How many of us if given the opportunity to hire law enforcement officers would hire an officer who said that he would enforce the law “most of the time.” Would you hire a police officer who said that if someone robbed your house that he would pick up the offender “most of the time?” Would you really want law enforcement officials who would only pursue burglars, rapists and murderers “most of the time?” Would you want a sheriff in your county who said that if you were accused of some crime that “most of the time” he would look into the charges and make sure they were valid before arresting and putting you in jail? I don’t think you would. Most of us want the law enforced all the time. Otherwise, it’s no good at all.
The reality is that the biggest problem we have in the country today is a result of the elected officials we send to Washington abiding by the law “most of the time” if at all. The supreme law of the land is the United States Constitution. Every elected official from the President of the United States down to the lowest city or county elected officer takes an oath of office that says they will “uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The Framers of the Constitution were very wise in spelling out the limits on the federal government. In fact, the entire purpose of the Constitution was to put limits on the federal government, not on the states or the people. These limits were stated in the enumerated powers of Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution.
The Constitution was written under the principle of “positive grant.” Quite simply, the federal government is authorized to exercise only those powers which are “positively” “granted” to it by the Constitution. If a power is specifically listed in the Constitution, the federal government can do it. If it isn’t listed then it’s forbidden to the federal government. It really is that simple. This principle was so important to the Founding Fathers that they codified it in law as the 10th Amendment.
Herein lies the problem. It has been a very long time since most any of our elected officials have paid any attention to the Constitution except when it suits them. They routinely violate their oath of office by voting for new laws or for expenditures that are not constitutionally permitted.
Many politicians take a very liberal approach to Article I Section 8, and the 10th Amendment, by claiming that all the taxing and spending they do is permitted under what’s called the “general welfare” clause. They claim that as long as their actions promote the overall general welfare, it’s OK. This is clearly not what was intended by the Founding Fathers. Anyone willing to do just a little homework can find evidence of the real intent of the general welfare reference which is what true conservatives should use as a benchmark.
In the first Congress a bill was brought forth to give money to cod fishermen in New England. Nothing in the Constitution permitted this and James Madison, who is credited with being the primary author of the Constitution, responded with the following:
“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress…. Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for, it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America.”
How can you tell if your elected official is one of those “most of the time” people?
First, keep the above Madison quote in mind.
Second, get a copy of Article I Section 8 of the Constitution and see what it allows. You can find a copy online here: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#A1Sec8
Third, go to http://www.votesmart.org and check your Congressman or Senator’s voting record. Find out how many issues not covered in Article I Section 8 he or she has voted to authorize. You may find that “most of the time” has become “some of the time” or possibly “none of the time.”
Complaints from the recent TEA parties focused mainly on too much spending or too much taxation. Both of these are just symptoms of the real problem. The actual problem is that our elected Congressmen and United States Senators have not been and are not obeying the law 100% of the time as you would expect of a local city or county police officer. If they were obeying the law, and their oaths of office, there would not be billions and trillions of dollars spent by the federal government. The vast majority of the money spent every year in the annual budget and in the recent bailouts is totally unconstitutional. If they weren’t spending so much money unconstitutionally there would be no need of high taxes.
We can continue to argue about whether spending and taxes are too high or we could just start refusing to send people back to Washington who are not totally committed to obeying the intent of the Constitution, the law of the land, all the time.
The best way to begin to correct the problem is to demand accountability for past actions of those candidates running for re-election. If you want to expose the constitutional transgressions of a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate ask them if they’ve ever cast a vote for a bill that wasn’t permitted by Article I Section 8. If their answer is yes, then ask them why they aren’t obeying the law 100% of the time. Go even further and ask them why they violated their oath of office. If they answer no, and you know better, break out your votesmart.org research. Go line by line through their voting record for their last term in office. Ask them to show you where the authority lies for every questionable vote.
As always, we need elected officials who will remain true to the Constitution. Unfortunately, many elected officials will follow the Constitution only if we expect it of them. Now is the time to make our expectations known to those who want us to put our trust in them as representatives of the people.
Ben Brandon is a libertarian Republican from NWGA and friend of SWGA Politics.
Filed under: State |