentation. Would enough listen, or even care?
The notion of federalism, that the states handle domestic issues and the federal government primarily foreign issues, and that they are coequal (like a marriage) - neither being master or slave to the other - is gone. So is the Constitutional mandate that federal empowerment requires the consent of three-fourths of the states, as stipulated in Article V. This notion of shared-and-equal was abandoned in the '50s and '60s. As a result, the federal government clearly rules the states, who now bow in near-total obedience, their palms extended and tongues hanging out, for federal government grants that lack constitutional authority.
States, like individuals, are addicted to the “free” money. Try telling a student body that the “free” college tuition advocated by beloved socialist guru Bernie Sanders and “me too” Hillary Clinton is totally unconstitutional without an amendment to the Constitution and see if you are allowed to finish your required presentation.
There are so many other topics one might cover. One is the distortion of the Second Amendment of the Constitution in some minds from an intended individual right to have a weapon, whether government approved or not, to a collective right through a militia, now interpreted as the National Guard, which organization did not exist in the 1700s. Another topic could be the mutilation of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments under the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in December 2012.
My point? The Constitution is a foreign language to most, and this ignorance has resulted in our being out of harmony so long. Where do I start? The perversions are almost numberless. Regarding the Title IV grant, undoubtedly some colleges took action to qualify Sept. 17, but was what they did meaningful? I very much doubt that any of the objections I noted above were mentioned.
Dr. Pease is a specialist on the United States Constitution and its application to current events. He has taught history and political science for more than 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, go to libertyunderfire.org.
(Posted 9/29/16; Opinion: General)
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